Chair Caning

The dying art of a traditional, time-honoured technique

Frances Gibbons – 11/11/17

Just wanted to let you know that I am delighted with the re-caned chair collected from you on Friday. The finish is far superior to the original that was ‘nailed’ round the edge etc. Really exceeded expectation. Please let your caner know that his excellent craftsmanship is appreciated.

Which technique and how to calculate the cost

There are two main types of cane - ready-woven, which comes on a roll and is glued into your chair seat or back, and hand woven cane, which is threaded, as the name suggests, by hand, through the holes around the edge of the seat frame or other area that needs caning. You cannot choose which method to use; it’s based on how your piece was originally manufactured.

To calculate the cost of your seat or other panel, simply count the holes around the edge of the frame - not the holes that the pattern of the cane makes - just the drilled holes around the edge through which the cane is threaded. The dimensions of the seat or other panel are not relevant. Once you've ascertained how many holes there are, let is know and we'll give a precise price.

nB. For Bergére chairs and sofas, the sides and back can sometimes share holes - which can mean that although only an arm may be damaged, it might be impossible to recane without also doing the back and other arm. This isn't always the case, but it's as well to bear in mind.

There is also a technique known as ‘blind' caning which means that the holes are not drilled completely through the frame - in this case, the cost per hole increases a little.

If your chair has a medallion in the centre of the back panel, then this is a little trickier to carry out. You need to count the holes around the medallion, as well as those around the outer frame of the chair and them together.

If you would like your newly caned seat or panel to look a little less new and better blend with other, original areas, we can do this for a small additional charge.

Several other things to bear in mind...

Occasionally, when the old cane is removed, we find that it was the cane that was actually holding the frame together. In this case, some remedial repair work will be necessary before the recaning can be carried out. We will then make a charge to dismantle, reglue and reassemble the frame. If any joints are actually broken, this can add to the cost. Caning puts a huge amount of stress on the frame and the joints need to be strong and firmly glued before we can proceed.

Our caner, based out in the sticks, comes to London once a month or 6 weeks to collect any work that needs doing. That means that if we have your chair in our workshop coinciding with his visit, the turn around time is usually about month or so. However, if he’s recently visited us the lead time will be longer, for obvious reasons.

For Breuer-style cantilever chairs of the type pictured below, we only require the seat or back that you’d like to have caned, not the complete frame. They are removable from the frames by unscrewing the 4 retaining screws.

A brief history of caning

The technique of weaving cane together to form a decorative patterned panel has been used for thousands of years. Weaving cane as a method of chair seating was first introduced into England during the second half of the 17th century. It has been dated as far back as ancient China and archeologists have discovered caned chairs in Egyptian tombs dating to 1300 B.C.

Caning is a method of weaving and is most commonly applied to chair seats and backs, though can be applied decoratively to panels, bedheads, etc. Cane used for furniture is derived from the rattan vine native to Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. The vines typically grow to 100–300 ft in length; most have a diameter less than 1 in.[1]:7 Before export, the rattan stems are cut to uniform lengths and the bark is removed in narrow strips of 116 to 316 in. Rattan vine is similar looking to bamboo, but differs in that bamboo is hollow and holds itself upright while rattan is a solid flexible vine that needs the support of surrounding structure to elevate itself off the forest floor.

People often confuse chair caning with wicker. To differentiate, chair caning is specifically the craft of applying rattan cane or rattan peel to a piece of furniture, whereas wicker or wicker work is a reference to the craft of weaving any number of materials, willow being the most common - into items such as baskets and conservatory chairs.

Workshop Opening Hours


If you want to pop-in to discuss a potential repair, rather than emailing with photos or telephoning, then please stick to weekdays as our restorers only work Monday to Friday and our general shop staff are not restoration experts.


If we've already given you an estimate for the repair or restoration of your furniture and asked you to bring it into the workshop, you can do so from our Islington workshop, 7 days a week, Monday - Saturday 10-6 and Sundays 11-5. Similarly, if we've completed the restoration and told you it's ready, you can also collect during these times, without appointment.

IMPORTANT - You can't leave items without our having already given you a price and scheduled your work, as our workshop has limited storage space - so please don't bring things in on spec and hope to be able to leave them. You'll get turned away and then be cross with us - and we don't want that ;)

Got a question about a chair caning?

We can help - get a free estimate now!

Start off by emailing us some photos, as we can usually provide an estimate from them - and after that, if you would prefer to arrange for us to visit your home or office you can contact us;

Click below or send photos to • [email protected],

by 'phone on • +44 (0) 20 7359 4281,

or in person by visiting our workshop at • 121-122 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QP

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Still unsure?

Not sure if it's something we would restore?

Don't feel embarrassed to ask. If you're not sure what you've got, can't identify the wood, don't recognise the age or period -

don’t worry, that's our job, not yours and we're very good at it too! We're here to provide you with free, honest advice.

We'll tell you what it is, where it's from and whether or not it's worth restoring. We really can restore most things -

you'd be surprised at the state of things we've been able to rescue.

Click the Email Us button on the left for a free estimate or read more by clicking the button below.

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