The art, or "craft" of chair caning dates from the 1600's, or earlier. It originally referred to flexible rattan, or the outer bark of rattan being
fashioned in an open weave pattern to form a chair seat or back. Rattan is a jointed vine, a member of the palm family.
Over the years the term "cane" has become a generic term for any product that may be woven into a chair. Some examples include the bark of the
"pignut" hickory, leather thongs, rush or cattail leaves, sea grass, corn shucks, and the most common form today, the fiber or "paper" rush. Even
cords made from cotton, jute or any material that may be tightly woven can be found.
Since the trade is so labor intensive, there are few experienced caners practicing the art today. Most modern and less expensive furniture today uses
prewoven rattan of even plastic strips. Furniture with hand-woven cane commands a higher price. It is easy to tell the difference by examining the
edge of the woven pattern. Prewoven cane attaches to the frame by means of a "spline," or narrow strip that holds the cane snugly in a grove.
Hand-woven cane is sewn, one strand at a time, through a series of holes in the frame. Variations include blind caning and French caning.
Caners like Mr. Chairman have for years studied the many variations of chair caning and weaving and have become masters of this ancient tradition.
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In Memory of our friend Garr Williams