Re-caning Mad River canoe seats

I just purchased a 1988 MR Malecite in great condition except for the seats. The caning in the middle seat ripped a few minutes into my first paddle, just weak with age I guess.

Never having caned before I called a caning supplier who told me to soak the spline with a mixture of half water and half white vinegar and after a while the spline and caning could be easily removed. NOT!

I felt like a dentist doing a root canal on those seat frames. I’m not sure I’ll ever get those grooves cleaned out enough to install new caning. I’m thinking it would have been a better choice to just purchase new seats. I’ve already spent three hours on this project with the caning half removed from the seats and I’m looking for advise.

Any suggestions?

New Seats
I’ve tried that re-caning in the past on my Malecite. Gave it very quickly and bought new seats, 40$ a seat at a local place, with web instead of cane. Haven’t had to change them in 8 years! I also checked into paying to have them re-caned only to find out it was a lot more money than I was willing to pay! Hope this helps.


Yeah, call Edscanoe…nice new seats for little money.

Depends on the glue.

– Last Updated: Mar-15-11 8:08 AM EST –

Much depends on the glue that was used. Hopefully, it was common wood glue that will soften. If that is the case, soak the seat in hot water and pour hot water in the groove. It should only need to soak about an hour or so. This should soften the glue. Use a small, sharp sash chisel to remove the splne and the glue.

Clamp the seat to a table while you use the chisel, and always ask yourself "where will this chisel go if it slips". Don't ask me how I know this.

Get a caning book for tips on installing the new cane. You can do both seats in an hour or so. Then you can say you learned something new and all your friends will be bringing their canoe seats to you to fix.

New Seats…

Re-canned twice in de past…
an’ it ain’t woyth de trouble. Ed’s or Essex fer replacements.


I’ve always wanted to try out …

– Last Updated: Mar-15-11 10:47 AM EST –

........ Ed's contoured canoe seats .

That being said , if the glue doesn't seem to dissolve (there's that word again) , and you are having to dig , scrape , hack the old spline out ... I would immedietly go another route ... as in Router .

A small Router or Laminate Trimmer with a straight flute bit and a simple homemade guide jig (L shaped) and it's all gone in minutes clean as new . No fuss or soaked wood and material .

You even have the option of using the next size larger spline during replacement because you can make the groove size (width and depth) you wish by choosing the bit to match the new spline .

But it's interesting to dig the old spline out in a variety of ways w/o a Router and Flute bit .

Hope this helps . Even if you don't own and operate a Router or Laminate Trimmer , maybe you know someone who does and would clean it out for you real quick so you can move on to the install of new cane and spline .

But like FE said , it may not be worth it for a canoe seat . By the time you spend gas and time to go get the new materials , prep. the old seats to ready for re-install , and then do the re-install ... well a new seat from ED's delivered to you door starts to look pretty good especially a contoured or bucket style one !!

Save the old seats as templates to cut crossbar ends and drill bolt holes.

As mentioned above, re-caneing is an agony and it often fails shortly thereafter.

Re-Web those seats upside down
I have restored MANY old damaged cane seats by simply removing all the old cane material, re-finishing the wood (especially the UNDERSIDE) then go buy about 18 feet of 2" webbing and make NEW seats. As long as the wwoden frame of the old seats are in good shape this works great. Just cut the webb pieces to size,seal the frayed ends with a lighter and staple-gun the new webbing to the old refinished seats (upside down) and reinstall. Looks great and probably lasts longer than the cane. By turning the seats upside down, you hide the old ugly grooved side.

I’m a woodworker…
…and I don’t care to re-cane a seat. I like the look of caned seats and I understand a lot of people find them comfortable and durable with the right care, and once the technique is learned it isn’t that difficult - but there are other options that work fine. Buying a replacement seat from Ed’s is not a bad way to go if you want to stick with cane (probably end up with a better seat anyway). But you can take the old seat, clean all the old caning off (trim it at the groove with a utility knife), re-seal the wood and cane material left in the groove (Watco teak oil is good), flip the frame over so the grooved side is down - now you can either use webbing for the seat or poly cord weave. Webbing is easiest. You can re-do a seat in this way for about $8 each. Only drawback is it won’t match your other seat until you re-do that one too. It’s a crude fix, but it’s cheap and easy to make it look good (while you squirrel away the money for a set of Ed’s nice seats).

Dang Steve-in-Idaho we were in-sync
Wow we had the same recommendation just a few minutes apart,…sorry to “beat you to the punch” so to speak. Hey I lived in Idaho falls for 4 years and paddled ALL OVER THE PLACE when I lived there. Really loved it but I almost drowned on the Fall(s) River.

Thanks for the advice!!!
Thanks for all the “first hand knowledge” suggestions. I think I’ll stop short of buying the caning supplies, turn the seats over and do the webbing thing. It’s somthing I’ve done before but in this case my new Malecite looked so good after almost fifteen years that I wanted to keep it as original.

Hey, I could have the Malecite back in the water in time for this weekend!

Thanks again.

Lawn Chair
Devil’s Advocate:

but then your seats look like cheap lawn chairs… :wink:

Nobody sees 'em
when they’re in use. Besides, webbing looks entirely appropriate on a composite hull, don’t you think? Though, if I had a classic W/C, I’d probably want hand-laced cane, too.

I replaced my first blown-out cane seat with webbing just to see if I’d like it. Me boney arse tells me webbing is good. I’ve since replaced all of them with same. Yes, they stay wet longer, but I doubt I’ll ever need to replace another one.

Mal Feet Sense In My Malecite
(or, Now Caught In a Web of d’Seat)

With cane seats in my Malecite

she hadn’t looked more nice,

paw-perched bow-wow turned in usual tear,

“Hey stern man! Wanna slice?”

Fitzy’s right, the Malecite does take on sort of a, “lawn liner picnic” less appeal, especially if she’s girded in wood gunnels, when you go to web. But, in those considerations of we pooch-pal’d pragmatic, webbed-seats are an easier do-it-yourself than caning, with a longer shelf-rack-use-life . Shucks, get Mike McCrea to produce ‘em for you and you’re sure to look like a shameless Scot belonging to some Vegas refuge clan clad of neon tartan (meanin’ stick with only black, rather than weaving-in glo-pink-n-orange webbing).

Or, as many before have stated, Ed’s Canoe or Essex Industries have reasonably priced options. If you’ve got or would like a Malecite middle seat, you can’t go wrong with the contoured model (I believe only made in webbing for the beam you’ll need at middle.) Just be sure to hang her high if you still wish to be able to kneel mid-station.

Or …
… flip the seat , sand it up real good , refinish and do this

You type faster than I do, I guess. :wink:

Thnx for the link PW!

– Last Updated: Mar-16-11 12:36 PM EST –

I wanted to suggest that, but couldn't describe it well enough. My Navarro canoe had seats webbed like that and I really liked the look. They used some kind of flat cord that looked sort of like rawhide lacing (except for the color). Very pretty and very durable.

I did a set of seats with a different cord weave that has worked out very well. Cost was about $8 per seat, but probably used about twice as much cord as the weave you linked.

A cord weave definitely looks prettier and more traditional than webbing, IMO, and is almost as durable as webbing. I say almost because if you happened to cut the cord anywhere in the weave, the whole seat can eventually come loose (although you can delay that with a promptly placed knot or two) - where a cut webbing only loosens one band. Pretty unlikely though, and OTOH, with the cord weave you always have some extra cord for emergency. ;-)

edit: OBTW - If you do a cord weave, you need to use poly - not nylon. Nylon will stretch too much when it gets wet. With the length of cord used in the weave, it can add up to a lot of stretch.

Dat poly be

– Last Updated: Mar-16-11 4:30 PM EST –

polyESTER, not polyPROPYLENE.

Dang you FE! You got me talking like you again.

A source for polyester cord (3/32) is:

Look under amature supplies. It is used to guy antennas.


I copied that link, thanks Jsaults …
… I found dbl. braid dacron in that amature section , nice !!