Holes in a chair's cane seat are eyesores that suggest a certain level of household disrepair, but you can fix them yourself with a little effort. If the seat is machine-woven cane and the hole is small, you may get away with gluing a piece of matching cane over the hole and tucking the edges under the existing cane. Replacing the entire seat is preferable. If the seat is hand-woven, you will need a different approach. But don't let a little damage prevent you from buying that beautiful cane-seated chair at the next garage sale you visit.
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Things you need
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 3 drops liquid dish soap
- 2 soft clean cloths
- Absorbent cloth or towel
- Soft toothbrush
- Wood-glue solvent
- Wood glue
- Machine-woven cane seating material to match existing seat
- Sharp scissors
- Fine-tipped awl
- Small flathead screwdriver
- Tea bag
Clean the cane seat thoroughly with a soft clean cloth and a solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar, 3/4 cup warm water and three drops of liquid dish soap. Get into the crevices with a soft toothbrush or a similar brush.
Rinse the seat thoroughly with cool, clean water. Pat it dry, top and bottom, with an clean towel. Let the seat dry 24 hours or more, until all of the moisture is gone.
Trim any pieces of cane dangling from the hole on the seat and discard them. Cut a piece of matching woven cane roughly 3 inches larger than the hole you are covering. Soak it in warm water for 15 minutes to soften.
Remove the cane patch from the water. Press it between two absorbent folded towels to remove excess water.
Apply wood glue, following package directions, carefully to the back of the patch. Position the patch, face up, over the hole. Line up the cane pattern to match. Press the patch lightly into place.
Tuck the ends of the patch under the existing cane seat to conceal the ends, using a small awl or the tip of a flathead screwdriver. Let the glue dry. Turn the chair over. Apply more glue with a toothpick where the ends of the patch tuck under the existing cane.
Let the glue dry for 24 hours or until it completely cures. Wipe off any glue that's visible on the top of the patch or elsewhere, using a wood glue solvent.
Brew a strong cup of black tea if the new patch is too light to blend in with the original cane. Paint the patch carefully with the tea, using a small paintbrush. Allow the tea to seep in. Repeat until the patch blends in. Allow 24 hours or more for the stained cane to dry.
Wax the spline and the entire seat to protect the surface from spills and staining.
Tips and warnings
- Make sure the chair frame is sturdy and in good repair before restoring the cane seat. If the frame needs refinishing, do so before recaning the seat.
- Check garage sales and second-hand shops for bargains on damaged cane-seated chairs.
- Care for your cane seats by wiping them down with a clean damp cloth to remove spills.
- Wax the cane periodically to protect it and keep it pliant. Wax is preferable to varnish, because it allows a wet, sagging cane seating to shrink back to size as it dries.
- Use caution when handling the awl, screwdriver and hammer so you do not scratch the chair or injure yourself.
- Remember that patching woven cane is a temporary fix. Replacing the entire seat may be required in the future.
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