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How To Recane a Chair

Updated on April 15, 2014

Cane Chairs

Cane chairs are a popular choice amongst both homeowners and home decorators. They offer good looks along with comfort. Over time and through use can chair seats and backs become damaged and worn. Cane chairs stand up well to much use but sometimes it simply becomes too much and the cane with crack, split and develop holes rendering the chair unusable. If you enjoying repairing furniture and refinishing it - don't pass up a yard sale bargain just because the cane back or seat is damaged. The repair methods can be easily incorporated into the refinishing process.

Cane Chair Repair

A handy do-it-yourself type homeowner will be able to repair and restore a relatively newer cane chair. Older, vintage can chairs typically will require the skilled hands of a professional to repair. Antique and vintage cane chairs are usually woven by hand making the restoration process much more difficult – not impossible, just more difficult. Cane chairs newer than 50 or so years generally have pre-woven seats and backs that are considerably easier to replace.

What Do You Need Before Starting Your Cane Chair Repair

If this is the first time you are attempting to restore a cane chair, you will need some specialized supplies along with some common tools. It’s a good idea to have everything you need on hand before beginning your project.

Pre-Woven Cane, Sheet Cane or Cane Webbing

The cane require for your project will require cane that is available as a pre-woven sheet. This type of webbing is perfect for cane chairs that are newer than 50 years. Manufacturers of modern cane chairs use this type of sheet cane when they make the furniture.

Spline

Spline is a durable cord-like material that sits atop the caning. Spline helps to hold the cane seat or back in place securely on the chair.

Caning Wedges

Caning wedges hold the cane webbing in place during the chair seat or back replacement process.

Caning Tools

Using a variety of common tools and those specifically for replacing the cane chair seat or back makes the process go much more smoothly.

Glue

Glue makes a big difference in the end result. Keep in mind the chair seat or back will bear weight therefore requiring a glue that can stand up to the test.

Removing the Damaged Caning

Use a thin blade flat screwdriver to dig into the spline that sits in the wood chair frame. The spline sits into a groove and needs to be pulled out with needle nose pliers. Grip the spline with the pliers and pull it out of the groove. If the glue is firmly holding the spline and cane in place, heat white vinegar and carefully apply the hot vinegar to the stubborn areas of glue. Wait five to ten minutes and then pull the spline out of the groove.
Scrape the groove carefully to remove all of the old dried, stuck on glue.

Replacing the Old Cane Chair Seat or Back

Use a tape measure to measure the size of the chair seat or back. Measure from groove to groove both across and from back to front.
Use a sharp utility knife to cut the cane webbing 1 1/2 inch larger than the groove measurements. When cutting the cane webbing use a metal straight edge to keep the cuts straight.
Place the cut webbing into a basin or tub and cover it with plain water. Let the webbing soak for 45 to 60 minutes.
Take the cane out of the water and hang it up to let all of the excess water drip off.

Fitting the New Cane Webbing in Place

Center the cut piece of cane over the chair. Arrange it so you have an equal amount overhanging each groove.
Place a wedge over the webbing and tap with a mallet until the wedge is firmly in place.
Grip the cane and stretch it taut. Hammer in a second wedge directly across from the first one. Repeat the process side to side.
After four wedges are in place holding the caning, place a wedge over the cane and tap it to press the caning into the groove. Move the wedge around the entire groove.
Spritz the center of the cane webbing with plain water to keep it from drying because as the webbing dries, it shrinks. If the webbing shrinks before other parts of the project are done it will pull the webbing out of the groove.

Securing the Cane Webbing

Place the spline in a basin or tub and cover with warm water. Let it soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the spline from the water and let the excess water drip off.
Take the wedges out of the groove.
Fill a 12 to 14 inch section of the groove on top of the cane webbing with glue.
Place the spline into the glue line.
Place a wedge on top of the spline and tap it with a mallet to force the spline into the groove. Move the wedge do the glue line, tapping the spline into the groove.
Wipe away excess glue with a damp rag.
Add another 12 to 14 inch line of glue and tap the spline in lace with the wedge.
Repeat this process until you meet the beginning point.
Cut the extra spline with a utility knife or scissors.

Now What?

After the cane webbing is in place, put the chair in a place where no one will use it for two to three days to allow the glue and cane webbing to dry fully.
Run your hand around the spline feeling for sharp or raised areas. If you feel any, wrap a piece of 220-grit sandpaper around a sanding block and lightly sand the area until it is smooth.
Spray the cane seat with spray lacquer for an added layer of protection. Spray lacquer also makes cleaning a breeze.

Repairing Holes in Cane Chair Seats

The caning on chairs can end up with a hole from accidental damage. A hole in the cane does not necessary mean you will have to recane the entire seat or back, you can just patch it.
Add ½ cup of water to a small bucket and stir in ¼ cup of white vinegar and a drop or two of dish soap.
Submerge a rag in the cleaning solution and wring out as much excess water as possible. Wipe the surface of the cane to remove any dirt or dust. Turn the chair over and repeat on the underside. Let the chair dry for 24 to 48 hours.
Use scissors to trim the hole, cutting away hanging pieces of the cane.
Cut a piece of cane 2 to 3 inches bigger than the hole in all directions. Place the patch into a basin and cover it with warm water. Let the cane soak for 20 to 30 minutes.
Lay the wet cane on a towel and cover it with a second towel. Press down on the top towel to wick the excess moisture away.
Align the patch with the existing cane to match the pattern.
Dip a small paintbrush into wood glue. Lift one side of the patch at a time and apply the wood glue to the underside of the patch. Repeat on all sides of the patch. Wipe away excess glue with a lint-free rag.
Push the free ends of the cane through the holes in the cane so they rest on the underside of the seat. Let the glue dry for four to six hours.
Turn the chair over and apply a light coat of wood glue onto the free edges of the patch that have been pushed through the cane. Let the glue dry for four to six hours and repeat.
Wait 72 hours before using the chair.

How to Darken Chair Caning

If you have recaned a chair or just patched a seat, the new caning may be too light. Darkening cane is easy!
Place two to three tea bags into a cup and add hot water. Let the tea steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
Dip the corner of a lint-free rag into the tea and wipe the tea onto the new caning. If you are trying to blend a patch into the existing caning, use a cotton swab or small paint brush. Do not overly wet the cane. Apply the tea to the caning in very light coats.
Let the cane dry for a few hours. If the color is not dark enough, repeat the process until you achieve the desired color.

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