3 Chair Caning Tools Tips of the Trade

McCullough steamer used to remove cane spline


Today I’m starting another blog series and hope to continue this every week called, TUESDAY TIPS!

Each Tuesday the tips will vary and might be as in today’s tip, on chair caning tools.

Or the topic might be on basketry or a type of chair seat weaving, wicker repair steps, hints, tips, great tools or even on rustic furniture making!


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Here’s a great tooltip for cane webbing


Use a hand-held steamer, similar to the one in the picture, to soften and remove the glue in the groove of a spline cane chair seat.

It makes very quick work of removing the old cane and spline.

I’m forever grateful to have learned this technique through members of The SeatWeavers’ Guild, Inc.  so many years ago!

Using a steamer to remove chair cane spline from seat.

How to use the hand-held steamer for chair cane spline removal


First, you will want to protect the wooden finish with either green or blue painter’s tape, which is what I forgot to do in this photo.

Thankfully, the finish didn’t get damaged so I was lucky here. So, do as I say, not do as I do…

Next, drill several holes through the spline. Be very careful not to drill too far into the spline and go into the wood frame.

Finally, using short bursts of steam in the drilled holes will soften the glue.

So, with the glue softened, removal of the spline, with your spline chisel, will be a quick as a wink.

You’ll wonder why it took you so long to discover this tool. What a time saver!


Here’s a YouTube video I made on How-to Remove Chair Cane Spline with a Steamer so you can see it in action.


How to fix crowded drilled cane holes in the frame


The icepick, a terrific chair caning tool


Frequently, you will find that the holes drilled into the framework of a hand caned seat fill up very quickly as you are weaving the steps.

The reason for this is that several strands of cane are going into the same small hole, narrowing the opening.

This makes for a very difficult time adding more new strands to those holes.

And doing the final step of adding a binder to cover the holes is extremely frustrating, too.

The solution to this problem is to use an icepick or long, thin awl to make room in the drilled holes.

You can do this by putting the icepick into the hole and “reaming” it out by forcing all strands to the outer circle of the hole.

Eureka! Now you can insert more strands in the center of the hole!

Final caning tool I can’t live without


Bevel inside seat rail edge before weaving the seat.


As I’ve shown in my instructions for weaving a hole cane seat, I always bevel or round off the 90º inside edge of the chair seat frame.

No matter what kind of seat you are putting in; hole cane, sheet cane, rush, splint or even Shaker tape and Danish cord, round off the rails.

If you don’t, that sharp edge will cut the materials and your seat will fail prematurely.

Use either a wood rasp or this handy Stanley Surform Shaver to bevel or soften that sharp edge.

Then go over it all with a piece of sandpaper to smooth so there are no sharp edges anymore.

Let me know if this Chair Caning Tools Tips post has helped you!  What are your favorite chair caning tools?

Leave a comment below and also SHARE this with other seat weaving friends.

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3 thoughts on “3 Chair Caning Tools Tips of the Trade”

  1. I am starting a new chair project. This particular chair has trim on the front that seems to be a part of the corners. It looks like I have no choice except to feed one strand at a time between the rail and trim. Do you have any tips for weaving this kind of chair. This is an Ethan Allen chair from 60’s.

    1. Hi MJ,

      I’m not sure what type of cane seat you are talking about. Is this seat a pressed in or cane webbing with a spline around the perimeter? Or is it a hole-to-hole cane seat with the binder cord around the perimeter? Have you compared your chair seat to the examples on this page of my site? https://www.wickerwoman.com/articles/identify-woven-seat-patterns I would be happy to do a consultation with you too, just contact me and we can set up a date and time.

  2. I have not tried the rasp to do this, I use a sander to round the edge of the chairs. I may have to try this tool. I also find the ice pick a handy tool many times when caning a chair.

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