Telling Furniture Apart

How To Replace A Caned Chair Seat

If you have a damaged cane chair, you don't have to discard it. The cane material used to make the chair comes from the outer skin of the rattan stalk, which is native to Africa and Asia. It is stripped and woven into seats by hand. The wood parts of the chair commonly last longer than the cane seats. Follow these steps to replace the chair seat.

Prepare to Fix the Cane Chair

To fix the cane chair, gather:

  • work gloves
  • tape measure
  • rags
  • paint brush
  • flat-blade screwdriver or chisel
  • hammer
  • utility knife 
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • wood punch 
  • wood wedges 
  • wood glue
  • replacement seat

Determine if the chair is machine or hand-woven since machine-made seats are easier to replace. Machine-woven chairs have a wood frame inserted into a groove connected by a spline, which resembles a ribbon. Hand-woven seat commonly requires a professional service.  

Remove the Old Seat

Lay the chair on a surface where you can work comfortably. Measure the length and width of the seat and buy a replacement with two extra inches on each side and a new spline two inches longer than the width, or trim it to fit. Let the new cane material soak for an hour to make it more flexible, and soak the spline for fifteen minutes.

While the new material soaks, use the utility knife to trim the damaged seat fabric, inserting the knife along the spline to break the adhesive and cane left in the grooves. Insert a wood chisel or screwdriver blade under the spline at a twenty-degree angle, and tap to release it, being careful not to cut the wood.

If the spline won't budge, carefully trim edges using the knife. Bend the sandpaper to fit into the groove, sand the pieces that remain, and wipe the area with a rag.

Install the New Cane Seat

Test the fit of the new spline before you install it. Lay the new seat on the space with the shiny side up and overlap grooves by an inch. Stretch the cane without bending it out of shape, and align the weave straight across the edge, and up on the front edge, but not diagonally. 

Hammer a wedge in all grooves at the center front, then the back, right, and left, keeping the weave straight. Dab the cane material dry, gently hammer the seat in place, using the knife to trim extra cane material.  

Remove wedges, squeeze some glue into the grooves, cleaning the excess. Attach the spline, cutting corners at a 45-degree angle, then press the pieces into the grooves, using the hammer and punch. Let the chair dry and shrink for 48-hours before sitting on it. For more information, contact your local furniture store.