These two similarly styled, caned rockers illustrated two different approaches to repairing them.
Today we had in the shop an excellent example of two approaches to the same issue: damaged cane on a rocker.
Cane, which is the skin of the rattan plant, is surprisingly strong, especially the classic open mesh design. When sat upon, the weight of a person’s body is distributed evenly. The death knell of a caned chair is the focused pressure in one area, such as a knee or foot in the center of the seat.
-Here are two examples of a Mid-20th Century Caribbean Regency St. Croix mahogany woven cane rocking chairs. The key features of this style rocker are the caned back and seats and the scroll arms.
One of these rockers was caned in the traditional hand weaving process. The other uses the more modern, pressed cane technique. Unless you’re looking for the difference, you might not even notice that there is a difference. Aesthetically there is little difference between the two but the replacement process is very different — and so is the cost.
The top photo shows the hand-caned rocker. The bottom is the machine or pressed cane technique.
A chair that is caned by hand means that every strand is woven by someone, weaving the cane twice vertically, twice horizontally and a diagonal in each direction. It’s a time consuming process — and a little hard on the hands! The cost for repairing a hand-caned chair is based on the number of holes around the perimeter. The rate can range from $2 - $4 per hole.
The close-up shot shows the binder cane that covers the individual holes around the edge of the chair’s back and seat openings. This is the best clue to determine a hand-caned chair or rocker.
The second rocker was caned using pressed cane, which is woven as a sheet and held in place on the chair using spline. Repair for chair varies from about $100 - $150.
The back on the pressed cane rocker had worn through in several spots and the owner decided to have the cane replaced. They also opted to have it stained to match the existing seat color (in its native state cane is about the color of a manila envelope and ages darker in about a year or two.) The custom staining adds about $50.
Tighter shot of the same two backs. In the top photo the binder cane covers the perimeter holes. The bottom photo shows the spline the holes the cane in place.
The hand-caned rocker had a torn seat. With about 72 holes around the outside it would cost the owner $288 for the caning. This owner opted to have the seat upholstered to save money yet still have a good-looking, functional piece of furniture.
To do this we make a wooden seat that covers most of the existing seat, a sheet of 1” foam, and upholstery fabric. It’s then screwed to the seat using the perimeter holes, which allow the rocker to be recaned in the future. This option comes in around $125 - $150 — about half the price of hand caning.
It's ill advised to try to convert a hand-caned chair to a pressed cane chair. Routing out a groove for the spline takes away from the strength of the furniture. We will never do this kind of conversion. Hand caning isn't difficult to learn for the average person. Some find the process tedious and monotonous, while others find it relaxing and meditative. If have a chair to recane, and you’re interested in learning, give us a call.