Is there a way to brighten up caning?

ken mueller

Canton, Ohio
I have a couple of seats where the caning has darkened and dulled from weathering. Can I put something on the cane to bring it back to life?
Also a question on new cane. The inside of my canoe is dark, the seat frames are dark, and the new cane sticks out like a sore thumb. Any problem with hitting the cane with a little stain to darken it up?
Good question. I have no experience on this problem so am waiting like you for input on the subject...Thanks for posting that!
I haven't had to brighten cane but usual method of acid or bleach for wood stains should work. If it has been varnished you will have to strip it first. Standard wood stain works great on new cane. If you pick or mix the right color it will match up perfectly. I always varnish the completed seat/cane top and bottom before it is reinstalled.


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H.H. Perkins used to sell a cane stain, and I assume they still do. Before I discovered their stain, I had good results with a paste stain (the watery stuff doesn't work at all) and then would seal it with varnish. (I used to do caning for an antique shop, where one of a set of chairs would need a new seat and had to be made to match the others.) If the stain appears to just sit on the surface of the cane, I'd scuff the surface with steel wool.

The natural finish of the cane can wear off or may be dulled when the seat is stripped... simply varnishing can "replace" that finish. I haven't tried to lighten cane that has darkened with age, but maybe the same things used to clean and lighten wood would work-- TSP or oxalic acid-- test a spot first though. Anything drying may make the cane brittle. Seems to me I tried an oil stain made by Watco which worked nicely but had to scuff that shiny surface for it to soak in.

I know that re-wetting can tighten up cane that has loosened-- just wet down with water in a spray bottle.
I always thought that the use of bleaches and oxalic acid weakened the bond of the wood fibers in addition to the bleaching action. Might not be a good result in terms of strength.

I hadn't thought about the embrittlement that Kathryn was talking about.
Another thought I had is that maybe coffee or tea could be used to stain the cane... soaking the strands in coffee or tea-water, with a little glycerine added (to counter possible drying from tannic acid), prior to caning the seat. I'll experiment with this. Doesn't answer the question at the top here, but I'm wondering if the cane might not absorb the tannin from the underside, for a darkened-look without having to remove the shiny natural surface.

Why not re-cane?

It's easy to do, and quite satisfying, and you won't get better results any other way.
brightening cane

I would have to offer that if the cane is obviously old and brittle, brightening with anything other than elbow grease would add to the fragility of the cane. With sheets of caning, in many style and patterns available, my thoughts as are others is to simply recane the seats. Especially if it's the sort held in with reed.
And don't be afraid to re-cane by hand (i.e. caning that is woven strand-by-strand) if that's what was original to your canoe. Personally, I find hand weaving much more pleasing that attaching pre-woven cane. Hand weaving is not difficult, gives you nice a sense of satisfaction, and might be appropriate for your canoe. Search these forums for more threads on caning. It's a good thing!