Automotive Upholstery Repair 101 – The Tool Kit

Welcome back, grab a seat and pull out your notebooks. We’re going back to class! Last time we gave a basic rundown of what automotive upholstery is, who does it and why. A decent enough overview to understand what it is we do here at VIP Interiors. This time around, we’re going to go into the tools we use and how they work. You should leave this page with an understanding of how we do what we do.

automotive upholstery repair tool kitThe Tools of the Trade, What Goes in an Automotive Upholstery Repair Kit

Bone Folder

Despite it’s grim name, the bone folder serves a pretty benign purpose. Usually about 5-6” long, the bone folder is a dull edge tool used for putting in folds and creases into materials. These are traditional made from the leg bone of a deer, cow or similar but plastic alternatives are common as well. Plastic tools can on occasion leave unwanted marks or residue in the piece.

Fun Fact: bone folders are used in a number of crafts and trades! Origami, bookbinding and cardmaking crafts people all rely on the bone folder!

Upholstery Shears

When working with heavy duty materials, heavy duty cutting shears are going to be a necessity! You can obviously get industrial shears that meet whatever specs you need but on average will be made of fine quality cutlery steel designed to cut through tough materials and/or multiple layers of fabrics.


Every tool kit needs a hammer or mallet, just the facts. You’ll always find yourself needing to bop something into place. A wooden or rubber mallet will work wonders for most jobs.

Staple Gun

Stapling is one of the key ways upholsters get fabric to stay put. You’ll want a staple gun that is easy to use, works without much fuss and (if you want to save your ears) relatively quiet. This varies based on who you buy but there are a wide supply on types and brands of gun and staples.

Staple/Tack Removers

If you’re using staples, you’re going to need to remove them. Just the facts. An errant staple is going to happen here and there.  An Osborne 120 ½ Staple Lifter, for example, is made with the precise angle to lift and remove staples of all types without tearing apart the material.

Razor Blades

‘Nuff said.

Webbing Stretcher

A more specialized tool for upholsters, a webbing stretcher is designed to  grab webbing and stretch precisely, all without damaging the frame. Some special ones are made with hammer jaws or rubber parts to ensure better grip and protection of the product.

Heat Gun

Another gun for the tool box, a heat gun is ideal when the job requires softening, shrinking, drying, or curing materials. They shoot through hot air up to 750 degrees to  soften and mold plastics, dry epoxy, bond vinyls and more. They’ll weight in at under 3 pounds to make sure it’s easy to use regularly.

There are a few other tools of course, like upholstery needles, chalk and others and all of them have their specific purpose in automotive upholstery. But this is a start. You also don’t need to worry about getting all of them because when it comes to fixing up auto interiors, VIP are your guys!