Thursday, 3 February 2011

Dealing with splits through cane seat rails and converting an upholstered drop-in seat to rush

Cane looks so delicate when its woven onto a frame, but looks can be deceptive! One of the most common problems we see in old chairs is this:

That dainty canework has split the rail right through the middle of the holes. Why does this happen? There may be a few reasons, sometimes the wood is dry and brittle through old age, so it doesn't take much pressure to split the grain. Sometimes the cane has been woven at a tension that is too tight when wet, so as it dries and shrinks, "PING" the wood can split. But worst of all, PEOPLE WILL INSIST ON STANDING ON CANE CHAIRS!! (sorry for shouting). Please, please never stand on a cane chair, they're just not built for it and this split rail is what will more than likely be the result.

So now the damage is done I'm left with two choices - replace or repair. I'll keep you posted.

Another thing we're asked to do from time to time is to convert an upholstered seat pad into rush. Seems easy enough - take the upholstery off and replace it with rush? I wish it was that simple. Upholstered frames are designed to take fabric and fabric is much thinner than rush, so the frame won't fit back into the chair if you just put the rush straight on there. To make sure it will fit, you have to slim the frame down by the diameter of the rush first.

Another thing to consider is the condition and strength of the frame. This one is "man enough". It has tenoned joints, hasn't been split by endless nailing and is made from good solid dense hardwood. The corner blocks have to be removed, but that's not a problem. I've marked it up ready to saw off the excess wood from the perimeter, then it will have the edges chamfered off, that way they won't cut into the rush, it will also help the seat to "sit down" into the chair frame. Then we can cover the corners and rush the frame - simples!!

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