Monday, March 15, 2021

More Than One Way To Cane Chairs

 I guess you could say that at my age I am an "old dog."  People always say that "you can't teach an old new tricks."  Well, I am happy to say that this idea is not always true.

I have been hand caning seat furniture for my entire career.  I can't remember the first time or even how I figured it out, but for over 50 years I have done it the same way every time.

If you search online for videos that show how to cane you will find the exact method I have taught myself.  That is to start weaving front to back, then side to side, then front to back.  The fourth step is always the most difficult, since the next side to side weave has to go over and under each of the two front to back strands.  This always pulls them out of place and makes it difficult to get an even pattern.  You need to use  your finger nails to push them back in line, and that is difficult and takes time.

The fifth step is weaving diagonal one direction and the sixth step is weaving the opposite diagonal. 

The seventh step is to attach the binder cane around the perimeter, or in some cases to use round spline to plug the holes.  Depends on the style of the chair.

During my career I have relied on Cane and Basket Supply in Los Angeles for supplies.  They were established in 1934 and are still in business.  They are friendly, efficient and helpful.  Susan usually answers the phone and takes my order which I receive the next day or so.  I appreciate the established relationship I have with them and like to support them as much as I can.  Here is the link:

Cane and Basket Supply

Lately I have been getting a lot of cane jobs, both pressed and hand woven.  It seems that I might be the only business left in San Diego which offers this service.  In any event, when I ordered cane a few weeks ago, the topic of the process of weaving somehow came up.  I mentioned to Susan how I did it and she immediately said that she was taught a different method.  I couldn't believe that there was any other way to do it (thoughts of an old dog!) and she patiently explained what she meant.

"The third step is to weave the first diagonal."

As I write this statement, I am stopped in my tracks thinking about what she meant.  It was like someone telling you how to tie your shoes differently.  After all, you think you know the correct way to tie your shoes!

So the next day, after I received the cane, I was determined to try her method.

First I wove front to back.

Then I wove side to side.

Then I wove the first diagonal, like Susan suggested.

At this step I was stopped in my tracks.  I did not understand what to do next.  I just stood there and looked at what I had done and my impulse was that it was so wrong that I needed to just tear it out and start over.  Fortunately, I did not.  I just decided to quit work and go home.

During the night, as I slept, I thought of the cane process.  At some point before I woke up I had resolved the struggle and realized how smart this method was, compared to what I had always done.  By weaving the first diagonal, the relative position of both the horizontal and vertical strands remained in place.  It was also much easier to weave the second horizontal when the time came, as you will see from the next photos.

The next morning at work I confidently approached the chair and applied the forth step, adding cane front to back.

This is a close up.

Now it was surprisingly east and fast to weave the second horizontal.

Just be sure that the diagonals fit nicely between the horizontal and vertical corners like the arrows show.

Now it was time to weave the second diagonal.

You can see from this closeup how both diagonals fit nicely between the horizontal and vertical strands.

Adding the binder is always the last step.

I was pleased with the results and happy to learn a new more efficient method of caning.  I still do not expect to ever make a profit or earn a living just with cane work, but I do find it relaxing.  

Perhaps if I ever actually do retire, I can take up basket weaving...