Wednesday 27 June 2012

So why you can't use ready woven cane panels in an old hand woven chair?

"I'll have some of the cane panelling, it'll be a lot easier to do won't it? My chair is so old it's not worth spending the time or money on hand weaving it, I'll just put a few patches in.....or push the ends of the panel down the holes and glue them in, keep it looking okay for a bit longer, it'll be fine I reckon"

No....... no it won't. Please don't even try.

Why not? Well a hundred and one reasons, but I'll try and put the main ones in order.

Reason 1. Hand woven cane gets its strength from each single strand being woven back and forth across the chair frame stitching up and down through the holes. No glue is needed and eventually when the holes are dry plugged with centre cane you've got a strong but flexible seat. Machine woven panels are not fitted into holes, they need to be stretched into a rout or groove around the frame perimeter which is then lined with glue and a centre cane filet is hammered in over the top to fill the groove. It's strong and can't pull out when it's fitted like this. The two attachment methods are very different.

Reason 2. Pre-woven panelling more than likely won't fit hand drilled frame holes. Machine woven panels are just that - machine woven, they are more accurately spaced than any hand woven chair could ever be. The Victorians, Edwardians etc. didn't always use a ruler when they drilled the holes around the perimeter of a cane chair seat, they often had a template set up by the designer or manufacturer that would create the gauge and design of weave that they wanted that would fit well with their desired overall effect.

Reason 3. If by luck you did manage to get a pre-woven panel to fit into hand drilled holes, then what's to stop it from pulling out the minute someone sits on it? Nothing. I've seen chairs where this has been done and the only thing that was holding the cane in place was a bit of glue on the hole plugging pegs. Now bearing in mind how glossy cane is, it's not going to hold in place for long like that before it goes baggy or worse still gives way leaving the poor soul who sat on it wedged into an open seat frame - not a good thing to happen.

Reason 4. If you're trying to patch an old panel with bits of pre-woven, then the new cane will stick out like a sore thumb. New cane is creamy beige, old cane gets darker with time, so unless you're prepared to do a lot of careful colour matching, forget it. Old cane has usually broken because it's come to the end of its life, it's dried out, become brittle. There's nothing that can be done about this apart from replacement and if you start to try and weave wonderfully supple new cane through the old stuff, you will find the breaks in the old stuff spreading further and further into the panel making more and more work for you.

So what's the answer? Well some would advocate adapting the hand woven chair to take panelling by filling the holes and putting in a rout instead. Sounds great, except that doing this will take about half of the structural wood out of the frame in a crucial spot. You see, seats that are intended to have panelling fitted have the groove cut at least 3/4" away from the edge of a good chunky frame, the holes for hand weaving are generally much closer to the inner edge of a much finer more delicate frame, so if you rout a groove between them....crack....potentially the inner bit of wood can break off. Great Aunt Mildred could find herself once again wedged into an empty seat frame, but this time with some painfully located splinters!

It's up to you, but if you'll take my advice don't waste your precious time trying to "cheat" it really is a false economy. If you love your chair, then have a go at re-weaving it by hand with a cane seat kit or similar, or ask a professional. If neither of these things are possible just now, put the chair in a dry attic, shed, garage....wherever until you can do the repair, or sell it to someone who wants a project or is keen to breathe new life into something beautiful.

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1 comment:

Weavin' Wicker Woman said...

Great advice here about converting a hand woven cane seat to a pressed cane or cane webbing seat. We over here on the "other side of the pond" also do not advise making the conversion.

This has been a frequent topic of conversation on the Seatweaving & Chair Caning Forum of mine and I've blogged about it a few times, too.

Thanks for the post, I found it once again to be helpful and interesting!

The Wicker Woman--Cathryn Peters Caning Forum