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FAQ about Chair Seat Weaving
"Chair Seat Weaving for Antique Chairs" is a great book for fiber rush and includes instructions for hand cane, splint and Shaker tape.
For a comprehensive look at all types of seat weaving, "The Caner's Handbook" and the latest book by Jim Widess: "The Complete Guide to Chair Caning" are the best books and both also cover some wicker repair and specialty hand and press cane chairs.
To go a step farther in hand cane and weave fancy patterns, try "Ideas for the Experienced Caner #1 and #2.
Click HERE to see or purchase seat weaving books. Cane Breaking
You may have soaked the cane for too long or too short a time. Cane should be soaked only until pliable. Put a new piece in the warm water as you remove one.
Look for the tiny nodules along the length. These nodules are where the thorns and/or leaves were removed (cane is the bark of the rattan plant, reed comes from the core of the plant). The cane should ALWAYS be pulled though with the high side of the nodules coming first. If it is pulled in the other direction, the nodules can catch and may rip or shred the cane. Cane Seat - Cleaning
If the seat is just dusty and dirty, wait for a nice day (sunny, breezy, low humidity) and take the chair outside. Wash the seat off with a mild detergent and water. A soft brush may be used to get between the strands of cane. Allow to dry outside. Water is good for cane seats and we recommend that customers give them a "drink" at least once a year by soaking the underside and allowing to dry outside.
If your seat is stained with more than dust, use a cloth soaked in denatured alcohol to clean the cane. Be careful not to get this on the wood as it may affect the stain. The seat will appear dull after cleaning with alcohol. Follow with a wash as above. Allow to dry throughly. Mix one part White Shellac to one part denatured alcohol and brush on the top of the seat only. This helps protect the seat from wear and staining in the future and puts an even sheen back on the seat.
Remove and clean around the old seat area. Do any refinishing and make any repairs before you weave the new seat. If the old cane is clogging the holes, it might be easier to drill out the old cane. If there is solid wood behind the holes, you have a blind cane chair and each piece of cane must be pre-measured and pegged in place. Please see the instruction books for this type of seating.
Measure the hole size and the distance from the center of one hole to the center of the next. Compare your results with this chart.
A full hank does 3 - 4 average chairs.
You will also need: tweezers, flat tipped awl or small flat screwdriver, pointed awl, sharp pointed scissors, and instructions. Fiber Rush Removeable Seats
Make sure to mark which is the top and which is the bottom before you lift off the frame. It might make a difference when you are finished.
Usually removable seats have wide, flat rungs. Sit in front of a table, sometimes you will hold the frame in your lap with the back resting on the table, other times it will be flat on the table.
For now, lay the frame on the table (widest part facing you - the front), tack a piece of rush on top of the rung in line with the front edge or L corner. Bring the rush towards you, pick up the frame (now looking at the bottom) and take the rush to the point of the angle (the center of the L shape cut out, if this is round, find the center), tack your rush at the center point - do not cut! Make a 90 degree turn and bring the rush back onto the top of the seat, weave straight across to the other front corner, repeat to secure the right corner. Cut off rush and tack on the top of the right rung.
Repeat this process until your corner is filled in enough to weave continuously.
Your back corners may also need to be filled in.
You may need to wrap the cutout part of the seat that rests against the leg. See how much space is between the seat and leg when the frame sits on the chair and how visible it will be. Wrapping this part also varies from chair to chair. Most likely you will need lots of short pieces. Tack one end on the top and then one on the bottom. Keep doing this until you can wrap completely around the frame - usually only right around the center of the cutout. Then go back to the tack, wrap, tack until the cutout is covered. This must be done before the corner wrap explained above.
Once all of this is finished, the frame is woven just like any other rush seat. I have found that bracing the front on my lap and the back rung on the table works best for me. You will have to constantly be moving the frame, turning it and picking it up.
It's a good idea to add a tack on the underside at each corner on the first piece of rush used. This will prevent the rush from slipping off the corners later or as you are weaving.
Fiber Rush Supplies
4/32" rush is best on small, dainty chairs and ones that have flat wooden corners. The rush should not be higher that the wide, flat wooden corners (ex. Windsor chairs).
5/32" rush is used on average chairs and also on some chairs with the flat wooden corners.
6/32" rush is used on average chairs, ladder backs and large arm chairs, etc.
Supplies needed: rush of your choice, small carpet tacks (to secure the rush to the rungs - tack should have a large head and short shank), 1" rubber tipped spring clamp (to hold work in place), strong scissors, tape measure, hammer, screwdriver (to push back the rows of weaving to keep right angles) and instructions.
Twisted natural grass rush is also available. This must be worked wet/mellowed and is harder to work with than the fiber rush. You should have experience with weaving rush seats before you try this material.
Fiber Rush - Wet or Dry?
I have been weaving fiber rush seats for over 25 years and have always used wet rush. I feel that this is the best way to a beautiful seat with tight corners. The dry rush is too stiff to make nice bends and 90 degree corners.
Wrap a handful of rush around your hand and elbow (making large loops), dip very quickly into hot water (do not let it linger). Allow to mellow for a minute or two. Take the rush in two hands and gently bend back and forth to soften the rush further. Now you are ready to weave. If the rush dries while you are working, lightly wet just the section you wrapped around the chair with a sponge. Do not keep wetting the bundle or it may begin to shred. You can also gently squeeze the sponge with your hand and the dampness on your hand will transfer to the rush.
If you notice shredding immediately, you must work with that particular coil of fiber rush almost dry. Fiber rush can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and from shipment to shipment.
See which way works best for you.
Fiber Rush Seat - Cleaning
After the seat has been cleaned, you will want to treat the seat. Once a year mix one part White Shellac to one part denatured alcohol and brush on the top and bottom of the seat. This helps protect the seat from wear and staining in the future and helps prolong the seat's life (life expectancy 20-30 years depending on use and ownership or not of cats :).
Brush the stain on the bottom of the seat first, then brush it on the top.
DO NOT wipe the stain (only wipe if the color is too dark). Allow the stain to soak into the cane. Repeat until the desired color is produced.
Many thin coats are better than few thick coats, if the stain is applied too thickly it will bubble and the color will be blotchy.
Allow the cane to dry for a couple of days before adding a clear shellac.
Shaker Tape: To join a new length of tape, simply overlap the new and old ends for approximately 2 - 4 inches on the underside of the seat. Sew overlap together or use Super glue, liquid or gel, which works well to instantly bond the pieces together. The ends should be hidden behind a row of weaving, whether it is the warp or weft.
Splint Seats: Again, overlap the ends for 6 - 8 inches on the underside of the seat. The ends should be hidden behind a row of weaving, whether it is the warp or weft. The overlap is secured with staples (the long bar of the staple should face out). After the seat is finished any exposed staples may be removed with a pair of pliers. OLD METHODS: Hickory, oak and ash splits were traditionally joined by cutting a small rectangle in one end and an arrow with a narrow tail on the other. The arrow goes through the rectangle and locks in place. The arrow should always face the inside of the seat. Rawhide is traditionally joined with a small slit cut in each end. After the one end is locked in place, the new piece is drawn all the way through the slit of the old weaver.
Hand Cane: A piece of cane should always be long enough to reach across the seat. Do not ever try to join pieces on the surface of a hand cane seat. When a piece runs out, take it down into the hole and peg in place, peg a new piece in the adjacent hole and continue weaving.
Rush: Tie the two ends together with a square knot. Try to place the knot along one of the four rails, in a section that has not yet been woven. You weaving around the four corners will cover the knot later. If you are near the end of the seat and this is not possible, tie the knot on the underside of the chair and tuck it into the weaving. OLD METHODS: Twist a wire around the two ends to hold then together, keep this joint where it will be covered later by the weaving.
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Fiber rush is a paper fiber made into a rope (the round handles on grocery bags). See Fiber Rush - Wet or Dry? & Rush Seat for more information on weaving fiber rush seats.
The pre-twisted natural grass rush is a rope made from long, thin strands of grass (like the seagrass strands) tightly twisted into a rope and wound onto a shuttle.
Because the rope is made up of many strands of grass, the cut end will unravel as you work. It is best to wrap masking tape around the free end. The masking tape tip can be cut at an angle to make it easier to pull through the small hole as you reach the end of the weaving.
This natural grass rush must be mellowed before weaving in order to make a good looking, tight seat. Wrap (as in fiber rush) a small amount around your hand/elbow. This bundle should be held in the hot or warm water for a few minutes and wrapped in a damp towel. Let sit for 15 minutes or so until it feels flexible.
When filling in the front section of a chair, you may need to tie or tape the rush to the rung if a tack will not hold it in place.
Weave as you would fiber rush.
You should have experience with weaving rush seats before you try this material.
Supplies needed: the new piece of cane mesh, spline to fit into the groove, wooden wedges, rubber or wooden mallet, basket shear or strong scissor, wood glue, utility knife and a spline chisel to remove the old material.
Removing the old seat can be difficult. First score each side of the spline (between the spline and the wood of the seat) with a sharp knife. This will break the seal of glue and/or varnish and help prevent the finish on the wood from chipping. Next use a spline chisel (see the print or on-line catalog) or other bent tip chisel to lift the old spline and cane out of the groove. To help loosen old glue, try placing vinegar on the trouble spots. Do not let the vinegar touch the finish of the chair, it may leave marks.
Clean the groove completely. Be cautious if you decide to use power tools. A slip may be very noticeable and the spline may not fit evenly around the seat.
Fine Box has small square openings and Close Woven has no spaces between the strands of cane.
You need to add 2 inches to each direction. Ex: if the opening of the wood measures 12" x 12" you should order a piece of cane that is 14" x 14".
New cane will not match the color of the old pieces still on the chairs, so you have to either redo all at the same time, or stain the new ones to match the old. If staining, use multiple thin coats until you like the color. Stain the top and bottom of the cane.
Start in the front groove and when the center is in place, pull the cane taut towards the back. Push the cane into the center of the back groove. Now do the same on either side. Continue working around the seat, always from opposite sides (example: work on the left, then the right) and always keep the cane taut across the opening.
When the cane is pushed into the groove all the way around and the seat is nice and taut, trim the cane in the groove. You want to cut the cane inside the groove but on the outside wall of the groove. So the cane should be down the inside wall of the groove, across the bottom and part of the way up the outside groove wall.
The glue is placed into the groove and the presoaked spline is forced into the groove with a rubber mallet. Work all the way around the seat until you reach the start of the spline. Place the 2 spline ends together to create a seam. If you have a square seat, you will have to use an angle cut and 4 pieces of spline. If the seat has no sharp corners, you may be able to use one long piece of spline. Your chair will tell you.
If it is depression wicker, you cannot totally refinish it. Use a stiff brush and clean up as much of the old chipped paint as possible. You may be able to hand strip a few of the top layers of paint, but do not get down to the bare wicker as it will disintegrate. A fresh coat of paint is about the best you can do.
If it is natural wicker, this can be stripped as any piece of wood to be refinished. If it is in good condition it may be successfully hot-dipped in a stripping tank. See if your stripper power washes the furniture coming out of the tank. Once the old paint is soft, the power wash will remove it from between the reeds. Allow to throughly dry for up to several weeks, depending on the method of stripping used, before putting on a new finish.
One thing to remember, it will NEVER regain its original color or condition due to sheer use and exposure over the years. Try staining your natural wicker a nice, dark stain and you will never know that it had been painted.
If the depression wicker looks fuzzy, most likely, painting it will flatten the fibers so that they won't be noticed. If it is too bad, try thinning Elmer's white glue with water until you can brush it onto the wicker. Rub the areas with your finger to get the fibers to lay down (allow this to dry) before painting. If it is natural wicker, you can sand lightly with fine sandpaper - DO NOT sand if it is paper fiber.
Remember, this is only an approximating tool. It is best to order more that needed because chairs and dye lots can vary.
Click here to order Shaker tape and a Shaker tape color chart with actual samples of tape.
Follow the formula above to determine how much tape is needed for one seat.
Other supplies needed are: foam pad to go between two layers of Shaker tape (see a fabric store for foam), pliers or heavy duty tweezers, needle and thread or super glue (note: very fast but absolutely NO margin of error) tack and hammer to get started, scissors, dinner knife or narrow steel spatula.
See the book Chair Seats for Antique Chairs for instructions.
Fiber Rush Seat ~ Twisted Seagrass Rope
Binder Cane Splint Seat ~ Smoked Flat Reed Splint Seat
A: If your chair has 4 rungs, you can weave a splint seat,
seagrass seat, rush seat or
Shaker Tape seat.
You will also need: small carpet tacks (to secure the material to the rungs - large head and short shank) or masking tape, rubber tipped clamp (to hold work in place), strong scissors, tape measure, hammer, screwdriver (to push back the rows of weaving to keep right angles), and instructions "Making Chair Seats from Cane, Rush and Other Natural Materials" (which includes the rope and twine information).
First make sure that your chair has 4 rungs to weave around (you can also weave a rush seat or Shaker Tape seat around 4 rungs). Now decide where the chair or rocker will be used, inside or outside.
Outside furniture should have a seat and/or back of 6mm wide binder cane or slab rattan, both are made of the inner bark of the rattan plant, they are strong and the most resistant to mold. Flat oval reed should only be used if the entire chair is to be painted. Reed will mold easily and will not hold up as well.
If the chair is for indoor use, a wider variety of materials may be used.
Flat and flat oval reed are good to use when you are learning how to weave a splint seat. They are inexpensive and more forgiving than other materials. They are great for Boy Scout projects. However, they are not as strong as other materials and may not hold up for very long. They should not be used for open weaves as this allows for more stress on single strands.
Both the 6mm wide binder cane and slab rattan can be used as well as flat fiber (a pressed paper fiber made to resemble wood) and our regular cut ash (the best if you want the material closest to a bark or split oak seat).
Supplies needed: material of your choice, small carpet tacks (to secure the material to the rungs - large head and short shank), rubber tipped clamp (to hold work in place), strong scissors, tape measure, hammer, screwdriver (to push back the rows of weaving to keep right angles), stapler, Elmer's white glue and instructions.
The Country Seat, Inc.
Basketry, Gourd Weaving & Chair Seating Supplies
1013 Old Philly Pike
Kempton, Pennsylvania 19529-9321 USA
web site: www.countryseat.com
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