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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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!
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!