The Tribune - Spectrum

, March 17, 2002

Sunday Activity

All about cane and able handling

Since cane furniture is not as sturdy as wooden furniture, it requires special care
Since cane furniture is not as sturdy as wooden furniture, it requires special care

CANE furniture is usually used for the informal areas of the house like living room or bedroom. Be it a cane armchair or mooda, this kind of furniture is ideal for casual, everyday use.

The cane strips used for weaving panels are the outer layer of the Rattan Palm, a prolific climbing plant of the East. It is strong but coming from a living plant it does need treating with consideration to achieve the many years of service it is capable of. Since it is not as sturdy as wooden furniture, even if a strip in a cane chair or sofa breaks, it can mar the beauty of the entire piece and can be the beginning of further ripping apart and cracking.

The dry conditions from heaters and blowers etc, are the enemy of cane work. The cane will dry out to a brittle condition and then the individual strands can snap very easily.

Avoid direct heat

Even if you take your cane furniture for granted, just like many of the things that have been around for years, take out time to pamper it this weekend. And observe the following doís and doníts:

  • Try to arrange your cane furniture as much as possible away from the direct heat of radiators, blowers and air ducts.

  • If any strands break, get them repaired , for as each strand goes it puts added strain on the next ones.

  • About once a month, treat the cane as follows:

Sponge or fine mist spray the panels with tepid water, protecting the surrounding wood and/or upholstery.

Remove any excess moisture and allow the panel to dry fully in free air.

Do not accelerate drying with a hot air blower.

Do not use the panel until quite dry.

The cane can sometimes become loose and/or sag. A monthly water treatment will re-tighten the strands but again make sure it is properly dry before using the seat again.

New cane work will mellow to a lovely warm brown colour in only a few months and in this "natural" state will last far longer than if it was to be painted etc.

Sometimes the panel has to match existing ones and so some colouring is necessary. Paints, varnishes and lacquers should be avoided at all costs as they seal the strands, making them brittle and the intermeshing inflexible which results in early failures. Of the wood dyes, only the spirit-based have the ability to adhere to the glossy surface of the cane and should be applied sparingly.

Any localised pressure, like someone often standing on a cane chair or stool, will easily break the seat. A load that is evenly spread out is quite safe.

Keep it bug-free

Most manufacturers of cane furniture will boil cane in diesel and coconut oil to keep it bug-free. Some even treat cane with sulphur. If you have untreated cane furniture, it is more prone to insect attack or infestation. To prevent this from happening, spray insecticide over the furniture.

  • The presence of pin-hole borers is serious. These insects will bore through cane and leave a fine-powdery substance on the floor. If you notice such tell-tale signs, you are advised to send your furniture for immediate treatment.

  • Do not place your cane furniture under direct sun and rain as the cane may lose its elasticity and cause cracking.

  • Furniture should be dusted regularly with a paint brush. This will allow you to reach in between the grooves. A good alternative is to vacuum with a brush attachment. Use a moist soft cloth to clean the cane surface about once in two months. This will help keep it free from grime and dirt.

  • Do not use benzene, thinner, creams or other chemical products. The use of these applications may cause harm to your cane. It is advisable to seek professional help if your cane is badly blemished.

Oiling & tightening

  • Oil cane once or twice a year to keep it from drying out and becoming brittle. This is not necessary for the first several years. Mix one part boiled linseed oil with two parts turpentine. Wipe away excess after 15 minutes.

  • To tighten a sagging chair, sponge porous underside of the cane with hot water and allow to dry slowly. Repeat as necessary. This should bring back the original tension.

Even though with the advent of more stylised furniture, the craze for cane is on the wane, care of cane will not be in vain.

(Compiled by Chetna Banerjee)

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