By Rick Teeters
Tools and supplies you will need for furniture caning:
- 1. A spline chisel and mallet for removing the old cane and spline.
- 2. Safety glasses are a must have.
- 3. Caning wedges for holding the cane in place and for driving it into the groove.
- 4. A sharp utility knife and scissors. for cutting the spline and cane material.
- 5. A flat thin bladed chisel for trimming the excess cane after it is pushed into the groove.
- 6. A bottle of white, yellow, or hide glue.
- 7. The pre-woven cane and spline.
- 8. A wet rag.
Step 1. Removing the old stuff (The hardest part).
Prop the chair seat up on a work bench or other table so you can chisel without having to bend over. If the spline that holds the cane in place appears to be in tight, you might want to use the utility knife or a thin bladed chisel to separate both sides of the spline where it butts up against the wooden seat frame. This will make it easier to remove with the chisel. You can also drill small holes into the spline and inject it with white vinegar to pre-soften the glue. Starting at the front of the seat, drive your spline chisel into the spline pry up some spline. If it doesn't want to come out as one piece, you will have to take it out in layers until you get to the bottom. Always keep the chisel pointed away from body parts. Once you get the bulk of the spline removed, you can tilt up the spline chisel on it's end and use it like a scraper to clean the groove out better. I like to take 80 grit sand paper folded up to do the final cleaning. You don't have to remove every bit of glue on the bottom of the groove as long as the sides are clean.
Step 2. (Prepping the cane and spline).
You will need measure the groove length if the cane has rounded corners. Cut your spline about two inches longer than the groove. If the corners have a tighter radius than a small can of soup, you will need to soak the spline in a tub of warm water to make it limber. If the groove has square corners, you will need to pre-cut them to size with 45 degree miters. The utility knife works good for this. Cut each side and label it where it goes. I usually install them temporarily in the groove to make sure the miters line up. Once you have all four pieces cut to fit, set them aside.
Grab your scissors and cane material. You want to cut it so that it extends an inch past the groove in all directions. Make sure you have the shiny side up. After it is cut, you need to thoroughly wet it. Soaking it isn't necessary. This will make the cane expand.
Step 3. (Installing the cane)
Holding the cane in position, sight through it at the front or rear board of the seat to make sure it is aligned. On all four sides, hammer a wedge into the groove in the middle of each section. This will hold the cane in place while you push it into the groove. I like to use a thinner wedge that has rounded edges to push the cane in. Start at one side and work your way around removing the holding wedges as you go. On curved corners, a thinner wedge will get into the curves better. It is crucial that you finish the project at this point since you don't want the cane to dry up and shrink without being held in with the spline. Once you have the cane pushed to the bottom of the groove, you need to trim the excess material away. To do this, you can either use a utility knife or a flat chisel. You need to cut it half way up the outer side of the groove. I have found the chisel works the best and is the safest.
Step 4. (Installing the spline)
Once you have the cane trimmed, and all loose pieces out of the groove, it is ready for the glue. Just tip the bottle up side down and run a strip into the groove all the way around. If your spline is in pieces, just hammer them in with the mallet. If you only have a hammer, you can use a wood block to hammer on so you don't dent the spline.
If you have your spline still soaking, take it out and dry it off with a towel. On one end, make a 45 degree cut. when you angle it, it makes it harder to notice the seam. Put the seam at the back of the chair and hammer one end in. Work your way around until you get to the other end. Since you cut it long, it is overlapping. Line it up over the first angle cut on the other end and using the utility knife, make the cut and hammer the remainder in. Once the spline is in, all you need to do is wipe off any glue that may have oozed out.
Once the seat dries, it will tighten up. It is best not to finish cane since it needs to breathe. If you have to color it, you will need to use a colored lacquer since it barely will take any stain.