Removing spline on cane seat. Advice?

Somebody went and stood on/ went through the front seat of my OT Penobscot 16. Up for a challange, I ordered a kit to try to replace the prewoven cane myself. “easy” & "Fast’ were the words I kept reading. Well, I’m not sure if it’s due to excessive varnish or glue in the slot or just that it’s all so old but I’m having a Bi#@H of a time getting the old spline out. Tried making my own spline chisle and have adopted other various blades and it’s just coming out in shreds. Any advice on how to remove the pline is much appreciated. I’m about ready to throw in the towel and use Poly webbing vs cane.


When I’ve done it the spline came out pretty easily. IN a pinch you should be able to find a router bit that mimics the spline slot I would think.

I was thinking that, the slot is only 3/16w, guess I could find something. Just not sure if the bit would vear off and open the slot.

Still maybe if I used a drill press and moved the seat slowly.

Drill-press idea, other stuff
Chances are you need no advice on this, but just in case…

If you decide to try the drill press, set up a jig with a block you can press the seat frame against, to maintain the correct alignment of the bit in the slot (turning the drill press into slightly better version of a poor-man’s router). This will be extra easy if you have a four-way positioning system on the drill table.

The other thing I thought I’d mention, is you might think about whether it’s worth the effort. I recently asked the builder of one of my boats, which have cane seats of very non-traditional shape (so I can’t get replacements from some other company) about the process of replacing cane. They said their supplier makes thousands of seats per year (apparently only some of them are for these particular boats), and even their experienced staff has a hit-and-miss success rate for getting a re-caned seat to hold up properly, while nearly 100-percent of the new seats are trouble-free. There’s something about the nature of fitting the spline to the slot that is not as “good” the second time around. That’s what they tell me anyway - I have no experience with this. Someone in your situation recently asked a similar question here, and a couple of the responders said the same thing, that a re-caned seat may or may not hold up, so buying new is a safer bet. New seats are cheap, as long as you can find one that fits your boat. Still, I know people who have re-caned seats and they held up fine. I’d probably be tempted to try it if I were in your shoes.

Although I’m not @ all handy, I can appreciate your wanting to do the job & appreciate your results.

However if you find you’re spending too much time/effort on the project, you can get replacement caned White Ash seats for $23 & support a sheltered workshop here

On my 16 Penobscot after having cane on replacement seats also fail I just flipped 'em over & used SS screws to anchor webbing which although it’s faded has offered yrs of reliable service

Hot Water

– Last Updated: Jul-06-11 6:52 AM EST –

Soak the seat for half an hour or so in hot water or pour hot water repeatedly in the groove. You won't believe how easy this makes the job - unless whoever caned the seat last used waterproof glue or worse yet epoxy. There is a special place in hell for those people, right next to people that paint brick.

When you replace the cane and spline use regular wood glue and save someone else a hassle.

Before you replace the cane, ease all the edges of the grove and the seat area with sandpaper. Sharp edges can lead to premature failure.

Thanks much! Will try the hot water trick ( before throwing in the towel and going to the poly webbing.)

Those special spline removal chisels
are designed with a gooseneck so you can lever the old one up and out. If you are using a straight tool, you can try inserting a stick, or such, into the groove behind it to provide a fulcrum to pry against.

The hot water should work. Just keep that kettle whistling. Of course, you’ll end up having to refinish the frame before recaning being careful not to get varnish in the groove.

a laminate trimmer …

– Last Updated: Jul-06-11 11:01 PM EST –

...... is a light weight router , I use them for more than laminate trimming .

A flute bit of the correct size to match the over size spline you will replace the existing with .

Use the router's guide . You'll only have to free hand the radius corners .

A small plunge router works the same .

You could use a drill press if you are very careful .

There are different size splines , so be sure to use the correct size .

Hot Water.

– Last Updated: Jul-06-11 9:33 PM EST –

Hot Water.

By the way, always ask yourself where your sash chisel will go if you slip. DAMHIKT.

If you have a means of directing steam into the groove, this works even faster. There are some youtube videos about using steam to remove the spline.

A router will more than likely just screw up the groove.

The amount of time and hot water should not affect your finish, but you may want to scuff the varnish and recoat while you are restoring the seat.

a router will clean it out perfectly …

– Last Updated: Jul-07-11 12:17 AM EST –

...... 15/64" undersize flute bit and 3/16" spline .

If you've gotten it wet and then decide to route it out ... wait until it's dry again before routing .

Nothing like a one pass perfectly clean groove to reset the new spline using a water base "waterproof" glue . How do you think they got the groove in there in the 1st place ??

You can spline it w/o using any glue but use a little for a canoe seat .

"Soak" the mat and the spline in very warm water "before" cutting your pattern and installing (don't worry you can't oversoak it) . The prefitting of the mat is the most critical part . The pattern should be the outside of the groove perimeter + the thickness of the sharpie marker . You don't really want to be trimming off oversize mat with a razor knife after the spline is set . The outside perimeter of the groove should show "no" mat after the spline is set , it should be hidden down in the groove under the spline .

You should fit the mat into the groove with the wedges (right after soaking) and I like to use short pieces of 3/16' dowel that have beem sanded slightly to fit the groove with the mat in it , you can also use short sacrificial pieces of the spline ... (remove the dowel same as the wedges as you progressively install the spline . I like to use a screen roller to press and set the spline , but any type of hard roller will work .

If your spline seems a bit too tight , stretch it some (after soaking) ... just tie it to something and pull a little . Tip , leave an inch extra at the end of setting instead of cutting to fit the beginning end (wipe out any glue in the unfinished end of gtoove) ... wait till dry out and then cut to fit spline end perfectly (no gap) , glue and press in .

I've not done any canoe seats but do restore caned furniture .

You don't have to use the cane , you have other options . If you turn the seat over you can use webbing , or you can lace (weave) a string pattern .

very helpfull
Thanks again, I’ll hit it again this weekend. i’ll try the hot water first , then the router ( with a clamped guide.) To be honest, routers are one of the power tools I’ve had the most trouble mastering. They always seem to "walk off ". Still, if it does, I’ll just flip the seat and web it ( or replace it entirely.) I’ll report back when done.


– Last Updated: Jul-07-11 9:14 AM EST –

Like I said, don't use waterproof glue or the hot water trick will not work as well and the guy that replaces the cane next will use your name in vain along with many expletives. Just plain old wood glue.

I was thinking about ordering a kit and replacing the cane seat on my Tupper, but this doesn’t sound like something I want to take on, although the “fast” and “easy” were making me think I might be able to do it.

Anybody in central Floriduh do this sort of thing? I will pay ;^)

Dremel tool
You can rout out the center of the spline using a Dremel tool and then clean out the remnants with a narrow wood chisel.

closeing the loop
The hot water trick worked great! (added a little vinigar to it too.) I made a tool buy grinding a old screw driver. Still took an hour to remove the spline/residual cane by hand but it came out clean and mistake free. Soaking the cane and spline helped allot too. Once I started, the install process took only 20 min or so. looks great!! Thanks much!

p.s. The $30 ebay kit actually had decent instructions once I found the right section of the pamphlet. Decent kit!