Cane seat maintenance

As I was putting some Watco marine oil finish on my boat’s wood gunwales, it occured to me if any kind of finish or preservative should be added to the cane on the seat. Any thoughts?

Cane Seats
A caner that I talked with last week says spar varnish (the real stuff) on top, nothing on the bottom. “It needs to breathe”.


Some people say varnish is not a good thing, and some say to varnish one side. I followed Cliff Jacobson’s advice and varnished it up with the idea of keeping water out and making the stuff a little tougher. It doesn’t stretch as much that way when it gets wet, but it still stretches some, so I suppose that there must be flex-cracks in the varnish that allow some water to soak in.

A good, hard caning will make your seat
smart, and it will last longer!

Thanks for the input,
I guess I’ll varnish one side of the seat. I will pass on the hard caning, though; once when I was a kid was plenty!

Cane Seat
Varnishing is a good news bad news treatment for cane. The gloss side of cane naturally sheds water but will absorb it if exposed for several minutes. Varnishing will keep the water out as long as there are no cracks in the varnish, which is almost impossible to do unless you don’t sit on the cane. Once the varnish is cracked, water can penetrate and is locked in. The advice to lightly varnish one side is ok since the water can still evaporate from the bottom if you have been careful with the varnish. A better choice is to leave it unvarnished and protect the cane from the sun and water when the canoe is not in use. A well kept cane seat should last about 20 years or more in a chair. Canoes see harder use but should be able to get ten years with reasonable care. DON’T kneel on a seat when shoving off as my brother-in-law does and your seat should last.