Welcome to Sportsman Boats, "Behind The Glass," a new series based around the construction process inside the Sportsman Plant. In this episode we are taking a look at the upholstery. We will dive into each step along the way, explaining the materials we use and why we use them.
In today’s episode we’ll be getting comfy visiting our upholstery shop. You’ll get to see our talented team of seamstresses crafting every cushion that we use. Upholstery is one of the very first things you’ll notice about a boat and for many the deciding factor. Sit back, relax, and let's see what’s Behind The Glass.
Modern boats require modern processes, techniques and materials. Here at Sportsman, we carry that all the way through our building process. Stepping into our upholstery shop, you immediately get a sense of craftsmanship and technology working together. But it all starts at the design phase.
During the designing and prototyping phase of a new boat, all of the upholstery is designed in to meet the needs of modern boaters. The designs go through rigorous phases until we have a final approved design. Many factors will dictate the final design from the overall aesthetics to ease of installation and longevity. Depending on a cushion’s intended use it will receive a mesh bottom or drain holes to drain any water out or a hard bottom. Hard bottom cushions are used for any cushions that will need structural rigidity. A key advantage to our construction is the silicone based marine textiles that we use. This advanced material is engineered to outlast traditional vinyl and has incredible modern properties while providing a soft touch and plush feel.
Once the designs are finalized, we move into the production phase. Modern technology in our upholstery department has facilitated a 200% increase in productivity while driving quality to incredible heights. Work begins with cutting and trimming all of the materials down to size. Our state-of-the-art in-house CNC machines make quick work of all of the precise cuts required for each cushion. The first machine cuts the substrate we will use across many cushions. This machine will also cut precise mounting locations for every cushion. Making installation down the line, a breeze. We use a combination of two materials for the rigid cushions. The first material is a white PVC plastic used for hard bottom. The second, is a black substrate that is semi-rigid making it perfect for cushions that require some bending like bow bolsters. Our second CNC station, pre-cuts all of the fabric out of a long roll of material. It does quick work of what has traditionally been a very labor-intensive job. This allows us to have very precise cuts and minimizes waste by nesting parts closely together. The final CNC station adds the diamond stitching you see on many of our cushions. This machine takes a large piece of materials and creates a pattern sheet. This sheet will later be cut down to size for the appropriate cushion.
Now that we have all of the prep work completed, it’s time to start assembling. The first step is sewing. Each seamstress receives a kit containing every piece of SiLeather, mesh and diamond pattern used for a specific boat. Assisted by small tabs pre-cut into the material by the CNC machine, they will sew the pieces together to form the outer layer of each cushion. It takes years to master this craft. The combination of modern technology and craftsmanship work together harmoniously to craft the finished product.
The pieces now move on to the next station where a team of coverers will complete the cushion assembly. The PVC and plastic substrate pieces we saw being cut earlier are covered with the internal layers of foam. The foam will give the cushion the shape and sculpting you see across our boats. This assembly is then covered with the materials sewed together by the seamstresses and secured to the back of the plastic bottoms using staples. For cushions that will have an exposed bottom, they will use a binding material for concealing the staples called Hidem. This gives the completed cushion’s bottom, a clean look.
The team repeats the process for all of the cushions required for each Sportsman model. The pieces are collected and delivered to the assembly floor. Installation of each piece takes advantage of the precision mounting holes cut earlier in the process. The assembly team uses templates to install corresponding mounting brackets on the boat and securely fasten down the upholstered pieces. To wrap up assembly, they install any snaps or additional hardware.
Thank you for spending some time with us today exploring our upholstery department. This process is part of our SportTech® Advanced Fabrication Process. This proprietary combination of processes and materials yields the best result each step of the way and has been thoroughly tested for durability, longevity, and finish. All Sportsman Boats features a 100% composite construction with zero wood. Join us in our next episode for another installment of Behind The Glass, where you’ll get an inside look at the how we manufacture our ergonomic consoles.