Caning Patterns

Tom Heys

Paddler/Downwind Sailer
I am about to re-cane one of the backrests which came to me when I "adopted" my 1915 OT HW a few years ago. I seem to remember, but can't locate, previous discussions about a variety of caning patterns. If memory serves, contributors to the thread in question referenced an old book, or books, that presented a number of different caning patterns/techniques. Google-book searches have so far been fruitless and I haven't made the time to visit my local library. Thanks in advance.
Most caning appears to be the traditional 7 step used for dining table chair seats, etc. With a canoe, there may be differences in guage used... or the final binder-step may be left off... or the binder may be held with bits of cane threaded through every hole... or every-other hole may be skipped.

The big question is whether "canoe weave" was used, which essentially skips a step and gives the seat a bit more bounce. I'm not currently at my computer with pictures, but will add some tomorrow. You may try looking at "search" above, because we've discussed this before I think.

My personal preference is to use the weave that was oriningal to the boat. It seems that Morris used 7 step, while Penn Yan used canoe weave...etc. You may also want to look at how the corners are treated-- some are plugged, some held with wide binding cane-- and I've seen a corner hole skipped entirely.

The fancier caning patterns, such as spider-web, could be used on a chair back. It's very attractive but may not be "authentic" when used with canoes.
Look in the Wooden Canoe Archives, issues #13 & 92, for articles on caning seats, and some weave patterns.
I didnt follow Fitz s links so this could be mentioned in there The BoyScouts have a Basketry Badge and the booklet for that particular badge has a pretty good simple expanation for caning seats.The Canoeing badge booklet is pretty cool also
Thanks all for responding to my inquiry. I do have some experience caning especially as I participated in Pam Wedd's class at the assembly a few years ago. I've been a member of WCHA for almost eleven years:D and I am only missing one issue of the journal in that time. Wouldn't you know it would be issue #92?:rolleyes: How does that happen if there isn't some power greater than me?
Kathryn, I'd be quite interested in any pictures you might find. The seven-step weave is probably what I'll employ, but I want to consider some other patterns. I'd tried the search and spent quite a bit of time doing so before I started this thread.
Paul, I ordered the two journal issues you suggested this evening, so I'll get a chance to see first-hand what they're all about. Thanks.
Dan'l, thanks to you as well. I'll probably forge ahead without the BSA merit badge pamphlet.
Fitz, I was pretty sure you chime in. I hope to make the winter meeting of the Norumbega Chapter this year. Hope to see you there and perhaps I'll have something new to show.

By the way, I've discovered a couple of great resources: Abe Books for almost anything which has ever been printed. And, Frank's Supply in Huntington Beach, CA. He's got all the caning supplies you might want, and the material I ordered on Monday evening (EDT) arrived this afternoon.
Recently I looked at a seat from a 1917 OTCA I noticed that without the corner holes the cane had rolled up onto it's edge. It looked rather uncomfortable to me, so I put holes in the corners of my new seats and did the binder tied at every hole. Nice and flat.

Just as an aside, I'd recommend getting the CD Archives of WC back issues. With the searchable format, it's easy to locate any topic you're looking for. Yes, a search for "caning" brings you every hit, from the classifieds to the actual articles, but you can quickly scan the sidebar icons to figure out which issues have only a classified ad with the target word, and which have text with information. It's well worth the money, there's a lot of good reading material, and it takes up less shelf space, too!
Jean Bratton did and article in WC, oh maybe a couple years ago now? In it she recommended a pair of booklets that show advanced caning patterns, including the star pattern she does for Al's canoes. You might look for that article too...


On the outside chance that you will be in the Philly area in mid-February, Jean is doing a caning session at the Delaware Valley Chapter meeting on the 17th. You (or anyone else for that matter) are welcome to join us. She will do the basics and cover some of the other snazzy patterns that she has been doing lately. Nice stuff!


Uploading some pictures, just for fun. I like the "canoe weave"... it seems to have caught on with some builders-- probably because it takes less time, but it also has a nice clean look and is bouncy and comfortable. One wonders if someone hit upon it by accident.

Morris appears to have used the 7-step, as does Rushton... but the Detroit canoes we have-- which date to about 1910-- have canoe weave which appears original. The E.M. White pictured below has canoe weave, but that may have been the restorer's choice.

Note that with the Rushtons pictured here, the binder cane is held down at each hole... some caners choose to do every-other, and I wonder if the builder specified this or if it was the caner's choice.

Penn Yan appears to have used canoe weave.

Gerrish used the wide binder cane-- also called "reed"-- to create a distinctive seat.

On a chair back, one could use an interesting star or spiderweb pattern. There's one that employs two sizes of cane and looks great, and when I get the camera back from Denis, I'll take a picture of an 1890s chair with spiderweb design. The instructions, I believe, are in Ruth Comstock's "Cane Seats for Chairs", which hasn't been out of print for decades.

I purchase caning materials from H.H. Perkins, and they also have the books.



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Okay... I see that I forgot to label the pictures I posted.

The first is an E.M. White.

The second is one I called "canoe weave" and I believe it's on a Penn Yan but I could be wrong about that...

The third is a Gerrish--- the one Pam Wedd built and took to Assembly.

The fourth is a Penn Yan carry model.

The fifth is a Rushton Indian and the sixth a Rushton Indian Girl.

I think I got that right. I'm working off of notes, and can't see what I am talking about.
Thanks for your pictures, Kathryn. I'm gonna try to do some of this tonight. I would be interested to see the spider pattern you speak of if you get a chance.

Regards, Tom

The spiderweb caning pattern was used on the back of this late-1900s wicker chair. The pattern employs two sizes of cane-- in this case, it appears to be fine and carriage. This pattern is "spiderweb" in the book I used-- Ruth Comstock's "Cane Seats for Chairs"-- but I believe it's also called "star". As with other caning patterns, it isn't hard to do-- you simply follow the instructions and smile as the pattern appears.



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Thanks Kathryn. This is precisely what I had in mind when I submitted my original question. This Spiderweb pattern is sharp! I was sure there were other weaving patterns, but I've only seen variations of the seven-step pattern. Thanks again, Tom
I am looking for directions for the spiderweb pattern (snowflake?) and the buttons and dasies pattern. Does anyone have step by step directions for either or both?
Never heard mention of "canoe weave" before. That's the pattern that Chestnut and Peterborough have been using for many years. That's the pattern that I use, partly because of that history, but also because I think that it looks good in a canoe.