You probably thought I had forgotten about this, too, huh? Never fear! It was just waiting in the wings.
In part 1, I showed you our table’s amazing transformation and noted at the end the hodge-podge of chairs around it. I like the hodge-podge. One little nugget of wisdom that I took from years of watching “What Not to Wear” was “It doesn’t have to match, it just has to go.” And that suits me just fine. Too much matchy-matchy and it begins to feel a little sterile, a little cold, whether that be outfits or furniture. So in that spirit of “going” versus “matching,” Mr. Gren and I have been keeping our eyes peeled for old wooden chairs on craigslist. Our entire criteria consists of: must be wood, preferably unfinished, $10 or less. There are certain styles I just don’t like, so I’m not falling all over myself for every wood chair that hits the ads. This chair set the tone for our hunt:
This chair has been a part of my life for 26 years. It had been left in the shed of the house my family moved to when I was in 3rd grade, and, other than the gouge mark I made in it when using it as a sawhorse at the age of 12, it has always looked like this, even down to the paint flecks on the leather seat. I don’t know what its history was before it became part of our family, but I’m glad it was forgotten so that I could adopt it.
Chairs number 2 and 3, each found on craigslist for ten bucks, are as follows:
The first one obviously needs a new seat cover. I haven’t decided yet what I want to do about that. See, there’s this issue of children. Either I choose something indestructible, or else I have to make peace with the kids putting their own, ahem, “special touch” on it. Having to re-upholster it more than once is a distinct possibility in that scenario.
Chair number 3 garnered a lot of love from the kids who dubbed it The Potty Seat and pretended to flush each other down the gaping hole in the center of the seat. (C’mon, if you fit through that hole, you totally would have done the same thing). When we first saw this chair on craigslist, I hadn’t noticed the groove about 1/2″ all the way around the hole. I was thinking of upholstering a small board to fit and nailing it all together. When we got it home, I realized that the hole had previously been covered by caning. You know the type — I think everybody’s grandma has at least one item of caned furniture.
But where does one get replacement caning? What a silly question. Amazon, of course! Amazon has everything. For $25, we got a complete kit with easy-to-follow instructions. Slightly annoyed that we could have bought another two and a half chairs for that, but weighing that with the option of having a worthless chair on hand is what made us decide to go for it. Besides, I watched YouTube videos on the process, so I’m an expert now.
This isn’t going to be a real how-to or tutorial because the videos (of which there are many) do a good job of explaining how this works. I’m just going to show our work. No need to reinvent the wheel here!
To start with, we lucked out that someone had already removed the old caning and spline; from what I learned, that is the hardest part of the job.
After soaking the sheet of caning and the spline in the bathtub for a half hour or so, it was time to start applying it to the chair. This is definitely a two person job, so if you foresee caning in your future, grab a buddy. And if you need to photograph the process, a 6 year old will do.
First, I laid the sheet of caning over the hole, trying to keep the grain as straight as possible.
Then, using those little wooden wedges pictured above (they are included in the kit), Mr. Gren pounded the caning into the groove. That sounds easy, and really, it’s not difficult, but it was a little bit fiddly. The caning had a tendency to pop out on the side opposite of where Mr. Gren was pounding it in. That’s why it’s good to have two sets of hands working on this to help hold things down that don’t want to stay down.
Once the caning was pounded in sufficiently enough that it wouldn’t pop out, we removed the wedges. Now it was time to carefully lay the spline (a long, flexible whip of wood). We chose a center point at the back of the seat to begin and end the spline. Putting the spline in involved more wedges and pounding and popping out and pounding. Granota got bored and found another subject to photograph.
Finally, the spline was in and nothing was popping out! Now came perhaps the hardest task of the whole process: cutting off the extra caning.
We probably could have stood to replace the blade in our box cutter for one thing. I’m not sure that would have helped immensely, though. There’s just no way to make one long, clean slice through all the extra caning. Mr. Gren had to cut through each of those little strips all while trying not to nick the paint (we did end up having to do some touch-up afterwards, so anyone attempting this should probably just count on that). The uber-frustrating part of cutting the caning off was that, because of the angle of some of the woven strips, they would pull up and threaten to pull out the whole strip. Holding the little wooden wedge in helped with that and gave Mr. Gren something to cut against.
We ran a bead of wood glue over the spline and trimmed any little stragglers poking up. A little wipe down and the job was done! You have to let the seat dry and tighten up for a day or so before using it. We were a little nervous when the time came for the inaugural sitting… but it has held Mr. Gren for the past four months, so I think it’s safe to say we did it right!
Here’s where we’re at so far! Somehow, I don’t have a “before” picture of chair #4, so… surprise! We have four chairs! We’d like to get four more, plus we need to do the seats on chairs #1 and 2. You will see more chairs here eventually! And they won’t have to match; they just have to go.