WTF even is 8-Way Hand-Tied and is it Really the Best?

Okay, okay! Maybe you already know a little something about sofa suspensions and you already know that 8-way hand-tied is theeee best, but maybe you don’t know why? Read along because we want to demystify framing and suspension and give you the tools to determine what your client actually wants when they say they must have 8-way hand-tied.

Must they really?

Let’s get the basics out of the way: 8-way hand-tied is a type of suspension system. Your suspension system is basically what is under the cushions. What is in the deck of your sofa or chair. What is actually suspending the cushions in the air.

There are different options for suspensions. A grid coil suspension system can be tied 8 ways, or only 4 ways, and it can simply be a drop in—not tied to the frame at all. Alternatively, your suspension system could be made up of a row of sinuous springs, shaped like a continuous S pattern placed at varying distances across the frame. Or, your suspension system could be nothing but a grid of woven organic jute webbing or a synthetic webbing.

There are also Leggett & Platt’s pocket coil springs and the occasional big box shop appearance of the flexolator, a suspension that is stretched along the frame with trampoline-like springs.

Is one better than the other? The Interior Design industry would like to answer with a resounding yes for 8-way hand-tied. It has long been the gold standard for suspension systems and has proven to stand the test of time.

Yet with this great reputation comes great responsibility. As the 8-way hand-tied product has become a bit buzzy, plenty of fakes tout the title without the craftsmanship.

A look at a chair back illustrates a woven grid of synthetic webbing, often layered behind an application of sinuous spring in construction.

According to Consumer Reports, as reported by Furniture Today, “Disregard the term ‘eight-way hand-tied springs.’ It’s no longer synonymous with comfort or high quality. Other types of springs — coil, cone, S-shaped, and grid — can be just fine; they mainly influence how comfortable the sofa feels to you.”

Our Founder & CEO seconds that bold departure from the chant of the old guard. In the recent Luann Nigara podcast, when pressed on what 8-way hand-tied really is, Frank explained the differences in the options and states that really in the end, he has heard sources say that “the 8-way hand-tied lasts 40 years, the sinuous spring lasts 30. Who is really out there polling for these numbers?”

But we assume countless large corps ARE machine-rocking their suspensions to simulate years of wear and tear, and the data shows that both options are par for the expectations of comfort and longevity at the high end of the market.

Why is there such confusion?

When it comes to sofa price, we know a lot is left to the builder in the way of quality of the elements that we can’t see. You know, the frame, the suspension, the cushions. If your client values quality and the heritage of quality, then 8-way hand-tied might be for them. This labor-intensive process requires skilled craftsmanship. Each spring is literally tied 8 ways, from side-to-side, front-to-back, and diagonally to the frame. This process helps to make lateral movement flexible, comfortable, and it keeps the body supported. The purpose of tying springs together is so they move in concert, providing a soft, bouncy support for the seat cushions and creating an experience where many individual springs act together as one.

The idea that the springs are “8-way tied” literally refers to the corners and centers of all 4 sides of the spring plane, helping the entire set of springs to shift and react to micro-movements.

Grant Trick, the (as far as we are concerned) Zaddy of contemporary custom upholstery, has this to say about 8-way hand-tied suspensions:

It’s like buying a Brunello Cucinelli suit vs Jos. A. Bank.

Grant Trick

“8-way came from the traditional bedding industry- it ensures vertical compression only and the diagonal ties prevent any lateral movement…

Why is it better- we could debate this forever… but in my opinion it’s the heritage and handiwork- and when done properly – it will stand the test of time.

It’s like buying a Brunello Cucinelli suit vs Jos A. Bank. They look the same but Brunello has layers of hand work and attention to detail in the foundations (interfacings, paddings, sleeve caps) that will stand the test of time. Jos A. Bank looks like shit out of the bag. But they’re both suits right?”

Additionally Grant contests that 8-way hand-tied springs on jute webbing is silly. Why? Because it is destined to give out, rot, weaken and sag.

What’s the right way according to Grant?

“Steel strap webbing is the ONLY way… in my book. Gotta incorporate modern innovations with traditional techniques.”

Thanks Grant. Y’all go give that genius a follow on Instagram and fall right in love, like we know you will.

So what’s the deal with sinuous springs?

We are echoing the resounding noise that 8-way hand-tied is tops for longevity, quality, and handiwork. If skilled craftsmanship is involved and the art is all but lost on contemporary furniture builders, then yes, it’s top-of-the-line for sure.

But that takes longer and it costs more!

And meanwhile, sinuous springs are actually on par in both comfort and longevity, thus they should not be totally dismissed just because they are playing second fiddle in reputation.

Sometimes you have to give your client options, so let’s get educated!

The sinuous spring suspension system consists of heavy-gauge steel wires formed in continuous, vertical S-shaped coils. Padded clips and fasteners attach each spring to either side of the frame and are are best when they are reinforced with horizontal metal tie rods (similar to Grant’s feelings about steel reinforced 8-way.)

Less manual labor is required for sinuous springs so it’s less expensive to produce than an 8-way hand-tied spring suspension. Over the past few decades, this system has proven itself in the categories of both comfort and longevity.

Why and where did sinuous springs get a bad reputation?

Sinuous springs can be found in a range of sofas and are par for low- to mid-tier sofa production. If you turn over any nearby Ikea Karlstad, alongside its particle board frame you might find a scant spaced sinuous spring suspension with no re-enforcement. Once one strap breaks, the entire sofa is over. It’s no wonder there’s a bad rap. Plenty of lower end sofas deploy a sloppier version of this suspension.

But it can also be done well.

When you are selecting a sinuous spring sofa, the questions to ask are: how far apart are the springs spaced? How tight is the s-curve? And, are the springs re-enforced, and if so, with what material?

We want steel, y’all! But we’ll take jute, too. If it’s good enough for George Smith, it’s good enough for me. If the springs are positioned at a distance greater than 1″ apart, take heed; you are looking at a lower quality suspension system. You want to be at about that 1″ mark for better longevity and comfort.

I don’t know about y’all but I’m pooped. Let’s save the rest of the suspension options for the masters program. For now, consider this class dismissed.

Love ya,
Betsy

Sources
Grant Trick
Consumer Reports Evaluates Sofas
The Stated Home – Sinuous Springs vs. 8-Way Hand-Tied
All the Secrets About Suspension Types — COUCH
What No One Told You About Buying a Custom Sofa
Sofa Buying Advice From the People Who Design and Make Them | Wirecutter
Construction
Frank Eybsen & LuAnn Nigara discuss Suspension & 8-Way Hand-Tied



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2 replies on “WTF even is 8-Way Hand-Tied and is it Really the Best?”
  1. says: Mark Erwin

    Great and detailed explanation Betsy! I owned an upholstered furniture factory for over 40 years and that question often came up. We catered to the design trade and offered both 8 way and sinuous. It was really the comfort which sold the customer. Sinuous springs done correctly with a comfortable, quality cushion almost always won out. We eventually dropped the 8 way because it was impossible to find experienced craftsmen we could trust on the west coast.

    1. says: Betsy Moyer

      Thanks for your note Mark, that’s good to know. 8 way does seem like an art with a dying lot of master craftsmen, but we have strong hopes for a renaissance where it comes to handmade. Maybe a new generation of domestic furniture makers are in our future! In the meantime, we have lots of makers in our network that proudly stand behind their sinuous spring product and we are happy to promote that option!

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