Most homes have very dry environments, so care of the new material in your chair is important. Cane is a natural product that grows in a humid jungle habitat, but when it’s used for furniture, it’s stripped of that moisture and becomes brittle as it ages. Just as you polish your wood furniture to keep it moisturized and in good repair, cane needs to be treated occasionally. I recommend a light coat of lemon oil or Howard’s Feed-N-Wax orange/beeswax oil on the underside of the cane every six months or so to give the cane a bit of nourishment.
If the seat begins to sag, a light spritzing with water may help to restore the tension in the weave in hand caned seats (if there are no breaks in the material). Allow to air-dry, then apply a coat of lemon or orange oil.
Keep caned furniture away from heating ducts, woodstoves/fireplaces, and avoid sunny locations, as these factors will dry the material out faster. A light vacuuming every so often will remove dirt and fine particulate.
With proper care, cane can last decades. Many of the broken seats that I repair have had accidents with knees or a foot going through the seat. Young children tend to kneel on chairs, which puts additional strain on the material. A cushion protects the weaving, as it distributes a sitter’s weight more evenly.
Ease gently onto a cane seat – they are essentially wooden lace, and mustn’t be sat on harshly. Additionally, it may be prudent to direct a heavier sitter to a more substantial type of chair.
For cane weaving on porch-style rockers, including Kennedy rockers, I recommend keeping them in a covered area, and not exposed directly to outside elements, such as rain or snow. A good vacuuming at the end of the season, and storing the chairs in a well-ventilated area will help to keep them for many years of use.
Canoe seats greatly benefit from a treatment of the Howard’s Feed-N-Wax—dab a bit on the topside as well, but take care to wipe off any excess so it doesn’t transfer to clothing. If left outside, storing the canoe upside down will help the cane to last longer.
Lastly… Enjoy your furniture (and your canoe!) !
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