Martin's Caning Pictures

In the Fall 2004, Martin emailed from Bournemouth, England. We started an email conversation on caning & Pegging (see also Martin's instructions on Pegging).  Martin was nice enough to share pictures of his work, as he was refinishing a "Nursing Chair". This is a great demonstration of quality craftsmanship.

I will let Martin show you his work & tell the caning story.

THANK YOU, Martin, for sharing with the Caning Community.
Wayne Sharp.

Martin writes:
The chair was found by my wife Alyson at the local tip. It still had some broken cane on the seat and back but the complete chair had been painted white with some green banding and a plywood seat over the broken cane. It was looking very sorry for itself, but the style, workmanship and the standard of the woodwork looked alright for us to pay 1 and take it home. The paint was really on in layers and after cutting off most of the old canework, I made a start carefully stripping it off the paint layers to reveal the original wood. Even now I am still not absolutely certain of the wood used to make the chair (believe mahogany) and I have yet to research the likely date of manufacturer. There are no makers marks on this piece.

Having stripped off the paint by hand with a commercial stripper and picked out many of the tiny paint specks that get caught in the wood grain, the chair frame was cleaned with White Spirit, using a very fine 0000 grade of wire wool. A light shade of wood stain, tack nail holes filled with a colour wax filler, a couple of applications of teak oil, again with the fine grade wire wool and then a clear wax polish using wire wool, to bring back the fine colour and grain of the chair.

The caning for all stages uses a 2mm cane. The seat has quite small holes so it was important to keep the cane tight in the holes and check that the cane is tidy underneath as well as on top. Watch for the neat X's and when to form the fish-eyes, as always you need to check the spare holes both on the sides and top and bottoms on Stage 5 and 6 to ensure that the cane spacing will work out correctly and give a really neatly finished job.

At the end of Stage 6 all the loose cane ends are left hanging out underneath, held in place by the temporary pegs. This is when I have to work out how the Stage 7 binder will work and which holes need to be permanently pegged. (See my notes on PEGGING).

At this stage of caning I always use a steel crochet hook or bradawl to insert into each hole, carefully so as not to pierce any canework and then 'wiggle' the hook to tighten up and pack the cane within the hole to create as much space as possible for the pegging and binder ensuring the cane is tight against each other in the hole.

The Stage 7 binder cane will run all the way round from the front LEFT HAND corner, around the back of the chair seat to the front RIGHT HAND corner. There will be another binder running across the curved front rail between the two front corners. The fine 2mm cane which will loop around the binder cane will be continuous (no knots), cutting across the front corners from side to front rail, missing out the actual corner hole and finally finishing up coming up out of one of the front corners.

Pegging was then started from one of the corners. The front corner hole and the next adjacent holes ( both sides and front rails), were to be left OPEN and from then on every other hole would be CLOSED (pegged). Loose cane ends from any hole that was to be OPEN were fed up through adjacent holes ready to be pegged.
The Pegs are short lengths of 4mm/4.5mm cane dowels, each has to be carefully cut down to form a tight fit for each individual hole. Keep the loose ends tight when pegging to ensure the cane is tidy underneath. I use a pair of pointed nose pliers to gently push the peg in the hole, if it seems just a little too tight, ease it out and whittle it down a little. When all the pegs are firmly in position CAREFULLY cut off the loose ends, as close to the peg as possible. Turn the chair over, and again cut all the loose ends from underneath as close to the hole as possible. DO NOT CUT YOUR CANEWORK!

NOTE. Sometimes when pegging a hole where the hole is large and the dowel would be a loose fit, cut short lengths of cane that you have been using, slightly shorter than double the length of the dowel. Place the cane over one end of the dowel to form a U around the dowel end and gently push in the dowel and the short U cane length which should then make the 'peg' a tight fit. On some chairs you may even have to use two U cane lengths.


The finished chair seat both top and underneath

I have now started on the back. Again using the 2mm cane.

Because of the curve in the chair back, Stage 1 and Stage 3, the verticals, were completed before Stage 2, which is carefully fed between the two verticals runs by gently pushing the cane from one side and with a single finger ensuring the end goes between the two canes in the right order (On TOP of the Stage 1 cane but UNDER the Stage 2 cane). The Stage 2 is shown now partly completed and held in the correct curve by the Stage 3 already in place. Stage 4 will be the first horizontal weave that will follow next. The caning will then follow the standard 7 Stage caning method and the final Stage 7 binder in this chair will be 4 lengths, one for each side with all corners pegged.

This is another old chair still in its 'as found condition'. The frame is in a bit of a broken state, badly neglected and has metal plates underneath holding the two side rails together. The chair frame is mahogany and it has been overpainted with some gilding down the legs. It shows the pegging method which is found on many of the old English cane furniture where wooden pegs are placed in alternate holes and the loops for the Stage 7 binder show being passed through every other hole.

Some other chairs recently finished. Both of these were 'rescued' and were in a sorry, broken state.