Tailoring,  Tutorials

Re-upholstering a press buck

A while ago I bought an old press buck base from a friend. She had already stripped it from the old and dirty covers but never got around fixing it. I needed a press buck for my tailoring and this base meant that I didn’t need to start making it from a scratch.

Here is the base. It is about 60 cm long and 25 cm wide at the widest point. Markings underneath show that it once belonged to a local school.

The press buck base.

The first thing to do was to make a big cushion cover for the sawdust filling. I used the press buck cover top as a pattern and cut the pieces out of cotton shirting. Then, I sewed a flat pillowcase leaving one end open.

I got the sawdust from the pet aisle of the grocery store. My sewing guru, Michele, adviced me to pound the sawdust as tightly as possible.

I added the sawdust layer by layer and pound each layer with all my strength using a potato masher. If you do this, you’ll notice how at some point the sawdust inside the pillow condenses so that the vibrations from the pounding travel through the whole pillow. That’s when the sawdust is dense enough. I also tried to lift the sawdust from the original packaging in big dense chunks which reduced the amount of work I had to do. To make pounding easier, I twisted the opening shut and pounded through the fabric:

Filling the sawdust pillow.

When I was finished, I was dripping in sweat and tired. After resting a bit, I sewed the opening shut by hand and flattened the pillow with some more pounding.

The finished sawdust pillow.

I have been saving an old wool blanket for just this purpose. I cut two pieces of it and wrapped them around the sawdust pillow. Then, I tightened the wool around the pillow with huge basting stitches.

Between the layers of wool, I added a little bit cotton wadding, just around the bottom edge to stabilise the pillow.

Adding the wool layers with some cotton wadding for stabilisation.

Then I fastened the top layer of wool just like I had done with the first layer.

The finished pillow for the press buck.

The press buck is starting to look pretty nice. Now I only needed the cover.

Now only cover is needed.

I bought green cotton velveteen (100 % cotton) to make the cover. On a whim, I also bought black leather trim and brass furniture studs. I thought that as I was probably going to be staring at this press buck for some years, I could make it look nice, too!

Tools to make the cover.

At home, I used a stapler to fasten the fabric to the underside of the press buck. Then I finished the edge with the leather trim and studs. Those where not easy to hammer in as the wooden edge underneath was rounded and my fingers were a bit too big to hold the studs firmly while hammering. Luckily S came to help and I found her pretty good at this job. She hammered in half the studs for which job her tiny fingers were much better suited!

Some bent studs were unavoidable.

All the effort was well worth it, though. Here is the press buck looking really nice in his new coat!

The finished press buck.

I have been using it already a lot as I have been working on a 1901 wool jacket. My husband has also noticed that it doubles well as a foot stool when he wants to get his feet up in the evening! Well, the press buck is certainly sturdy enough for that use, too!

Thank you for reading and see you soon! More exciting projects are coming soon so stay tuned! Happy sewing!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


  • Kim Corbi

    I love the finished press buck. Wow it looks amazing. You never cease to amaze me! So many different projects and you inspire me with each one. Thank you.

    • kk

      Thanks! And you are welcome! Also, you’ll love some projects that are coming up soon! I’m so hyped about them but they’ll still need a bit finishing!

    • Karey

      Wow. I have template to make wooden part, but it didn’t include details of how to cover it. This is most helpful, and looks fantastic

  • PatB

    Great job, and so functional. My father was an Upholsterer by trade and then taught at tech school and high school. I have always been interested in process and finishing touches. I so enjoyed this post and beautiful results. Your daughter will remember this.

  • Livia

    Hi: You did a fantastic job. Would you mind sharing a template to be able to make one? I would love to have one made. Thanks

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