Nova Scotia Basketry Guild's  most Frequently Asked Question is "Can someone repair my woven chair seat?".

The answer is not straight forward.  
There are basically three types of woven chair finishes.

1.  Pre-woven cane attached to the chair with a reed spline. See How to Story below.
Prewoven Cane with spline
2.  The weaving is from a rope-like material around a frame.
Rope woven seat base

3.  The weaving is hand woven in a pattern of narrow material directly attached to the frame.
hand caned seat

For a better view of all of these types of weaving for chairs check out the web site for the Wicker Woman.  She has lots of information about the types and styles of chair weaving that can help you identify the type of chair you want to have repaired.

Some members of the Nova Scotia Basketry Guild do reweave chairs and have the knowledge to help you with your repair project.  We do have a small database of people in Nova Scotia who do reweave seats.  Different people do different types of repairs so please send us a photo and/or a description of what you are trying to repair and where you are located and we will try to help you.  Also from time to time there are local classes available.  Contact Us.

A photo story of how to replace a prewoven chair seat.

This story is based upon one experience that did work.  There are several sites on the internet that also explain how this is done.  We used the information from Wickerworks and How Did I Do It .  The Prewoven Cane Webbing and Reed Spline came from Maritime Hobbies and Crafts, 1521 Grafton Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The instructions on the packaging were good though they did not mention the following idea which we found on one of the web sites.  It was suggested that you should have at least a one inch sag in the cane before tamping the cane into the groove and hammering in the spline.  This is because the cane shrinks after drying and leaving the sag in the wet cane gave us a beautiful smooth seat base with a small amount of give after everything was dry.

toolsA selection of tools used - narrow awls and screw drivers (to remove the old spline), pen knife and sandpaper stick (to clean and smooth the groove), wooden wedge (to force weaving into groove), syringe (to apply white glue to groove and weaving), also required is a plastic or wood  mallet to hammer the spline into the groove, and a sharp utility knife.

Removing old spline
Most of the chairs of this type are held together with White or Carpenters glue.  Both of these glues are water soluble.  Starting at the gap where the old spline started and finished we slowly added water to the groove and used the awls and screw drivers to lift the old spline and weaving out of the groove.  Some sites suggested the quickest way was to use a router to clean out the groove.  We did not have a router!

Clean Groove

After removing all the old spline and weaving rinse out the groove to remove the last of the glue (this is a sticky job!).  Then let the area dry thoroughly.  Once dry, scrape any remaining bits of glue or weaving from the groove. Then using the sanding stick (glitz stick) smooth the groove to receive the new material.
Putting in the cane

Having four hands was very useful at this point, to help keep the damp material (15 minute soak in warm water) in place and to keep the one inch dip in the centre of the material. Starting at the front of the seat then moving to the back of the seat force the material down into the groove with the wooden wedge and be careful not to break any of the weaving strands. Once the front and back are in place tamp down the sides and then the corners. The material must be all the way to the bottom of the cleaned groove.

Applying White Glue
Using the syringe filled with white glue work your way around the the groove -- be generous, any extra can be wiped off later.  Now sit back and wait for five minutes and let the glue soak into the weaving. At this point start the spline soaking  in warm water.

Putting in the Spline
The spline is  sold seperately and in several sizes so you need to know  approximately the size of the groove you have and buy a spline that will fit snuggly and smoothly into the groove.  

The spline is rounded on the upper surface and  V-shaped on the lower surface which fits into the groove.  Because the spline is damp when you are placing it into the groove, it is important to hit it with something that will not damage the curved upper surface.  We used a plastic mallet and a broad flat rapping iron .

Start and stop the spline at the back of the seat, where it will be less visible.  The spline must be flush with the frame of the chair by the time you are finished.

Final Step
Now for the final step.  You have got the spline settled into the groove smoothly and now you must take a clean sharp utility knife and trim off the excess weaving very close to the spline.  (One web site warned us not to cut ourselves as blood is very difficult to get out of the cane weaving!)

A day or two later when the cane has completely dried, take a very fine sandpaper and smooth off any rough edges that might have been left from the trimming.

Finished Chair

The chair was finished and looked great.  We went to the Wicker Woman's web site for information on how to stain and maintain the webbing.
If you are not ready to tackle a prewoven repair yourself, we would suggest you contact a local woodworker, as most upholstery repair  companies do not seem to be prepared to repair one of these chairs.  Return to Main Page