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Chair Caning service

©2015 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas, USA

I was recently asked to repair some cane chair seats. One was totally destroyed, so I agreed to try, and used it to learn the process.

There are two distinct ways that chairs are caned. A chair seat with holes around the frame has a hand-woven rattan seat. I have not learned that process (yet). A groove in the seat frame uses a pre-woven rattan that is wedged into the groove, and sealed with a cane strip. This is the process that I learned, and therefore the service I offer.

The first part of the process is to remove the old cane spline and rattan webbing. Hopefully a water soluble glue was used initially, so after the cane strip is removed, the water can be left in the groove for several hours to soften the glue.

The pre-woven rattan is soaked in warm water for 20-30 minutes before use, so it can flex as it is pounded into the groove. After it is trimmed, a small amount of water soluble white glue is put in the slot, before the cane spline is pressed in place.

The readily available materials that I expect to use assume a "standard" groove which is 7/32 inch wide and 3/8 inch deep; if you have a different size groove, I will special order the material at your expense. You are welcome to clean the groove before bringing me the chairs, but be careful not to change the size of the groove, especially anything that would make it uneven.

The top of the rattan has a hard skin, and does not absorb stain or finish well, so after experimenting the customer decided to leave the weaving natural. Some experts suggest coating the top with shellac. The bottom of the seat, which is the inside of the reed, is always left unfinished. You can see an old seat from these chairs (the only one that was not broken); it is not clear whether it was sprayed with a color finish at the same time the chairs were finished in the factory, or whether it had aged to that color.

Here are three of the six chairs in the dining room set.

Typical cost per chair seat $62.00

Removal of the old cane and rattan webbing and installing the new: $50.00
If you remove the webbing and clean the groove: $35.00

There will be an extra charge, based on time required, for removal of the old cane if the chair was improperly repaired, such as use of water resistant glue, or gluing the cane to the frame rather than just in the groove.

"Standard" material up to 18x18 inches, plus spline: $12.00

Non-standard materials at actual cost.

Shellac sealer (optional) on the top of the cane: $5.00

Other chair repairs, if needed, must be done before the seat is replaced. Successful repairs often require disassembly and removal of the old glue, and perhaps replacement of the tenons, before the chair can be reassembled and successfully glued. This is especially time consuming if makeshift repairs have been attempted. Charges will be done on a time and material basis, starting at $5 per failing joint.


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