Whether it’s a chair seat or larger cane panel, pre-woven cane replacement can be a rewarding DIY project.
From it’s name, pre-woven cane is just what you might think. It’s a pre-woven sheet of cane that comes in different sizes, and installed with a spline, which you’ll find around the perimeter. Pre-woven cane is also referred to as cane webbing, pressed cane, machine cane, and a few other names.
For those who like to do quick one day projects themselves, here’s a short read on how I replace pre-woven cane. Hopefully you’ll pick up a few tips here to use if you ever decide to take on the task yourself. However, please consider this a basic overview, and not a complete how to guide. For more complete details I recommend checking out the Caner’s Handbook or some of these DVDs to learn how to replace cane.
So here are 7 steps I use when replacing cane webbing. And no, none of them require a degree in rocket science, just a little patience and the ability to work with your hands.
1. Measure and Order
I first measure the size of the holes in the existing cane webbing so I can order a match. I also measure the width of the groove to order new spline. This I usually get slightly smaller. For example, with a 1/4 inch groove I order a 3/16 inch spline.
As for the overall size of the cane sheet, I order 2-4 inches larger than the area that needs to be replaced. Most suppliers will help with the correct size if you’re not sure.
2. Out With the Old
The old cane webbing I typically remove with scissors and/or a utility knife.
Then I use a chisel to pry the spline out of the groove. This step requires the most time and physical strength.
3. Clean The Groove
I make sure the groove is completely cleaned out. To do this I scrape the groove with the chisel and also sand with 80 grit sandpaper. Wrapping the sandpaper around a thin piece of wood helps to make sanding the groove easier.
Any sharp edges that the new cane webbing might rub against also get sanded.
To make the new pre-woven cane sheet and spline more pliable, they get soaked in hot water. Usually for 30 – 60 minutes. This allows the material to be bent and fitted with less risk of breakage during installation.
While waiting for the material to soak, I get together the following tools:
- Caning Wedge
These are things I’ll be using to install the new cane and will need them within reach.
5. In With the New
Fresh out of the hot water, I lay the new cane sheet over the area to be caned. I then square up and align as needed.
While holding in place, the cane is carefully pressed down into the groove using a wedge. I find it best to gradually work the cane down, rather than force it all at once. Otherwise the material is apt to break.
When the cane is fitted and pressed fully into the groove, there will be excess overhanging the outer edge.
6. Trim & Fit the Spline
Using a sharp chisel I trim the overhang to just below the top of the outside edge.
In more detail – a pre-woven cane sheet is properly installed when it goes down into the groove, across the bottom and back up the other side of the groove. There it is trimmed and ready to be fitted with the spline.
Just before installing the spline, I apply a thin line of glue that runs down each side of the groove. If you do this, just remember that the groove is not a moat, and should not be filled with glue.
I then fit the spline into the groove by hand (tapered edge on the bottom). The ends of the spline are trimmed to fit tight so there are no gaps.
The spline then gets seated further into the groove with the use of a hammer and a narrow piece of wood. I prefer the top of the spline to end up flush, but sometimes that’s not possible.
Excess glue is cleaned up with a damp cloth.
The project is then allowed to dry for at least 24 hours. After this dry-out time the new cane is nice and tight. It can then be used as is, or colored and sealed.
7. Finishing Touches
Coloring new cane is an important step for antique furniture. This is a step I always include to produce an aged look. It also helps when I need to make the new cane look like the old.
On this headboard project, I mixed a custom color using Japan Colors, and then sealed with a coat of shellac.
Cane can also be colored with just about any oil-based stain, such as Minwax or Zar brands. Once the stain has dried, I recommend applying a light coat of shellac to seal it.