How To Cane A Chair

Chair caning, or seat weaving, has been around since ancient Egyptian times, with artisan apprentices learning how to cane a chair from another artisan. Even today, existing masters, through workshops or college elective classes, continue to teach caning techniques. There are many patterns, with the most common being “hole caning,” using the 7 Step Method.

To cane a chair using the 7 Step Method, you will need the following:

  • Caning
  • Glycerin
  • A knife
  • Golf tees
  • Clothespins
  • A straight edge (such as a wooden ruler)
  • An ice pick
  • Needle nose pliers (with a cutting edge)
  • A rubber mallet
  1. Cut the caning into strips of approximately 36 to 48 inches and clip the ends with clothespins to keep the cane from twisting. Soak in warm water mixed with a few teaspoons of glycerin. Allow to soak for fifteen to twenty minutes.
  2. Drill holes for the cane along the front, rear and side rails. Holes should be parallel to each other and spaced to fit the pattern of hole caning you have chosen. If you are re-caning an old chair, these holes already exist. Use a straight edge to make sure holes are parallel.
  3. Find the center hole for each side. Place a golf tee in each center hole in the front, rear and side rails to mark it.
  4. Start at the center hole in the back rail. Bring cane up from the bottom of the hole of the back rail across and down into the center hole in the front rail. Without twisting the cane, bring it back up into the next hole in the front rail.
  5. Continue weaving cane from back to front rail until all holes have been caned. Each time you reach the end of a piece of cane, place a golf tee in the hole to hold the cane in place. Leave ends long enough to tie off later.
  6. Start the side weaves at the center of the left side rail. Repeat steps four and five for the side rails.
  7. Once the first horizontal run and first vertical run are finished, weave a second run of cane. This is accomplished by repeating steps four through six again, keeping the second can to the right of the first.
  8. Tie off cane by using a nearby loop on the underside of the chair. Thread the loose cane end under the nearest loop without covering a hole. Loosely wrap the cane end around the loop once or twice, threading the end back through one of the resulting loops to tie. Pull snugly, but be careful not to break the cane. Trim the ends with the cutting edge of your needle nose pliers.
  9. Start weaving the remaining cane. Begin at one of the back corners, making sure to alternate over and under each horizontal or vertical row. Use a golf tee to help keep rows straight and level with each other.
  10. Begin horizontal weaving after completing the first horizontal or vertical weave. Over and under patterns will vary, depending on the cane pattern you have selected. As with both horizontal and vertical rows, diagonal rows should start on the center line, working out to the right or left of the center line. Tie off the cane as you reach the end of each strip. You should run a diagonal weave from the back right corner to the front left corner, with another set of diagonal weaves from the back left corner to the front right.
  11. Begin the border cane on the back rail. Border cane should be slightly wider than seat cane. Tuck the end of the border cane in the back corner hole. You may need to use an ice pick to tuck in the end. To secure the border, start at the next hole, bringing a second piece of cane up from the underside of the chair, over the border and back through the same hole.
  12. Repeat this same loop at each hole to “tie” the border cane to the edges, covering holes and cane ends. Tie off the cane as you reach the end of each piece.
  13. Use dowels or coordinating golf tees to peg corners and border ends. Shave a dowel or tee so that it can be hammered down low into the cane with a rubber mallet so as not to snag on clothing.
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