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How to Riempie a Chair

This articles gives step-by-step instructions on how to replace the damaged riempies of a chair or bench.


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    Remove old riempies and tacks using cutter and tack remover.
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    Clean any grime that settled under the old riempies.
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    Remove riempie that has been soaking. Wipe with cloth along its length to remove excess water.
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    Remove Prestik from tapered end.
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    Thread riempie through first hole (from underneath of chair) leaving about 1–2 centimeter (0.4–0.8 in) underneath.
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    Turn chair over and secure end of riempie to the chair frame using an upholstery tack and the hammer.
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    Thread riempie through hole opposite the first one (from top of frame down).
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    Pull the riempie as taut as you can and secure it in place by inserting forceps or nail in the hole together with the riempie. This prevents the riempie from becoming loose and sagging.
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    Thread the riempie up through the next hole then across to the opposite side. Once it has been threaded down through the opposite hole, pull it taut, remove the forceps from its first position and insert in the new position.
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    Continue in this way until the riempie is used up. Leave enough that you are still able to pull the riempie taut.
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    Turn the chair over, secure the end with a tack and cut off any excess riempie.


  • Soak riempies to make them pliable (about 1 hour in lukewarm water).
  • If you do not want to damage the chair by hammering tacks into the wood, the original way to start and end riempies was with a simple knot on the underside. Tie the start knot before you start threading. Once you have loosely tied the end knot as close to the wood as possible, you may need to feed the riempie that is between the wood and the knot through the knot so as to bring the knot right up against the wood before pulling the knot tight.
  • It is important to make sure when threading the riempie that the "right side" is uppermost all the time, particularly when pulling the riempie through, it can get twisted and the underside shows, so keep straightening the riempie as you work.
  • Cover tapered end generously with Prestik (about 2.5 cm) before soaking so that this part remains hard; it is very difficult to thread floppy riempie.
  • Wet riempies give off lots of "white water" after they have been squeezed, stretched and pulled through the holes. This is more difficult to remove from furniture once dry so wipe it off as soon as you notice it.
  • Make sure that as you start each threading, if you started the previous thread by threading under, the next one starts with threading over.
  • Cut one end of riempie using the cutter so that it tapers – easier to thread through holes.
  • When purchasing your riempies, unless you are going to re-riempie genuine antique furniture, use the cured, treated white leather riempies. They come in uniform lengths and diameters. The riempies you use for antiques are cowhide and difficult to work with, they are very long, the diameters vary in length and are just generally difficult to work with.


  • When you get to the corners, you can either cut the riempie there and tack it, before starting with a new riempie, or you can pull it across the corner, however, just make sure it can’t be seen when the chair is the right way up. It’s not a train smash if you do it like that, but it is generally preferable to end a riempie at the corner and then start with a new one.

Things You'll Need

  • Apart from buying the riempies and the tacks, you will find you probably already have all the tools you need in the house. If not, these items are useful to have, and can be used for a million other things.
  • Upholstery tack remover (not absolutely necessary, but useful, however, you can use a screwdriver and small hammer to remove old tacks)
  • Sharp Stanley knife/NT cutter
  • Prestik
  • Riempies – these come in strips about 2m in length each – you normally use 3 to 4 per chair (with 8 to 9 holes per side)
  • Something to hold riempie in place once it is threaded and pulled taut – laboratory forceps are ideal as they are sprung, but a thick nail or thin dowel can also work-a plastic nozzle from a silicone cartridge available free from most hardware shops works very well. Wooden golf tees are also perfect for the job - they are tapered and the top of the tee holds the riempie snugly.
  • Upholstery tacks - +/- 13 mm tacks
  • Hammer
  • Old towel or piece of cloth

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Furniture Fixes | Furniture and Cabinets