The best way to choose what size chair cane to use!

Quick and easy way to choose the right size cane for your project

Are you confused as to what size chair cane you need for your next project?

There are a lot of different chair cane gauges and sizes used in chair cane weaving.

So, how do you determine what size chair cane to use on your next project?

hole-to-hole-cane-horseshoe-frame
Hole-to-hole cane chair frame in horseshoe shape, ready for the caning to begin!

The usual way to determine the best gauge of cane to use is to first measure the diameter of the drilled holes.

Then measure the distance from center of one hole to the center of an adjacent hole.

After you have both measurements, compare them to a table that the supply companies have in their catalogs and online.

Those tables have the correct size cane to order based on your two measurements, making it easy to place your order.

But there’s another way that I’ll share with you for a quick and easy method the English chair caners have been using for years and years.

I first ran across this simple way to choose what size chair cane to use when reading my 1990 reprint of the 1988 Chair Seating– Techniques in Cane, Willow, Rush and Cords by English authors and seat weavers, Kay Johnson, Olivia Elton Barratt, and Mary Butcher.


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Best Chair Caning and Seat Weaving Instruction Book

Chair Seating book by Johnson, Barratt & Butcher
Chair Seating by Johnson, Barratt & Butcher

Chair Seating Techniques by Johnson, Barratt and Butcher is by far, in my opinion, the best chair caning and chair seat weaving book ever made!

It’s very, very detailed in each and every type of chair seat weaving you can imagine and includes easy to understand text (although they use many English terms and the metric numbering system) with delightfully clear illustrations.

Quick and Easy Method for Correct Cane Size

As most of you caners know and as I state on the Chair Caning Instructions page, the size of cane to use in your chair caning projects depends on these two things. The diameter of the drilled holes and the distance between center hole to center hole, correct?

Various sizes of chair cane coils
Strand chair cane coils & binder cane

Normally after you take those measurements, you would either go to the website of your favorite cane and basket supplier and look it up on their conversion tables. Or you would consult the tables in their catalogs.

Well, now there’s a much easier way to do it!

You can bypass all that fuss and calculate the easy way of finding out what size chair cane to use. Just simply count the number of holes within a six-inch interval on the side rails!

Since not all holes are drilled a consistent and accurate distance apart, it’s wise to take the measurement in several different places along the rails and then average those totals.

determine cane size english method
Measure number of drilled holes within six inches

Quick and easy cane sizing method to memorize

Now that you know how many drilled holes there are in the six-inch span you can use the simple, easy method below to determine the correct gauge cane to use for your project!

If a partial hole is within the measurement, then count that too. Then for every six inches that has the number of holes below, buy the size cane listed on the right:

12 holes = Fine Fine Cane, 2.25mm
11 holes = Fine Cane, 2.50mm
10 holes = Narrow Medium, 2.75mm Cane
9 holes = Medium Cane, 3.0mm
8 holes = Common Cane, 3.50mm

The size cane you need for the binder cane would be:

Narrow Binder 4 1/2MM (5/32″) for small drilled holes and Medium Binder 5 1/2M (7/32″) for larger

What size chair cane to use–now you know!

Memorize the table list above and you’ll always know what size chair cane to use for your chair caning projects.

You’ll never be dependent on those cane size conversion measurement tables again!

You’ll be able to order the correct size cane anytime, right off the top of your head from now on!

hole-to-hole cane seat horseshoe shape
Tiger maple chair with horseshoe shape hole-to-hole cane seat

Thanks so much to English seat weavers, Kay Johnson, Olivia Elton Barratt and Mary Butcher for writing such a wonderfully clear, easily memorizable caning size guide for us.

I had the pleasure of meeting these fantastic and ever-so-talented ladies in 2006 when I went to England for two weeks on a McKnight Fellowship Grant.

I really wish I had thought to bring along my own copy of the book, so I could get their autographs, darn.

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10 thoughts on “The best way to choose what size chair cane to use!”

  1. It’s a while since I caned a chair and I can’t remember if you use different sizes of cane for settings and weavings.

    1. Hello Fiona,

      So nice to hear you are getting back into the swing of chair caning! No, it’s not necessary to use two different sizes of chair cane strands to reweave a cane seat. We here in the US rarely use two different sizes but they frequently do in England and other countries. For complete instructions and caning hints, be sure to check out my Chair Caning Instructions page and also the How-to Videos pages. The Articles tab at the top of any page will take you to many helpful weaving articles besides those two.

    1. SG,

      I think you might be talking about a different kind of chair caning than the hole-to-hole chair caning we are talking about here in this post. Are you talking about recaning a pressed cane or cane webbing chair seat that has a groove around the top side that holds in a sheet of cane? If you’d like the instructions on how to Install a Cane Webbing Seat then you can click on the link and get all the information you need for that project. Thanks for asking and good luck on recaning that chair!

    1. Thanks for asking the question, I have updated the post to include the answer to your question about what size binder cane to use. Here’s the answer, rather than going with the size of the cane you are using, it’s best to go with the size of the drilled holes.

      Narrow Binder 4 1/2MM (5/32″) for small drilled holes and Medium Binder 5 1/2M (7/32″) for larger

  2. Hi I just measured my chairs and within each six inches I counted fifteen holes. Im guessing That I sould use the fine fine cane. Thanks, Gladys

    1. Hi Gladys,

      If you have over 12 holes per six inches then you should use super-fine (2MM), not fine-fine (2.25MM). I didn’t list that small gauge here but check with the supplier to see if they even carry it anymore. Weaving that chair with the tiny, tiny holes is going to take you a looooong time! How many drilled holes are there altogether? Probably over 80, right?

  3. I’m building a wooden seat for a vintage airplane. It will be 8 holes per 6 six inch. Holes will be 7/8 inch apart center to center. Cane will be Common Cane, 3.50mm. So, what size diameter should I make the holes? Thanks, Vincent.

    1. Hi Vincent,

      Thanks so much for asking this question because it brought up a change I need to make with this post. I can’t believe I didn’t reference my Chair Caning Instructions page for table that gives the diameters of the holes, distance from center hole to center hole and the appropriate size caning to purchase! But as you will see when you read that page, the proper dimension holes you will need for your project is 5/16″ when the holes are going to be 7/8″ apart. Good luck on your project sounds like fun! Did you see on my About page that I made four reproduction wicker/cane seats for two Sikorsky S-38 amphibian airplanes back in the late 1990s? The first pair of passenger seats was for the Johnson Wax Company’s plane and the second pair of seats was for Buzz Kaplan, owner of Born Again Restorations who made the Johnson plane and then one for himself called, Osa’s Ark.

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