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Thread: Chair caning supplies and experiences

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    Hillsborough, NC
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    Chair caning supplies and experiences

    Hey folks,

    So, my mother has asked me to re-cane a couple of old chairs that have been in the family for several generations. These have glue and spline style seats rather than hand-woven seats. I've done a bit of research and the process seems pretty straight forward, but I do have a few questions.

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    1. There are lots of places on the web to order caning supplies. Do you have recommendations/places to avoid that you've used before?
    2. Do you have any "gotchas" to share... things I should watch out for as I go through the process?
    3. I got a-hold of the chairs this weekend, and it's not just a re-caning job. One of the chairs has been previously repaired, and the other is in need of repair before I can re-cane it (thus, the woodworking aspect of this problem :^). In both cases, the board that forms the back of the seat frame has split over time (in the thinnest place, in line with the groove that holds the spline on the top side). The pictures, below, give you an idea what I'm dealing with. The previous repair used glue and a couple of screws to reinforce the board, but given the piece's location on the seat, that seems a chancy fix to me.

    Here's a picture of the underside of the seat of the broken chair. The broken piece is actually loose, I just put it into place so you could see it in context. The loose piece is the piece above the crack in this picture.

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    Here are some shots of the previously-repaired chair. You can see that on each end of the repaired piece there is a screw "toe-nailed" into the board to tie it to the perpendicular pieces on each end. As iffy as this repair looks, it held for a long time. I believe the previous repair was 40 years ago, and it held out longer than the caning on the same chair. Because of the nature of how the cane webbing is attached, this piece will be under continual stress when someone is seated, probably more-so than the sides or front of the seat frame.

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    I'm trying to come up with a way to repair/reinforce the back frame piece that will support the weight of a sitter and last for the life of the chair. I've thought of using either long screws or lengths of metal rod to create a dowel-like config that would support the joint, but that may be overkill. I know the glue will be strong enough along the long-grain joint, so all I really need to do is support the front edge of that back piece to keep it from torquing and splitting again should the end-grain glue joint fail. I would appreciate any suggestions you might have.
    --dave

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Hillsborough, NC
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    Ping. Anyone?

    --dave
    --dave

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    GTA Ontario Canada
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    12,251
    Dave I am no help here, I am mystified as to the fact that the pressure on the canning managed to literally split that wood. Its got me wondering how chairs that have canning have survived because I have seen a few of the old round style table chairs that have canning with no damage at all after many years of use.

    I really wish some of our pros would get into this thread because its got all the makings of really interesting problem that would lead to some insight into the obvious design defect in these chairs.

    Perhaps the surface area of the canning is way too large for the method of support to sustain. Especially if heavy weights sit on it.

    Perhaps the wrong type of wood was used in the rear piece or the way in which it was prepared for canning caused a split with the grain just waiting to be opened up.


    Now how about a belt and braces solution.

    Pull the split together with glue first being inserted into the gaping crack. Then take a thin piece of say 3/16 ply cut to width of the piece of wood and glue and nail it on the underside to reinforce the piece but also provide different grain pattern to take the strain. I dunno.

    The other issue is was the canning that was used in the repair of good quality? I think you also got to expect that this type of design has weight limitations.
    cheers

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Delton, Michigan
    Posts
    17,472
    dave i havnt done any caneing, but our dave hawksford has done alot of it.. i know that van dyke restoration supplies has pre caned seats that could be a possibly fix for the seat part and the wood repair needs to be glued back and attached solid first.. contact dave for more on the caning..
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    somewhere east of Queen Creek, AZ - South East of Phoenix
    Posts
    8,529
    Dave I have done a fair amount of caneing both the type you have and the woven type. Dave H has done a lot more. There is a tutorial on here somewhere on the wooven type. If you just doing 1or two you can buy the material either by the foot or in a kit form from Rockler and also wood craft. I have a ton of the sheet type and the cord I would give you but the shipping would cost as much as buying new and the stuff I have is not a fresh (Arizona heat tends to dry stuff out) as you would get when you buy new. When you buy the kit at wood craft it come with a simple step by step instruction. The chairs you have when the repairs are made can be done in less the an hour it's really kinda simple.
    "There’s a lot of work being done today that doesn’t have any soul in it. The technique may be the utmost perfection, yet it is lifeless. It doesn’t have a soul. I hope my furniture has a soul to it." - Sam Maloof
    The Pessimist complains about the wind; The Optimist expects it to change;The Realist adjusts the sails.~ William Arthur Ward

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Hillsborough, NC
    Posts
    58
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Keeble View Post
    Dave I am no help here, I am mystified as to the fact that the pressure on the canning managed to literally split that wood. Its got me wondering how chairs that have canning have survived because I have seen a few of the old round style table chairs that have canning with no damage at all after many years of use.

    I really wish some of our pros would get into this thread because its got all the makings of really interesting problem that would lead to some insight into the obvious design defect in these chairs.

    Perhaps the surface area of the canning is way too large for the method of support to sustain. Especially if heavy weights sit on it.

    Perhaps the wrong type of wood was used in the rear piece or the way in which it was prepared for canning caused a split with the grain just waiting to be opened up.


    Now how about a belt and braces solution.

    Pull the split together with glue first being inserted into the gaping crack. Then take a thin piece of say 3/16 ply cut to width of the piece of wood and glue and nail it on the underside to reinforce the piece but also provide different grain pattern to take the strain. I dunno.

    The other issue is was the canning that was used in the repair of good quality? I think you also got to expect that this type of design has weight limitations.
    Thanks, Rob. I suspect that these were pretty inexpensive chairs at the time. The seat frame has no visible joinery, so I suspect the end-to-edge grain joints are reinforced with dowels (maybe tenons, but I doubt it). I suspect that after years of people sitting down hard on the back of the seat, the end-grain glue joint failed and the resulting torque on the front of the board caused it to split. In any case, I'm sure that we weigh a lot more than our grandparents did on average, so the stress on it would only increase over time.

    Your solution is very similar to another that I've been thinking of, which would be to reglue the broken piece, remove part of the bottom of the broken piece and replace it with a new piece of material with the grain running in a different orientation than the frame. In the picture below is a crude depiction of the cross-section of the broken piece of the frame. The piece is split and totally separated along the vertical dashed line. The webbing is held in place by a spline glued into the dado in the top of the piece. The shaded block would be the patch. If I were able to disassemble the chair seat frame, then I could use the tablesaw to cut a wide rabbet on the bottom of the board. If I can't do that, then your idea of sistering a piece to the bottom would be a lot more strait-forward. Something to think about.

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    --dave

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Hillsborough, NC
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    Don & Larry,

    Thanks for the suggestions on locations. I think I've got a handle on the process itself, it looks pretty strait-forward.
    --dave

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