If you have an old cane chair that has seen better days, don’t throw it out just yet. You can cane the chair yourself and restore it instead. There are 3 main ways to cane a chair and this guide will take you through all of them, so you can decide which one is right for you.
Are There Different Ways to Cane a Chair?
Yes, there are 3 different ways to cane a chair; pressed/pre-woven caning, hand caning, fiber rush seat weaving. It is important that you choose the right method and get suitable materials for it. Pressed-caned chairs will use pre-woven cane webbing but other chairs will be woven by hand using individual cane strands. The fiber rush method even uses dowels.
Each of the different caning methods and the materials needed will be explained in detail below.
Different Types of Caning Materials:
Pre-Woven Cane Webbing
Pre-woven cane webbing, sometimes called sheet cane, press cane, or machine woven cane is an easier option, especially if you don’t have much experience with caning a chair. It comes already woven into shape, ready to be pressed into the groove in the chair, so you don’t need to weave the individual strands together yourself.
Strand cane is a single strand of cane that is used for hand caning. Lots of individual strands are woven together to cover the chair.
Fiber Rush Material
Fiber rush material is made from twisted paper. It comes in the form of strands that are woven together, but in a different way from traditional cane strands.
3 Types of Chair Caning:
1. Pressed Caning or Pre-Woven Caning
Pressed caning or pre-woven caning is probably the simplest way to cane a chair. You can buy pre-woven caning by the inch, so start by measuring up your chair. Make sure that you give yourself a few inches of extra material around the chair, which will be trimmed later
You will need to remove the old cane from the chair. You can use a flathead screwdriver or a special cane remover tool to pull it out from the channel around the edge of the chair. Go carefully so you don’t damage the chair, and gently pry out the old glue and clean the channel.
Once you have the material and the chair is prepared, follow these basic steps to cane your chair:
- Soak the cane – the pre-woven cane needs to be soaked for around 15-20 minutes before you put it on the chair.
- Lay the cane over the chair – Lay the cane over the chair and cut away any excess, leaving a lip of one inch all the way around.
- Force the cane into the grooves – use some small wooden wedges to force the cane into the grooves around the edge of the seat. Start on one side and then push in the opposite side, working around the chair until the cane is secure. When you come to the corner, make a small cut and push the edges in to make it neat.
- Soak Spline – Take your spline remove anything keeping it together tight. Soak it in water for 15 minutes, I like to make sure I soak before I start adding glue so it is ready to go.
- Add glue – Add wood glue, horse glue, or white glue into the channel to stick the caning.
- Put the spline in – the spline is a thin wedge shaped reed. This is pushed into the groove on top of the cane to keep it in place.
Watch my full YouTube video where I refinish cane chairs or read my step-by-step blog post about the pressed cane chairs here.
Hand caning is a more advanced method that is used on chairs with holes drilled around the edge. You will need to weave the strands together by hand, so it’s more time-consuming than pressed caning.
Start by using scissors or a craft knife to cut the old cane out of the chair and remove any debris from the holes. Having clear, clean holes will make the job easier for you. You can then measure the holes to determine what thickness cane you need. You also need to measure the distance from the center of the hole to the center of the next hole. Once the chair is prepared, follow these steps:
- Soak the cane – The individual cane strands should be soaked for 10-15 minutes before you get started.
- Find center holes – You need to find the center hole on the front and back of the chair and mark them by putting a peg in them so you can make sure that the caning is even. If there are 2 center holes, mark the same one (left or right) on the front and back. It doesn’t matter which one as long as you are consistent.
- Set the foundation – Inserting vertical strands sets the foundation to weave on. Start by putting a long strand of cane through the center back hole, leaving around 2 inches below the chair. Put a peg in to hold it in place and then take the other end and peg it into the front center hole. Take the end of the strand and put it into the hole to the right, still on the front. Finally, take it to the back hole, right of the center and feed it through. Continue this process, feeding the strand back and forth through the holes until you reach the right side. Repeat again to cover the left side and you should have vertical strands running up and down the chair. Do not use the corner holes at this stage. Always leave a slight amount of give in the strands, they will shrink slightly and tighten up as they dry.
- Lay the horizontal strands – Now, weave the horizontal strands in the same way you did the vertical ones. Put them over the top of the vertical strands.
- Lay second vertical strands – Do another layer of vertical strands over the top of the first two layers, keeping them in the same holes but slightly to the right of your first vertical strands.
- Lay second horizontal strands – Lay more horizontal strands, this time weaving under and over, between the two vertical strands. Make sure you are consistent with the under and over throughout.
- Weave first diagonal strands – Start in the bottom left corner, which was left during the horizontal and vertical strands. Weave the cane over the top of the vertical strands and underneath the horizontal strands until you come to a hole on the other side. You will not meet the other corner unless you are caning a perfectly square chair. Go into the corresponding hole and out of the hole to the right, then come back across. When you do reach a corner hole, end the strand and start another one in the same hole.
- Weave second diagonal strands – Repeat the process, weaving the diagonals from the other side, so they are at a right angle to the first ones.
- Secure the cane binder – Cut a separate length of binding cane for each side of the chair. Put this over the holes from corner to corner, and then use a long length of weaving cane to come out of a hole, over the top of the cane binder, and back down the next hole. Repeat this all the way along to ‘sew’ the binder in place.
3. Fiber Rush Seat Weaving
Fiber rush seat weaving involves using strands of twisted paper that are stretched over the chair and wrapped around the sides. To start, use a craft knife to carefully cut away the old fiber rush from the chair. Be careful that you don’t damage the frame of the chair.
Once the old fiber rush is removed, follow these steps to replace it:
- Wet fiber rush – The fiber rush needs to be wet, but it doesn’t need to be soaked for long. Put it into warm water for 12 seconds and then shake off any excess.
- Lay the first strands – Take a length of fiber rush and tack it to the left rail of the chair to hold it in place. Then, take it over to the right hand side and wrap it around the right rail and the front rail, so it is tight against the right rail and secured in place. Take the strand from the front rail to the back rail and wrap it around in the same way. Continue this process until you have wrapped the strand around each leg of the chair, and then carry on going round until the strand ends.
- Tie another strand – When you come to the end of a strand, tie another piece to the end of it and cut the excess from the knot. This knot will be hidden on the underside of the chair as you continue weaving.
- Add cardboard for extra padding – When you have woven around the seat 10 times, insert one triangle of corrugated cardboard into the woven rush near each leg.
- Continue weaving – After the cardboard is in place, continue weaving the rush in the same way as before. When you are left with a hole the middle, you need to change the pattern. Go over the front rail, up through the middle from the bottom of the chair, over the back rail and under again. Repeat this figure of 8 pattern until you have filled in the entire chair. Then, tack the end of the rush to the bottom of the front rail to hide it.
Visual of Each Caning Method:
|Type of Chair Caning
|How to Tell Which Method?
|Pre-Woven Cane Webbing (Pressed)
|Hand Woven Caning
|Fiber Rush Method
Caning a Chair FAQs
Man Made Fibers vs Natural Fibers for Caning?
Using natural fibers for caning is great, but if you want a long-lasting option, man made is often best. Materials like fiber rush, for example, will outlast natural rush. The same is true of rattan used for caning chairs. It will eventually go brittle and need to be replaced. Man made fibers still degrade, but they do last longer.
What is the Easiest Method of Caning a Chair?
The easiest method of caning a chair is pre-woven caning. Most of the hard work is done for you, it’s just a case of pushing it into the chair.
Is Fiber Rush Really Considered a Type of Caning Method?
Yes, even though you are not using cane, it is still considered a type of caning method.
How Long Does It Take to Cane a Chair?
Pressed caning is the quickest way to cane a chair. On average, it should take around an hour to finish the entire job.
Doing things by hand takes much longer. The total time depends on how quick you are and the size of the chair. The average chair will take between 8 and 12 hours to hand cane. You can split the time up to make life easier for yourself.
Rushing a chair takes roughly the same amount of time as hand caning. You may find it slightly quicker because the weaving is simpler with fiber rush, but it will still take around 8 hours.
How Much Does it Cost to Cane a Chair?
This ultimately depends on how big the chair is and how much cane you use, plus how many chairs you have to cane. However, it will usually cost somewhere in the region of $70-100 to buy the materials (from scratch) and the tools you need to cane a standard chair. Keep in mind prices are always changing and things cost differently based on where you live.
Can You Hire Someone to Cane A Chair for You?
Yes, if you want to hire somebody to do the job for you, that’s an option. Just be aware that it is significantly more expensive. Professionals tend to charge around $2 per hole in the chair. On a standard chair you are looking at about $350 at least. DIY saves you money and you also learn a lot!
Caning a chair is a time-consuming job and it can take a bit of practice to get it right. But it’s worth learning how to do it so you can bring your old chairs back to life without paying over the odds for a professional job.