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The Chair Dr. Cane, Wicker, Shaker tape, etc.

Splined Cane

This type of cane is actually a pre-woven mat cut to size with the edges held in place by something that looks like a long piece of wood and is called a spline (some call it a splint which is incorrect). This installation method is similar to the way screen is held in the screen frame of your home's windows, only a lot more strong because it's glued in place. The long, smooth looking piece along the edges of the cane mat in the picture above are the spline. The spline doesn't go all the way through the chair, so underneath is smooth instead of showing loops and knots like hand-caning does. This fabric was developed to reduce the labor costs of hand weaving. It is generally less expensive to replace in one piece like this rather than doing it one strand at a time like the hand-woven type.

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Hand-woven can seat

This type of caning is different than splined cane. Each strand is hand-looped through holes drilled through the wood around the edges of the opening and woven through the other strands. In the picture below it is hard to see the holes because a piece of flat cane is secured over them to make it look better, but if you look close you can see a small loop at the location of each hole holding the flat cane all around the edge. Generally you will see cane looped on the back of the frame (or under for a seat) as in the second picture below through individual holes, which identifies it as hand-woven.

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Hand-woven cane back (rear view)

Here you can see a chair back with the cane looped through the holes and around the back of the rail. An unrelated but interesting side note is that the nail heads you can see along the inside of the side rail are for square nails, which they pretty much stopped making around the late 1800's.

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Converting to splined cane

Making a seat or back accommodate splined cane can be a touchy process because of the holes already drilled in the perimeter of the opening (if it is hand caned). When a groove is cut through the holes the wood becomes a little more unstable (more likely to break). If done properly it is an acceptable alternative to paying for hand caning. The first time it will cost close to the same price that hand caning will cost anyway (because we have to cut a new groove).

Some people talk about ruining the 'innate value' of the chair if it is converted from holes to grooves. This is a valid concern if it is important to keep the chair like it is, or if it is a rare piece with some actual value to it. Most furniture, however, even antiques, is not all that valuable in the first place. The main value is the sentimental attachment.

If the seat frame is all ready for cane, as in this chair that had an existing seat opening covered by a cushion, it is a somewhat easier process than converting from hand-woven to splined. In these pictures the wood frame was already existing. All we had to do was cut the grooves and install the cane fabric and spline. The seat frame was removable, which helped hold down the costs as well.

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Paper fiber rush seats

Nowadays paper fiber is more common to see on rush seats than real rush (next picture). Paper fiber comes in long rolls and two colors - gold and brown. It can be colored to match your chair, and is a very reasonable replacement for actual rush. Price depends on how small the diameter of the fiber. The smaller the string, the longer it takes to wrap and the more material is needed. But it looks better. The larger the string the less material is used and labor is less. Simple seats like the one pictured here are around $160.00 or priced by the inch of the longest rail (usually the front) and the size of the fiber.

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Rush seats

In the olden days (actually not so very long ago for some of us) reeds or rush fibers were hand-rolled into strings and used as seat or back material for chairs.  Later, paper fiber (previous picture) was used instead because it was stronger and less labor-intensive to make, and hence less expensive.  There are some people who still use real rushes to do this, and The Chair Doctor can do it if you want, but most of the time it is just too costly.

Blind caning

A different style of hand-woven caning is blind or French caning, which is usually a style used on the back of a chair, so you can't see the loops and knots on the back of the chair back (see the previous hand caning picture). You can see in the top two pictures the front holes and the back with no holes.  In this style of caning each strand is cut to exact length and pegged in place.  It is a very weak style and so not used very much.  It is also about twice as expensive as hand caning. The Chair Doctor of Grand Junction does not do this type of caning. But we can convert it to splined cane, which for the first time costs a little more than spline cane that already has a cut groove for the spline. If you look close at the bottom right picture near the top you'll see the groove we are cutting in this chair back so we can install splined cane.

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Other cane, rattan and wicker

The Chair Doctor has repaired other types of cane wrapping and wicker also. The pictures show a rattan chair with cane wrapping at various points. Top right shows a new wrapping (left) and an existing wrap. Bottom shows the wrap on the right and left arm corners. The pictures show a rattan chair with cane wrapping at various points. Top right shows a new wrapping (left) and an existing wrap. Bottom shows the wrap on the right and left arm corners after we replaced the old wrapping.

Wicker is a type of fibrous material and is usually round instead of flat like cane. Usually the whole piece of furniture is done in wicker. Small wicker repairs can be made if they are not much bigger than about an inch or so. Broken wicker strands can be re-woven, and various other small repairs can be made. However, extensive repairs are pretty expensive, unless you find a hobbyist who is willing to work for the fun of it. Generally, we are too expensive for a lot of wicker work. Search the web and you may be able to find some people who are willing to take on this kind of project, or check with local charities to see if there is a group who can do it.

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Coloring cane to match

Whether splined or hand-woven, cane is usually colored to match the furniture finish.  Since it is a very hard surface it doesn't accept stains well, the best way (we feel) to color it is to mix color in the finish (we use lacquer) and spray it on. Some people claim that spraying with lacquer 'seals' the cane and makes it brittle, but this just isn't true.

In the first place the cane material itself is very hard and doesn't 'breath' all that well anyway (at least on the top surface). In the second place lacquer is gas permeable, meaning that oxygen (with moisture in it) will pass through, albeit slowly. Remember growing up when mom would yell at us for not using a coaster under our drink glasses? That was because if we didn't we'd leave a white ring. This ring was moisture that penetrated the lacquer (or shellac). In the third place the back of the cane is able to absorb moisture better, and is not colored or is very lightly colored only. This service is usually included in repair costs.

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