‘Benchmade upholstery’ is quite literal in its interpretation—still used today, it’s an old term that first described what a piece of furniture was placed upon while it was being built, made or upholstered.
A bench could have been as rustic as two saw horses, a low platform with a rotating top, or as elaborate as a table with adjustable legs or a hydraulic lift, allowing it to be adjusted for individual items—each different in construction or upholstery technique.
Depending on the product, more than one bench might be used. For example, a recliner is more complicated than a simple chair, so it may be worked on in more than one station.
Old school would be two specific people building a piece of upholstery—an ‘insider’ working on the seat, inside arms and inside of the back, and the ‘trimmer’ working on the outside arms, outside of the back, applying a black fabric underside, and the legs.
Today, pieces are most often made by many individuals—not just one or two—and each is held accountable for the specific quality standard that relates to their work.
While this can include sewers, who prepare sections of the upholstery, to an experienced framer, who builds the hardwood frame, ‘benchmade upholstery’ still refers to pieces that are not built in components and assembled together on an assembly line—but one that is hand-made piece by piece and hand finished detail by detail.