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Tutorial: Cane a Chair Seat
In this Tutorial, Rod will replace the cane seat on a child's rocking chair. There are other ways of doing this job, but I find that if you don't do caning very often, this is the easiest way.
Follow these directions with the step-by-step photos and video, and you'll gain the confidence and know- how enough to tackle this project on your own.
Here's how we cane a chair seat using press cane webbing.
In this Tutorial, Rod will replace the cane seat on a child's rocking chair. There are other ways of doing this job, but I find that if you don't do caning very often, this is the easiest way. Follow these directions with the step-by-step photos and video, and you'll gain the confidence and know- how enough to tackle this project on your own.
White glue or hide glue
Wooden caning wedges (available through cane & basket supply companies)
Special spline removal chisel of correct width to fit into the groove
Machine cane and reed spline
Step one, Remove the old cane and score around the spline
With your utility knife, score around both the inside and outside edges of the groove, on either side of the reed spline that you will be removing.
Be sure to go all around the chair seat when you score, not just on part way. This loosens the varnish or paint that might be on the chair. Then with your utility knife and scissors cut out the old cane in the center of the seat to get it out of your way. Take care you don't accidentally damage the surrounding wood of the chair seat with your knife while removing the cane and spline.
Using a special caning chisel inserted into the spline, start at the back of the seat where the two ends of the spline meet and pry up the spline using an upward rocking motion, lightly tapping on the end of the chisel with your hammer.
Removing the old spline is the hardest, and most important procedure when re-caning a chair. There are many ways to do it wrong, so we made a video for you to see exactly how we go about it. Performing this step correctly will save you a lot of grief !
In this video, Rodney shows you how to remove the spline.
Now that you have watched the video and removed the spline the correct way,
removed the old cane and cleaned out the groove, you are ready to install the new cane. The first step in this process is to measure cane webbing to be 2" beyond the groove in all four sides. Also measure the width of the groove and measure for length too, giving yourself about 2-4" longer than needed for the spline.
Cane webbing, spline and caning wedges can be ordered from special cane & basket supply stores online and through woodworking shops. There are several different patterns and sizes of cane webbing to suit your needs, but order the specific size spline to fit the groove in your chair.
Next, as pictured below, soak the cane webbing in warm water for at least 30 minutes up to several hours.
Shake off excess water from cane webbing. Position the pre-soaked cane webbing over large seat opening so the pattern is centered and lined up both vertically and horizontally.
I start out by running a very small amount of glue around the groove. Not much is needed in this step, as we will glue later in the process.
Make sure you have the shinny side up, which is the correct side. Then gently tamp webbing into the groove with the wooden wedges, assisted with light taps from the hammer.
Now, press the cane into the groove at back and front first, then press cane into sides so the cane is centered properly. Cut webbing at each corner to ease installation into groove and cut off excess webbing on sides to within 1".
Continue to tamp webbing into all sides of the chair seat groove. Make sure that the webbing is completely down into the groove and that the sheet itself is pulled taught, but not tight. The cane will shrink and tighten as it dries, so you don't want to install too tightly while it's wet.
Next, I will apply a 1/8" bead of hide glue or any white, water-soluble glue to the inside edge of the groove, where the cane is. I then start laying out the spline in the groove, starting at the center of the back, and then around the entire seat.
Tap the spline down into the groove gently using the hammer and a caning wedge. Place the wedge on the spline, and tap it down into the groove all around the seat. At the end, I apply one more bead of glue...just to be sure.
Trim the spline so that it's the correct length, and finish tapping in place until the two ends meet. Now, with a utility knife I very carefully go around the spline cutting the excess cane as I go. Be careful not to slip and damage the finish!
As the cane dries, it will shrink and tighten. After it dries, you can finish it using lacquer aerosol toners or clear lacquer, depending on the look you want. If you choose to use a stain, seal the cane first to prevent it from becoming blotchy.
And that's how it's done!! You now know the tricks and techniques to chair caning. You can tackle your project with the confidence of knowing you're doing it the right way and not only will it look great like this chair does, you know the cane will be tight and you won't fall through to the floor when you sit down 🙂
And this is what the completed project looks like.....
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