Lost Arts studio

A lot of the fiber arts I enjoy are things like tatting, netmaking, chair caning, and even weaving, where people will come up to me when I demonstrate and solemnly tell me, "That's a lost art."

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Location: SW Outer Nowhere, Michigan, United States

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a chicken. (With apologies to Peter Steiner.)

30 April 2007

Lovely Lines

This is the thing I love about old furniture, that makes me want to save it: all those lovely curved lines.

This maple rocker was most likely made by the Detroit Chair Factory, although it does not have the factory stamp. Some of these chairs just had a paper or card with the manufacturer's name tacked to the bottom. I've caned a couple of marked "Detroit Chair" chairs, and the lines of the back of this rocker are very similar.

I've never caned a double curve like this rocker back, so this one will be another learning experience. (The double curve means that the back is curved both from the top view and from the side view.)

It's in nice solid shape. The seat is a puzzle, though. The pine slats on it are probably not original, but when I cleaned it underneath, I found no holes to indicate that it was originally a cane seat.

The only thing that was loose was where one back leg went into the rocker. It had been pinned in with a finishing nail, which started a very slight crack. When I tried to pull the nail out, it (the nail) was broken about an eighth of an inch below the head! And the break was old and slightly rusted. Huh!

Chair caning is probably the most "lost" of any of my "lost arts". I have met a lot of knitters, weaver, and tatters, but only a very few chair caners. Caning a chair is a labor-intensive process. It can take me anywhere from ten to fourteen hours to cane a chair, depending on how many holes there are around the edge of the seat.

Even though I don't do this all in one go, I certainly feel I've earned every cent of my "$1.50 a hole plus materials" by the time I get done. But a good caning job can last ten, fifteen, even twenty years, and renews a perfectly good antique chair, so if you are the one paying, consider it money well spent!



Blogger tatt3r said...

What a lovely chair! Maybe the original seat was pressed board? I have an old chair from my grandmother with no holes for caning, but a heavy cardboard seat with an embossed design. If no replacement seat was available, the wooden slats would be the only fix.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Cathryn Peters said...

Hi Lynn,

That cane rocker you are working on is called a "Lincoln" rocker, because it was the type President Lincoln used and were made around the time of his term in office in the 1860s-1870s. Of course, there were many more made later on, as it was a very, very popular style.

It's unusual though, that the seat does not also have the drilled holes. I would recommend you check under the slats for a groove, that pressed cane or cane webbing would have been applied and replace it in the same manner. The slats do a great devalue this piece greatly.

As to caning the complex curve back, I strongly recommend you follow the instructions in Jim Widess' first caning book, The Caner's Handbook and weave the steps out of the normal sequence. By changing the normal order, the "S" curve is maintained and the horizontal strands are not too tight, which will cause the caning to fail if not applied correctly.

Check the side slats where the horizontal strands fit into the holes. Almost always those strips were glued to the side frame and attached with nails. After time, the nails pull out, creating a gap, which also causes the caning to fail. Reglue the slats and secure with screws instead of nails so the chair will be structurally sound.

For more information on chair caning, wicker repair, basketry and many other things, please visit my website and blog. Also come join the fun at the ONLY chair caning forum online!

Thanks a bunch, great blog you have here!

The Wicker Woman-Cathryn Peters-Angora, MN

7:30 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

It does have nice lines, doesn't it? I'm so glad it's in good hands now rather then collecting dust in a storage unit. Looking forward to seeing how it turns out!

4:55 PM  
Blogger Cathryn Peters said...

Hi again Lynn,

Your blog post here about the cane Lincoln rocker came up again in a Google Alert I have on chair caning.

So, thought I'd post again telling you about a new Seatweaving Guild we are setting up, so you can feel more connected and get help for any of the questions you have about chair caning.

The first organizational meeting will be July 13-17, 2007 in Nelsonville, Ohio at the 1880s recreation village of Robbins Crossing. We will be forming the board, setting the standards for this guild, taking memberships and generally getting to know one another throughout the weekend.

Find out all about it and register ASAP, on Mindy King's website at http://www.ChairWeaver.com, cut off date is actually today July 1st, but we'd welcome stragglers too!

Hope you can make it, but if not and are interested in joining the Seatweaver's Guild, you can keep updated through Mindy's site and the Seatweaving Forum at http://disc.server.com/Indices/220033.html and my website, WickerWoman.com

Love your blog, keep up the good work! Visit mine sometime too and make a comment or two!

The Wicker Woman-Cathryn Peters

8:02 AM  

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