Pocket springs are the foundation of high-quality mattresses and are a fundamental component that any mattress buyer should fully understand. The key thing to remember in this section is that pocket springs, types and counts should not be taken in isolation. Read on for all you need to know about pocket springs and why assessing their quality is essential to helping you find the right mattress.
We have already detailed how cage sprung or open coil mattresses should be avoided at all costs. We have always advocated for high-quality handmade pocket sprung mattresses over mass produced bags of springs, but there’s still a minefield of information on pocket springs which we aim to summarise for you. There are numerous variables that have to be applied in order for you to come to the right decision as to which is best for you.
For instance, there is no use having a super duper all singing all dancing pocket spring unit when
1. You don’t actually need it or
2. It is not backed up by an element of substantial upholstery.
As you browse through the internet looking for your perfect mattress you will soon see that in most cases great swathes of text is focused on how good the pocket springs are in any particular model, the science behind the design and how you will sleep like a baby. All of this will be relatively pointless if equal space is not designated to the rest of the mattress, the upholstery, the detailing and so forth.
The fact of the matter is, a standard pocket sprung unit which forms the basis of many mattresses, will be suitable for practically everyone. It really is! They are not overly expensive and will offer you all the support you will require.
Where do the springs come from?
In the bulk of all mattresses, you will come up against the pocket sprung unit itself, which will be relatively similar. They are produced in this country in large factories such as Leggett and Platt, Charles Blythe and such like. There are also imports with the most regarded being Agro gmbh (Germany). Of course, there are Chinese imports but not to the degree to be overly concerned. In all my days I have come across samples but never came across a manufacturer who actually uses them. Currently, the most prolific imports of pocket sprung units come from Turkey and South Africa. Some manufacturers have the equipment and facility to produce their own springs such as Vi Spring/Harrisons and, of course, the manufacturer we use who makes our Artisan range all completely made in Britain.
Is there a need to be concerned where the spring is manufactured?
Not really! These form the basis of lower to mid-priced models and so you are tied to what you can get for the retail price asked. The basis of all spring manufacture is the wire used to make the actual spring and there are limited suppliers of this drawn wire and so assumption can be made that nearly all spring manufacturers will be purchasing from a limited supply chain.
The basics of pocket springs
These comments refer to widely available mass-produced pocket spring units. There may be exceptions to the rule but these will be discussed in the relevant section.
The spring counts
Pocket spring counts are always based on the number of springs in a king sized mattress: 150 x 200 / 5’0 x 6’6. Even when a single mattress is described as having 1000 pocket springs, for example, it won’t. It will have proportionately less. A super king sized mattress will have proportionately more. Some retailers have started to give the exact count of a particular size which throws a fly into the ointment when you are doing like for like comparisons. Always be aware of the count in a king sized mattress and you just can’t go wrong.
The least number of pocket springs you can get in a mattress is 600.
This level of spring count will be in starter or budget ranges of pocket sprung mattresses. This is a good example of the value of a pocket sprung unit, obviously, the retail price will be low but, the quality level of mattress will be significantly better than any mattress utilising an open coil or continuous coil retailing for a similar price.
The most pocket spring units you can get into a king sized mattress on one layer is 2000. Mattresses described as having more than this are utilising double layer construction techniques or they are utilising a suspension pocket sprung unit or they are using mini springs to increase the count. When looking at descriptions and you see a specification with more than 2000 pocket springs you really do have to examine how this was achieved.
As I have said in previous posts, the only differentiating factor between many mattress manufacturers are the springs used. Fundamentally, the springs will more often than not be similar but how they are constructed will provide enough difference to achieve the elusive brownie points that will sway you into thinking their product is somehow better than the competition.
Guide to pocket springs: A good thing to bear in mind that a 1000 / 1500 / 2000 pocket sprung unit will be broadly similar from about 90% of all manufacturers. It is what is placed on top of the units (upholstery) that makes the difference in Price and in quality.
Total spring counts come in usually at 600 / 800 / 1000 / 1200 / 1400 / 1500 / 2000 pockets per unit.
The lower spring counts will have a larger diameter spring – The higher spring counts will have a smaller diameter spring. One of the most prolific questions we get asked and abundant on internet forums is the “how many springs are best?”. Now although this is such a simple question the answer is not! The response to this question should always be followed up with “best for what?”
Best for Price?
If you are torn between two similar mattresses one open coil and one pocket sprung the pocket sprung mattress will win hands down! Like I said above, the minimum 600 pocket count is far superior to any open coil or continuous coil mattress you can get. It is so unlikely an open coil/continuous coil mattress will have a quality level of upholstery attached and all these fall within the low-end range of mattresses.
Best for you?
If you look at the complete range from Rest Assured, for example, you will see that the bulk of their mattresses utilise a 1400 pocket spring unit. This count will suit the majority of users not too firm and not too soft. A bigger person (such as my 20st Rugby Player friend) will gain more benefit from a 2000 unit. His weight will be equalised over a greater number of springs, The springs will not be fully compressed but allowed to ‘move’ with him. If he was on a 1000 pocket unit, for example, the weight is distributed over a lesser number of springs. Whereas our ten stone friend will be quite happy on 1000 pockets.
This is only half the story, though! The other difference between 1000 springs and 2000 springs is the tension of the spring itself. There is no hard or fast rule on what gauge wire is used on a particular spring count: A 2000 unit can utilise a firm spring say 1.5mm or it can utilise a soft spring say 1.2mm. And it is this reason alone why the question above cannot be answered with any degree of precision. It is so unlikely a retailer will know what gauge wire is used on any particular unit contained in a particular mattress.
Generally, though and this certainly does not apply in all cases manufacturers tend to go down the soft / medium/ firm route and use the firmer springs on the 1000 counts to softer springs on the 2000 counts. The theory being that 2000 pocket springs do not have to be as supportive as 1000. The support will be there, but spread out over a greater number of springs.
I know you are thinking now that if a 1000 spring unit is firm why would that suit our ten stone friend? Good point. The Firm spring unit only has 1000 springs and at a gauge of say 1.5mm. The 2000 spring unit at Soft will have a gauge of 1.2. This difference in spring gauge is fractional and nominal between two individual pockets. They will both compress easily under the pressure of your hands. As the number of springs increases as in a complete unit, it takes more pressure to compress them.
Tailored mattress spring gauges
There is light at the end of the tunnel. The comments above tend to apply to low to mid-range mattresses where the pocket sprung units are a ‘one size fits all’. But take the case of our Artisan Tailored pocket for example; on this particular model, our manufacturer gives us the option of using any spring gauge that can be tailored to the end users bodyweight. Even our chap at 20 stone and the slip of a thing at 10 stone who needs to potentially eat more cake! The mattress still contains 2000 pockets but the gauge of the wire to make the pockets is increased or decreased to suit the users weight.
All pocket springs are known as compression springs and can come in various shapes and sizes: the most common shape is the straight metal coil spring, having the same diameter for the entire length. Other configurations include ‘barrel’ types. It has to be said that the actual mechanics of each type of spring used will vary and will have various load deflection attributes for the user. Please read here for more on this with our discussion on spring mechanics.
Spring wire diameter explained
Spring wire diameter is sometimes shown on product descriptions, not to be confused with spring gauges. It shows you how thick the wire is for that spring unit. The thicker the spring wire the firmer the support you will get from it as it’s harder to compress. The gauge refers to the torsion, push-pull measurement which tells you how resilient/firm a mattress spring is. An example of this is an orthopedic mattress which has a gauge of 12 and is very firm.
We have a handy table that allows you to see the spring wire diameter we use in our range and the tension that the spring is set at. We also, unlike many competitors, allow you to see what the weight tolerance is for these springs. This is crucial when working out the support you need and we detail this more in the article on soft, medium & firm.
|Spring Tension||Wire diameter||Weight Range|
|Soft||1.4mm||Upto 10 stone|
|Firm||1.9mm||16 stone plus|
What are calico pocket springs?
Calico pocket springs are quite simply the highest quality spring you can get in a mattress. All the high-end manufacturers, such as Savoir beds, Vi-spring will use calico pocket springs in their top end ranges. Each spring is housed in a calico cover, this provides more flexibility than the synthetic spun bond counterparts meaning the springs can flex easily and breath more than cheaper pocket sprung units. The calico pocket springs are sewn together and are only attached to adjacent springs with lengths of twine stringing them together. This is always done by hand by a skilled craftsman. Our pocket springs are also made using a Vanadium compound like some of the high-end spring manufacturers.
What’s a Vanadium pocket spring?
Vanadium is used in the steel forging process and provides strength to the metal which assists when it is then formed into a spring. It also has a low oxidisation value meaning it doesn’t corrode as quickly as other metals. We use Vanadium on our calico pocket springs that are found in the higher end Artisan models. Vanadium is often found in metal alloys and top end tools to give strength and durability against corrosion. It is used within our springs to ensure they are of the highest quality giving an enhanced lifespan and longevity. Most manufacturers couldn’t tell you what is in their spring wire, you will probably just get shrugged shoulders, but here at John Ryan, we can share with you the exact composition of our calico vanadium pocket springs.
|Chemical Composition of Steel Wire||C||Mn||Si||P||S||Cu||V (Vanadium)|
If you’re wanting the best of the best you need to be looking for calico pocket springs. If your budget constraints you, a spun bond pocket spring unit with at least 1000 pocket springs per kingsize will get you a mid range mattress. There is also a post on this site about the anomalies of soft medium or firm mattresses. Worth a read particularly if you are struggling with how on earth a mattress can be described as such. If you have different body weights we can create split tension mattress or zip and link beds which can be tailored specifically to your weight.
Lastly, if you want to get really informed on the details of pocket springs and the different tiers, gauges and latest developments read our detailed arguments here. To help start off by viewing some of the best handmade mattresses here in our shop where we only use the highest quality pocket springs and coverings. Still struggling? Then why not call our small expert team based here in Manchester on 0161 945 3757 to see if we can help?