Apr 102014

I have replaced damaged caning in both wicker and wood furniture and thought I would share my not so sophisticated method with you.

In all cases, the cane I replaced was a seat, surrounded by a wood frame.   Many people, seeing damaged cane like the photo below will cut a piece of wood and simple cover the seat.  I suppose if it always has a cushion hiding it, it doesn’t matter.  Personally, I love cane and  replacing it is far easier than you may think.


Original Damaged Seat.

The first step is to remove the old caning.  Depending on the age of the piece, this can be easy or very difficult.  In the case of a wicker chair I refinished, it was easy.  With some coaxing (chiseling) at the spline, which holds the cane in the groove, I was able to pull out the old caning relatively easily.  In the case of the antique rocker above, the glue used in days gone by was like titanium!   I needed to resort to nail polish remover and a drill.  I even broke a couple of bits in the process!  I am sorry I have no pictures of this task.  It was a frustrating adventure where photos were not foremost on my mind 🙂 

Once you remove the old cane, be sure the channel / groove is clean so the cane and new spline can be inserted. 

I purchased both the sheet of pre-woven cane material and the spline at Lee Valley Tools, which, luckily for me is a 10 minute drive from my home.  You can also order it online here.  (Note:  I have no affiliation with Lee Valley Tools.  They are just a great store!)

Before you begin,  the caning and the spline both need to soak in water for a few hours or in my case,  if you get busy, a day or two!  Regardless, it needs to be soft and pliable.

I began by testing that the spline will easily go into the groove and cut the spline to size with an additional 1/2 inch.  In my first attempt at replacing a cane seat, I cut the spline about 1/4 inch too short and I was very annoyed to see the tiny gap.


Measuring the spline. Add a bit extra and cut the excess once inserted

Once you are ready to work, cut the caned sheet roughly the size of the opening with a good 1.5 t0 2 inch border all around.


Lay the caning sheet in place, centered.  Begin on the straight sections of the groove and insert the caning into the groove.

THIS IS WHERE WE CAN GET CREATIVE!   There are tools for this.  But I used what I could find at home.  For one project, I used a metal spatula to push the cane into the groove.

For this chair, I happened to have a pack of SHIMS on hand and they definitely fit the bill.  I simply cut the thin ends off to the appropriate width and tapped them in with a hammer.


Cut the shims to an appropriate with and tapped them into the groove.


I worked around the opening, making sure the cane was taunt

(BTW:  that hammer was my dad’s and it’s over 70 years old!)

Once you have pushed the cane material securely into the groove, you need to cut away the excess, just below the top of the groove.  This is a daunting step.  You need a VERY SHARP exacto blade or box cutter.  The caning can begin to unravel a bit so it is important to get a nice clean cut.  Try very hard to make sure the cut is just below the top.  The few stragglers still sticking up can be trimmed later.


Cut the excess cane away, just below the outer lip of the groove.

Now it is time to insert the spline.  Use a wood or all purpose glue, one that dries clear and run a generous bead inside the groove, on top of the cane.

Then begin to insert the spline.  Start at the centre of the back and work your way around.


Insert the spline, starting at the centre of the back of the opening.

I wrapped a rag around the hammer so I would not damage the wood when I tapped in the spline.

Once you reach the beginning, cut the spline to the correct size.   Be sure to tap all around to ensure the spline is well inserted and then let the glue dry!

That’s it!


Not counting the terrible time I had removing the old cane seat, I think this job took me just over an hour to complete!

From what I have read, cane is meant be left natural and colour with age.  However, it can be stained but only on the top.  It needs to breathe.  I am thinking of staining this seat since the chair is so dark. 

What do you think:  stain or leave au natural?

Have you ever replaced a cane seat?

If you try it, let me know how it goes for you. 

Why cover the damaged seat with wood when replacing the caning is so easy!

I think this chair is definitely Nicer Than New!



  25 Responses to “Tutorial: Replacing a Caned Seat”

  1. Great tutorial. Pinned this for future reference because I know I’m going to need it.

    Shannon ~ bohemianjunktion.com

  2. I’ve always wondered how to fix cane seating, so this is so helpful. I never knew you could purchase rolls of cane-just pinned it! Thanks for sharing at Fridays Unfolded!


  3. Such a great tutorial. I may actually attempt this at some future date. I recently purchased a chair in which the caning had already been done and I’ve been debating on whether to stain it as the frame is dark walnut and the cane is natural. I was going to put a varathane over the stain. Never thought that it has to breathe.

  4. What a great tutorial. I see so many destroyed cane chairs here in Germany. I thought about fixing up one myself but haven’t yet. Thanks for stopping by my Bratislava, Slovakia post. It’s a bit harder to find the blue chuch because it is not near the old town.

  5. Thanks, so much. I have a pretty folding chair with a broken cane bottom which I inherited from my new husband, now deceased. Although there were several repairs he missed performing, I can’t blame this one on him because I never asked him to do it. Now, with your tutorial, I believe I can do it myself. At least I have the nerve to try. AND, I intend to leave it natural. Thanks again for the great instructions.

  6. I have a cane chair to repair so thanks for this tutorial!

  7. Wow I have always wanted to recain!
    Your advice and tutorial will be kept for the future.
    In my oppioion the cane will age without the need of stain.
    But I am also on the lazy side 🙂

  8. I found you via Miss Mustard Seed’s linky party. THANKS so much! I have some chairs to repair and had no idea how to do that! Great tutorial.

  9. What a great tutorial. I’ve never replace a pre-woven seat, I’m a sucker for weaving it with bolt of cane and such. thanks. Presently working on a thrush seat. It’s very therapeutic.

  10. WOW…I feel empowered!!! I have an antique vanity stool that has been waiting 20 some-odd years for a new cane seat. Thank you so much for bringing the instructions down to a language I can understand!

  11. What a fabulous job you have done, I had no idea that cane could be bought like this. I have just bought a vintage Louis style cane back and seat chair but the seat has a little hole that has been repaired by someone sticking a piece of cane underneath. I would love to replace the whole seat and now I realise it is possible. I am going to re-paint it anyway so this technique would be perfect. I just need to find where I can buy the cane in New Zealand.

    Thank you for sharing this.


  12. Beautiful chair make over and thank you for the tutorial. I have a couple of chairs that belonged to my mother in law, one of which needs recaning. Now I know what to do!

  13. WONDERFUL I have a kitchen table and chairs that my grandmother and aunts’ aunt and uncle purchased on their wedding day in 1914. Sadly they died tragically young. I am not certain, frankly I am the age now (51) when Grandma and Auntie were explaining its history, however, It was ALWAYS the table we had Christmas dinner around (well the chairs lol ) Grandma had the chairs and Auntie the table- it was black stain as the period. My mom had it refinished and decided it was two big for her, I bought her a new table and chairs lol for more than the refinish job, after endless searching antique stores. Bottom Line the cane in the backs are in serious condition with my two sons, and then my niece who is 13 years younger than my youngest son. SADLY they hit the floor a great deal, and 100 years took its tole on handwoven cane. I AM SO EXCITED! I found someone locally ( within 60 miles ) but the cost is reprehensible!
    I also have a beautiful maple chair and side table from the forties ( curved back with cane ) that my was Grandpa’s chair and table, unfortunately two teenage boys ( 15 & 16 ) put the it over the head of the other when one of their famous fights…AGAIN – NO WAY I could afford to replace – however these are backs, in both cases and the maple is a curved man’s chair…any tips?
    Stain! lol
    Beautiful and love your posts on Hometalk!
    Karen – SC

  14. I have a beautiful old rocker I have wanted to repair for years. With your wonderful tutorial…I think I can do it! Thanks so much for sharing…your chair turned out so great! Pinning!

  15. Wow, you make that look so easy! Thanks for sharing your technique. I will no longer avoid buying antique chairs with damaged caning! 🙂

  16. Oh my word, how have not ever heard of this stuff? My life may have just been changed a little. Thanks!!!

  17. This looks pretty easy! LOL 🙂

    Thanks for joining the Link Up this week!

  18. What an informative, wonderful tutorial!! I love antiques and thrifting, and YES, have passed up lovely pieces because I like caning and didn’t know how to replace it. Thank you do much for sharing! Visiting from We Call it Junkin’

  19. Thanks so much for sharing this great tutorial at the Twirl & Take a Bow party! I’m pinning to our party board because this is a great how-to!
    Have a great week,

  20. Great tutorial, thank you. I’ve passed up good buys on chairs because of broken cane. I have a nice oak chair sitting here right now that needs to be redone. Maybe I’ll give it a try.

  21. Joan, this looks beautiful! I never would have tried this. Thanks for sharing such a great tip (and my vote is for staining:) found at inspire me wed. pinning. Have a great week.

  22. Great tutorial, Joan, you do make it look easy! Thank you for sharing this at History and Home this week. Take care – Dawn @ We Call It Junkin.com

  23. Ohhhhh! I wish I’d seen this earlier! I just dumped a gorgeous old amish rocker with bad caning! Wonder if I could find it again ha!
    Found you on we call it junkin’s linkup!

  24. That chair is beautiful! I’m saving this for my mom, she loves vintage things like that. I’m not so much the crafty one though 🙂 Following you on bloglovin now thru the SoMe2 link up!

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