Seat recaned. Oil, Varnish. or jes naked

The actual installation of the cane is pretty easy. Cleaning out the groove was the hardest part, followed by fashioning a piece of oak into a cane-jam-it-in-the-groove tool.

Does it need some kind of finish on the new cane? Watco? Varnish?


I’ve often read…
… that for boats, it’s best to varnish it, but on the top side only. Apparently there’s no way to seal it (tiny cracks in the varnish due to flexing maybe), so varnishing both sides can just make it take longer to dry. That’s what some say at least. I like Pat’s idea (from the other post) of carefully varnishing over the spline too, to help keep water out of the glue. No real flex happening there so it should seal pretty well.

Thinned Varnish
A pro chair caner once told me to use very thin varnish on the top side only. I might thin the varnish as much as 75 percent with mineral spirits. Use full strength varnish on the spline. If you oil, I would use tung oil. Lately I have been leaving the cane unfinished, but I do like the color a little varnish or oil imparts.

why not a small router Chip …

– Last Updated: Jan-29-14 11:12 PM EST –

..... a small router , try a laminate trimmer . Either one will take the router bit you need to clean out the existing groove . I've always assumed that's how they made the original groove in the 1st place .

You'll need a flute bit of the correct size to match the spline you intend to use . Splines come in various sizes , match the bit to the spline and the cane gauge you'll use .

Cut the existing grove a tad larger if you want ... or cut it exact , or cut it a tad smaller and hand clean what's left ... I'd go for the tad larger personally . There's no constraints , only the spline match the groove and cane gauge .

Glue ?? I don't know . You don't need it for anything I can think of if the spline is the correct size for the groove ... the spline isn't going to come out in my mind , moisture only makes it tighter in there . But glue can't hurt anything I guess .

Varnish for exterior use cane ... very thin (cut coat) on top only if that's what you want , but I wouldn't , natural I like . Can't hurt anything to set the spline in a varnished groove though .

I've heard of oil stain on cane , but not done that myself . If oil stain , I'd test a scrap piece of the cane mesh 1st to see how well it absorbs and if I liked the way it looked . I'd think a penetrating stain , not surface type , but not so sure it would penetrate well either , cane is hard and slick .

Use the router guide or make a jig guide . Some freehand may have to be done on intersections where a radius already exist . Freehanding a small laminate trimmer is pretty easy for a short radius . Have same thickness support stock tight up to item you're grooving if needed for router base support .

I cut hinge gains freehand all the time with a laminate trimmer , only using the trisquare as a guide at the very ends , all edges razor scored on layout before routing out . At one time (before pre-cut gains) in commercial production new door hanging , the full door hinge jig is best to use , no layout after intial setup , no misses , quick repetitious hinge gain cutting production . Sure beats the old hammer and chisel which how I had to do it for many years in the beginnig . .

Next time try the little laminate trimmer as your router (buy one if you don't have one , you won't regret it , does all other smaller scale routing work too) ... use the attachable guide with it for paralell longer runs , same as you'd use an attachable guide with a circular saw .

Forget that digging , witling and scraping with whatever tool works in the groove ... route it out a new !!

I’d varnish, so that nice wood won’t get
all greasy.

Just use carpenter’s wood glue. When it comes time to replace the cane, soak the seat in warm water and the spline will come right out.

Maybe I’m just sloppy and use too much, but when varnishing the top, how do you keep it from going on the bottom as well?

yup topside only varnish naked bottom
At least this is what a pro caner told me.

dry brush or mist spray …

no stain
This past summer I re-did three canoe seats. I tried to stain the lighter cane to match the rest of the wood. They seem to have a coating on them and wont take a stain. The underside is not coated. I didn’t like it and tried to rub it off but now I really looked bad. I ended up doing it over.

all greasy
hey g2d,

If you stop paddling bare-ass the seat wouldn’t get greasy.


Tung Oil
I recently picked up a used canoe - 12 years old with the original seats. The owner said all he ever used on the cane seats was tung oil. Seats looked in very good shape, and the canoe has been used a lot - tell tale wear on the bottom.

No sweat, Dave
A few coats of varnish on the back side solves that problem.

The coating is actually just the outer natural gloss on the reed used to make the cane.

As I noted earlier here I was never any good with just varnishing the top so on my next one I’ve used Watco exterior oil with good results.