canoe seat repair

Both the cane seats on my old tandem canoe have torn. What are the best ways to repair them? I have seen nylon webbing and that doesn’t look too hard, but just wondering about what has worked well for others.

Webbing, cane, or replacement

– Last Updated: May-17-15 9:31 AM EST –

Some people replace the cane. Apparently it's not a difficult job, though I've heard that a re-caning job done by someone with not much experience is often prone to premature failure. The cane is bought in pre-woven sheets, and instructions on how to install it can be found online.

Installing webbing isn't too hard, but you don't want nylon, as that gets loose when wet. I did a seat that way, and pre-stretched the webbing (pulled on the full length of the material I'd gotten for the job with a car, and left it parked that way overnight) to lessen the chances that it would get looser over time. I used the kind of Vice-Grip pliers having four-inch-wide, flat jaws to grip the end of each strap and pull it tightly into place before fastening it to the wood. Attach all the straps in one direction before weaving in the straps that go at a right angle. The weaving process adds tension to the finished product that's greater than you'd get otherwise.

Most people would just replace the seat. Considering the time you'd spend on repair, that's probably best. Check out Ed's Canoe online. They'll have something that fits. All you'll have to do is trim the free ends of the seat frame, drill a hole in each one, and you are done.

for the advice. I checked out the seats at Ed’s and I’m thinking I could spend the time I would have spent repairing and go canoeing!

I like cane.
So I would probably replace the cane one way or another as mentioned. I find if I store indoors and take care to step on the seat frame, not the cane, it lasts a long time. Another somewhat more durable option is babiche or rawhide. You can get very nice babiche seats from Headwaters Canoes outside of Ottawa. Search the name and you will find their web site. Nice people. They do good work and build very nice wood canvas canoes intended for actual canoe tripping as opposed to admiring on a wall or placid pond.

Trouble with cane
is that the old frame is really difficult to prepare for the application of new cane.

When the cane was originally applied both the cane and the spline that holds it in place were soaked to make them pliable. Then the cane is forced into a groove and held in place with wedges while GLUE is applied and the spline pounded in to hold everything. Getting the GLUED in old spline and cane out of the frame is the hard part. I recently gave up. A friend suggested that the job is made easier with a Dremel tool. I don’t own one.

The good news is that Ed’s canoe parts sells a whole new seat for 30 bucks, while the cane kit costs 15. So, for an extra 30 bucks you get two new caned seats and avoid struggling with the old ones.


Buying a new seat or converting it to a webbed seat is probably the path of least resistance but if you want to recane the seat it can be done.

I bought cane webbing, wedges, and spline from this place:

Most canoe seats seem to use the 1/2 inch webbing. You need to measure the width of the routed groove in your seat frame (after you have cleaned it out) to get the proper diameter spline.

To get the old spline out steam will loosen the glue joint holding in the spline. If you can’t find a way to steam the spline, you can actually pour hot water over it until it is loose. Be aware that steaming or hot water can also loosen the glue joints holding the seat frame together. Most commercial canoe seat frames seem to be joined with double dowel joints. If you loosen a frame joint it is usually easy enough to glue it back together using Titebond or carpenter’s wood glue.

Although I have a Dremel, I have found that the best tool for removing the old spline is a wood chisel with a blade the same width as the routed groove in the seat frame, or a bit narrower still. You may need to use something like a scratch awl or pick to start to lift the spline out of the groove. Take care to avoid injuring the groove too much and resteam or reapply hot water as necessary as you go. You need to get all the old spline and cane material out of the groove before you recane. You probably also want to refinish the seat frame.

Ed’s Discounted Seats

– Last Updated: May-20-15 10:08 AM EST –

Over the years I've bought a lot of boats and refurbished them. Recently bought the first new one I've bought in years, but the seat placement isn't what I've wanted so off to Ed's I go to see what they have. Bought exactly what I wanted for $20 and shipping. Looking in the little drop down menu in their "Cleaning out the closet" I see several seats less than $20. There's a fancy cherry contoured seat for less than $25. I've got a handful of old seat frames myself and entertain the thought of repairing them. But when I can pick them up from Ed's so reasonably....

Click on the link, then click on "Ash" and it opens up a drop down menu of overstock seats, thwarts, yokes, and hardware.

…Industries is my first choice for cane and webbed seats.

Replacing cane
Getting the old out is a snap with a tool designed to remove old spline

Failing that as most of us don’t want to do the job too often and don’t want to invest in another gizmo we’ve had very good luck with hair dryer and dental hygienist pick. An ice pick will do

I like Eds seats but with pre woven cane we got serviceable seats for half the cost of buying new.

And we didn’t have to hassle with measuring. That was important as the canoe was out in a snowstorm

webbing over cane
Not an exciting video…but this worked for me. Stainless steel staples and sat in front of TV…took 20 minutes each for me. I bought two black ratchet straps (Poly not nylon) from Home Depot and cut ends off. I used a soldering iron to cut each strip as I went along.

Seats look great and going strong.

If the $$ doesn’t matter…get one from Ed’s and keep the old ones as spares?

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seat repair
re-caning is not that hard with a spline and a cane supplier. Cane does not last that long in our dry climate. I like the webbed seats. Some of the best are rawhide or snowshoe lacing with varnish.

Good advice
about applying heat when preparing an old frame for new cane. After reading it I drug out the frames that I had given up on and tried again. I used a heat gun, carefully, and within 10 minutes I had an old stubborn spline out in one piece. A little more heat and most of the old cane came out also. I’ve already got new seats coming so I’ll probably just save these as spares. Should I ever need to do this again I won’t shy away from it.



Just finding this old thread as I deal with a seat that needs re-caning.

In the past on another canoe, I just trimmed off the caning as close to the wood as I could, leaving the spline in place, and installed 1.5-inch-wide synthetic webbing over the top. I wrapped it around all four sides of the seat frame, stapling the bottom and inside edges. It’s still holding 3 yrs later, with a canoe that’s stored outside on a rack and sees very occasional use. I should check since the staples are probably rusting out (the canoe isn’t at hand at the moment). The canoe is a solo, and knowing it’s stored outside I wanted to avoid caning again.

I’m now restoring another canoe. It’s a double, and only one seat needs caning, so not sure I want to install webbing on the one seat and have them not matching. Economically, I certainly see the logic of buying a whole new seat for ~$35 over paying ~$20 just for replacement caning. Ecologically, it seems a shame to waste a perfectly good seat frame. I may opt for this ultra-low cost solution I found, at least temporarily until I decide whether the canoe I’m restoring is worth more input.

I might opt for paracord or another small-diameter synthetic rope over cotton clothesline since I don’t want seat webbing that retains water and releases it while you sit on it as I imagine cotton would, plus I have spare p-cord around the house already.

I once had three canoes with cane seats at the same time. It seemed like I was always replacing them. I sold one and converted the other to black webbing on ash frames.

Now I only have one to worry about the original OT in wood and canvas that only looks right with cane seats.

I have three woodstrips with cane seats. They weren’t sheet cane, I built a frame and drilled holes a half inch apart and wove them.

I used plastic cane, because I was told it lasts longer. I still only get four or so years from it. The summers in Florida have been brutal the past few years and getting worse.

When, and if, I finish this hank of plastic cane, I am going to switch to paracord, it lasts forever.

Here is a link to how to weave a rawhide canoe seat. I used something like paracord I had on hand. I have done a couple of seats like this. No drilling required.

How To Weave Rawhide (Babiche) Seats for “Huron” Wood-Canvas Canoes | Canoeguy’s Blog (

My seat

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@castoff Thanks for the addition weaving resource link.

On the subject of webbed seats, my OTHER other canoe has webbed seats. As I gear up to re-varnish the above-mentioned seat that needs re-caning, a paddle, and a few other things over the winter, I took a peek at my canoe with the webbed seats. The edges of the seats that get a lot of wear during use could use some touching up - the varnish is starting to wear through to the wood. For that amount of wear on a yoke or thwart, I’d just rough up the finish a bit with sand paper and put a coat or two of varnish on to re-seal the varnish coating - the wood itself is fine. How does one do this for the spots in-between the webbing? Do you have to remove all the webbing to refinish the wood, or is there a trick to this? The seats are factory-finish, though quite old now, but the webbing is holding strong and I really don’t want to remove it if I don’t have to. If there isn’t a way around this I may just let the wood go a few more years, since the canoe is now stored in the garage and usually only exposed to a lot of moisture while paddling in the rain (infrequent), or during my annual self-rescue practice.

I use pure Tung oil on the wood of my solo canoes. I applied it to the webbing of the one canoe I have with a web seat. It improved the faded look of the webbing, and I suspect helps protect it too. I don’t think it does any harm.

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I’ve recaned a few and its not that hard. (I own a couple boats that have canted seats that ride in a rail for adjustable seating and ordering whole new replacements isn’t really an option for them.) There are decent instructional vids on this.
The tough part, as has been mentioned, is doing a decent job of removing the old cane and spline from the routed grove they sit in. I’ve used a small chisel, and utility knife. Letting water sit in the groove can help soften it up to remove bits that may have clung stubbornly on a first pass.

What hasn’t been yet mentioned is don’t use a waterproof glue when reinstalling the cane/spline. It seems a little counterintuitive to avoid waterproof glue in a boat seat, but if you ever have to replace it again, you’ll mightily regret using the waterproof glue. Titebond is OK, Titebond II isn’t.

To avoid water getting in the spline after completion, I seal the spline with a couple coats of spar varnish applied to the spline only with an artists brush. The rest of the seat is tung oil finished.
On standard seats its not unwise to just order a second seat so when the cane fails you can just swap out the seat and recane at your leisure without missing paddling time.