Replaced Caned Seat on Grandmother's Chair

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Project by SteveL posted 06-20-2014 03:26 AM 1712 views 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So, okay, this isn’t the most difficult project I’ve posted, but it was my first attempt to do anything with a chair aside from glue them back together. I removed all the old caning material and scraped out the groove. The chair was made entirely by hand using only hand tools so the groove is not a consistent width.

After getting all the old material out, I soaked the cane fabric in 140 (F) water for about two hours. Meanwhile I made a couple of long wooden wedges that are slightly smaller than the groove. I had purchased various sizes of reed spline. Turns out 8-1/2 fit best for this project. With the wet cane material cut about 1” bigger than the groove outline, I started at the middle of the back, and used the wooden wedge to drive the material into the groove, then affixed it with a 1” piece of the spline. I had 3 more such spline pieces at the ready.

Stretching it tight and keeping it as straight as possible, I then did the same in the front, placing another spline in the middle front to hold it fast. I repeated this for the side to side stretch as well. I now had it anchored at 4 points. I then proceeded to slowly and gently tap the cane material into the groove all the way round. Next I put a liberal amount of white glue (not PVA) into the groove. Starting at the back center, I started setting the spline, gently tapping it in with the wooden wedge. At the front corners, I couldn’t bend it around the sharp curve, so using a sharp chisel, I cut the spline at 45 degrees to make a miter joint.

As I encountered each of my temporary spline segments I removed them using the point of my 1/8th inch mortising chisel. At this point I had the spline in all the way round and trimmed neatly at the back center again. But the excess cane fabric is now sticking straight up in the air all around the outer edge of the spline. Working carefully, I trimmed the excess with a sharp utility knife, then wiped away the excess glue with a wet cloth. I did a little minor refinishing before setting the cane, so the glue cleans up easily from the fresh shellac surface. Go back around with a sharp chisel to remove any splinters of cane that remain. You’re supposed to wipe a bit of boiled linseed oil on the top surface of the cane—two or three coats—but be careful not to seal the bottom surface so it will take up moisture as the seasons change.

Grandma’s inscription is still visible on the bottom of the seat (2nd picture)—it reads “This chair was purchased in 1922, the year before Harry and I were married in Nov. 1923”.

-- SteveL

3 comments so far

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3922 posts in 3057 days

#1 posted 06-20-2014 03:33 AM

Well done on the re-caning the seat. My wife and I did that with the individual strips of wood, weaving the whole seat. We used wooden golf tees as wedges as we moved along. You can imagine how tight the 8th pass through the hole was! That caning fabric makes the job a lot easier and looks very good too. Another heirloom saved! Good job!

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View a1Jim's profile


118095 posts in 4383 days

#2 posted 06-20-2014 03:41 AM

Looks fantastic ,really nice work.


View Don Johnson's profile

Don Johnson

726 posts in 3586 days

#3 posted 06-20-2014 12:30 PM

Nice job.
I once wrote an article about doing this using individual strips, which was entitled:

’Does Your Bottom Need Caning ?

-- Don, Somerset UK,

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