Caning Patterns


Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
In Memoriam
I was looking at some caning patterns and doing some hand caning over the holiday. I thought I'd share some patterns I have photos of with the Board.

The first is a pattern from an 1930's vintage AA grade Old Town Yankee - (this is likely a replacement pattern and not original to the canoe).

The second is a pattern found on a 1914 Old Town AA Grade Seat.

The third is from a 1920's vintage Chestnut.

The fourth is the same seat with new cane.

These are only a few of the options I'm sure.


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My '24 OT HW seats have no corner holes as in the first photo of the Yankee.
I am just curious about when the corner holes were started. Maybe different models had different seats. Interesting.
I imagine your Yankee is a gorgeous boat. My HW is in the process.
Not my yankee...

but it does belong to a forum member. ;) I saved the picture because I liked the caning pattern. The yankee seat shown does have corner holes, but just for the binder.

Most of the old town seats I've seen don't have corner holes - like the 1914 shown, and I always seem to struggle with that during the caning process.

The other seats shown belong to a Chestnut.

Cheers and good luck with the HW.
There is a great book called the Canners handbook. I did two seats over the summer, and they took a heck of a long time. Probably around 18 hours a seat, some of that may have been spent chatting or having the occasional beer though.

All and all I don’t know that the technique is different on any of the seats. Obviously some of them have binder around the edges, however, I think the most significant change you can make to the pattern is the hole spacing. This is basically going to decide the actual aesthetic by altering the distance one strand is from another and the extent they overlap..

But, like I say, I have only done two seats, by no means skilled at it.


Hi Robert:

I hear ya. The seats do take awhile. I find I've been gaining speed though. After several sets of seats, I think I'm down to about 6 or 8 hours a seat. The pattern does make a difference too. I think the Chestnut pattern I just did was easier and less time consuming.

There are more differences in the weave then you might expect. Look at the pictures above. On the Yankee seat the diagonals are doubled up. On the Chestnut the diagonals are not doubled. Also some weaves like the Old Town seat weave the horizontals between the two verticals. All these subtle differences change the appearance of the seat slightly.

Yah, ok Frits I see what you are saying now... a different weave with the under over bit with the diagonal pieces of cane. The seats I did where done in the same style of 1914 old town shown above.

Have you experimented at all with the hole spacing though? That is something I am very curious about.

Fitz, would you have the dimensions from the bow seat (Chestnut)? My Pal has a replacement seat right now, I'd like to make a new one. Thanks, Ken.
IMG_3155.JPGI'm adding to an old thread. I have just done four hand woven seats. One pair from 1938 OT Octa. The other pair a 1937 OT HW. Caning is not as bad as I feared and I can do a seat in four hours. However, each has some small error (but still perfectly serviceable) and I found myself trial and error on those diagonal runs. Finally I took two old seats in reasonable condition, brittle and not usable, but intact caning patterns. I think I have the answer to the problem I, and maybe others, had.
I got my cane from V I Reed, instructions they kindly included. First thing I realized is a canoe is simple retangular and flat. No compound curves as a rocker back. Thus, after following their instructions to start in the middle, I shifted to starting on the ends. Good. The four vertical and horizontal runs are easy and only the fourth run even requires weaving. The problem is the diagonals. Here's what two companies did.
The photo top w/o corner holes is a 1909 OT HW. Each end hole has a double strand of cane. This is done for each of the four corners. Thus, eight holes on the diagonal runs had that "V" shape.
The bottom photo where the seat has a corner hole is a 1915 Morris. The corner hole has the "V" shaped double strand. Thus, four corner holes have a double strand for the diagonal vs eight for the OT. I used red marker to help see.
Does this help anyone?


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No corner holes - no problem

We have a 1921 Carleton in the shop now so I have tried Treewater's option for the frames with no corner holes. It has a nice look and only takes a few extra minutes.


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I am just curious about when the corner holes were started.

The images attached below show that the 1904 catalog included pictures of a caned chair and back rest with no corner holes and the 1905 catalog included a similarly caned rear seat. These types of images continued to be included until the 1970s so it appears that corner holes may never have been common from the factory. However, these seats were hand made so some variations are bound to have occurred.



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The seats in our 1922 AA grade "Ideal" have corner holes, while the seats in our 1931 CS grade 50 Pounder do not. I believe the seats in both canoes are original -- though the cane has been replaced in all four seats.

ssm 100_1149.JPG ssm 100_1150.JPG

ssm 100_1681.JPG seat stern cr 100_3522.JPG
I have seats where the corner holes were obviously added later. By our previous discussion, hand caned seats disappeared with Federal worker laws ca. 1938? I wondered if some caners prior to that changed patterns or if the factory had rigid quality controls.
I'll look closely at the corner holes on the seats on our Ideal next time I'm using it -- at Assembly. They are not obvious additions, but then, I did not really look closely at them to see whether they were factory-drilled or not.

hand caned seats disappeared with Federal worker laws ca. 1938? I wondered if some caners prior to that changed patterns or if the factory had rigid quality controls.

Yes, Old Town seats prior to 1938 were woven at home on frames that were supplied by the factory. I've heard that the minimum wage law is what caused the factory to convert to the machine-woven cane seats. The unintended consequence being that a law which was supposed to increase the wages of employees in the United States actually lowered them for some canoe builders and diverted the funds out of the country in this case. Further research indicates that it was the 1949 amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act which contained the specifics related to piecework. See section 776.5 at for more details. This means that the actual conversion date at Old Town may have been 1938, 1949 or slightly later depending on how many hand caned seats were in inventory at that time. The exact timing of the conversion may be further confused by the use of wooden slat seats during the Second World War when cane was not available. I agree that the weaving patterns may have varied due on the obvious piecework incentives to complete the hand caned seats faster. The quality controls clearly varied over time. It may be difficult to determine if the corner holes were "factory drilled or not" on a seat that is over ninety years old.

corner holes

It may be difficult to determine if the corner holes were "factory drilled or not" on a seat that is over ninety years old.


It is also possible it would be easy. Are the holes the same size? If you put a similar size dowel or drill bit in the holes was the seat proper done on a drill press and the corner free handed? I'm not sure if you can "read" the drill bit itself as in band saw vs circular head saw.
The OT Ideal (see avatar) that is over 90 years old will be on display next month in Cedar City at Assembly -- anyone interested is welcome to inspect the 8 corner holes of the seats to see if it can be determined whether they are as old as the other holes, or are later additions.

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No holes in mine

My 1904 Old Town does not have corner holes. The cane pattern is the same as what was in the canoe when I got it. Can't say if it was the original or not.

Jim C.


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