How-to Remove Cane Webbing

Copyright © 1999, The Wicker Woman®–Cathryn Peters

How-to remove chair cane spline is one of the first things you will need to know when restoring a broken cane webbing chair seat.

Repairing and replacing sheet cane, machine woven cane, cane webbing or to remove chair spline (as it’s sometimes called), is one of the easiest types of seatweaving techniques to master. But one step in the process might cause you great frustration–removing stubborn reed spline from the groove!

Broken spline cane webbing in chair seat.

Follow these directions with the step-by-step photos to gain confidence enough to tackle the project.

And if you need to purchase sheet cane, spline or special tools, be sure to check with the suppliers on the National Cane and Basket Supplies Directory™ page.


Assemble Necessary Tools

Having the correct tools for the job will make this task easier and more pleasant, so be sure to have on hand:

  • utility knife, white glue or hide glue (not yellow carpenter’s glue or Gorilla glue)
  • wooden caning wedges (available through cane & basket supply companies)
  • special spline removal chisel of correct width to fit into the groove, (also available through cane & basket supply companies)
  • a squeeze bottle, white vinegar, good sharp basketweaving scissors, electric drill and drill bits, and maybe a Dremel tool with attachments, upholstery tack hammer or regular hammer

Step One: Removing the Old Cane & Score Around Spline

Score around spline with utility knife to loosen varnish. Cut out broken center of cane webbing. With your utility knife, score around both the inside and outside edges of the groove, on either side of the reed spline that you will be removing.

Be sure to go all around the chair seat when you score, not just on part way. This loosens the varnish or paint that might be on the chair as well as loosening some of the glue inside the groove.

Then with your utility knife and scissors cut out the old cane in the center of the seat to get it out of your way. Take care you don’t accidentally damage the surrounding wood of the chair seat with your knife while removing the cane and spline.

Step Two: Loosen and Pry Spline

Using a special chisel, cut out spline.

Using the special caning chisel inserted into the spline (at the back of the seat where the ends of the spline join), pry up the spline using an upward rocking motion, lightly tapping on the end of the chisel with your hammer.

If you have four separate pieces of spline with mitered corners, do not start at the corners as the chisel can damage them.

Better to start the chisel in the center of a length of spline, rather than at the end or corner. Sometimes if you are lucky, the entire spline will come out in one motion, but more likely will come out in small pieces.

Step Three: Clean Groove

After cane and spline are removed, clean groove.

Clean out remaining cane and glue from the groove using your utility knife, hammer and chisel, and/or Dremel tool attachment.

After all the old cane and spline are completely out of the groove, sand the rough edges on both the inside and outside of the groove. This will help to prevent the new cane from breaking after it’s installed.

Final Touches

Bevel the inside edge of the chair seat frame so it doesn't cut the new cane when applied.

It’s also a good idea to use a rasp or Stanley Sure-Shaver to bevel (round off) the inside edge of the chair seat frame, before installing the new cane and spline.

If the sharp 90-degree edges are not rounded off, then they might cut the new sheet cane after the seat has been used a while.

When the weight of a person is sitting on the cane seat, the cane will begin to sag, and as it does, the sharp edges may cut the cane, thereby damaging the cane and requiring the seat to be replaced sooner than necessary.


If your spline and cane just will not come out of the groove, you will need to take more drastic measures by using an electric drill, warm white vinegar and/or warm water to loosen the glue in the groove.

Step One: Drill Holes

  • With your electric drill and a 1/8″ – 3/16″ drill bit, drill several small holes spaced about 4-6″ apart around the entire length of spline. Depth of the drilled holes should probably be no greater than about 1/4″ – 1/2″, depending on the depth of the groove, however.
  • You want to go through the spline, so the vinegar will get into the glue to dissolve it, but not so deep as to go to the wood itself, which is below the spline.

Step Two: Add Vinegar and/or Water

  • Fill your squeeze bottle with warm white vinegar and/or warm water. Carefully squeeze liquid into the predrilled holes and along both the inner and outer sides of the groove. Let it soak in the holes for 20 minutes – 2 hours to soften the glue.
  • This will loosen the glue in the groove making it easier to remove, but it also makes quite a mess, so take care not to damage the finish on the seat.

Step Three: Score & Pry

  • After the vinegar in the groove has soaked in a considerable amount of time, score around the edges of the spline again and pry up the end with an awl or your caning chisel to begin removal.
  • Usually the best place to start is in the center where the two spline ends meet.
  • In the case of mitered corners, begin at one of the drilled holes in the center along a rail, front or back. The mitered corners are easily damaged, so don’t start there with the chisel.
  • Using your hammer, tap lightly on the head of the chisel that’s been inserted between the spline and the bottom of the groove.
  • Gently rock the chisel up and down, prying the spline up and out of the groove in short pieces.
  • Be sure to get your chisel under the cane, which is under the spline so that it too, will be removed.

Step Four: Clean Groove

  • When you’ve gotten all the old glue, spline and remaining bits of cane out of the groove (from both bottom and sides), scrape it clean again with the tip of the chisel (or another scraping tool) and use your utility knife for the inside walls.
  • When the groove has dried completely, go over it again to clean it up using coarse sandpaper to smooth the rough edges. Here’s where a Dremel tool with it’s special attachments might speed up the process.
  • Be sure to also bevel the inside edge of the entire groove with a rasp, utility knife, Dremel tool or Sure-Form Shaver so the edge will not cut the new sheet cane.

Congrats! All Done Removing the Spline!

Alternative method of removing chair cane spline–Use a steamer!

Here’s a video of Debbie Kinghan from California demonstrating the use of a steamer machine to remove the chair cane spline and webbing. Demonstration was presented in 2008 for the members of The SeatWeavers’ Guild® at our second annual Gathering in Nelsonville, Ohio.




Hope this FREE “How-to Remove Chair Cane Spline” article has been of help to you today. And thank you very much for your kind donation to help support us so we can provide more “How-to” articles for you!

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