Download Cane table revival project PDF
Wicker and cane furniture is fashionable again, fetching good prices at auction houses and vintage stores. But after 50 years, the average piece, like this deco-revival table, can appear worse for wear, especially if it’s been exposed to the elements.
After stripping away any flaking lacquer, mildew and faded surfaces, give the table a hose down.
TIP: If you live in an area with water restrictions, do it on the lawn on a water-usage day.
Origins of cane furniture
Cane is the general term for bamboo, rattan, sugarcane and some palms.
Rattan is a climbing palm found mainly in south-east Asia that is cut, steamed and dried, then bent and shaped, often to form the frame or base for wicker furniture.
Wicker is the process by which cane becomes furniture, referring to the weave or binding. A rattan table is made of rattan, but a wicker table can use rattan or bamboo.
Cane was first used by the ancient Egyptians who used it to weave baskets, wig boxes, chairs and chests. In Victorian Britain, it became popular because it could be used outside in gardens and it gathered less dust than upholstered furniture.
Cane furniture fell out of favour in the early 1900s when simple, clean lines were the design trend, a result of more sophisticated manufacturing.
In the 1950s and ’60s a more affluent society revived it for resort-style living, using cane for verandahs and holiday homes. The lightweight but sturdy furniture came to symbolise a more relaxed and carefree approach to living.
Remove the table top
Small nails around the top edge were loosened and the broken glass top removed along with the Masonite backing panel underneath.
TIP: The panel was taken to the glass supplier as a template to fabricate the new top.
Clean the cane
Mix three capfuls of oxygen bleach like Napisan with five litres of warm water and cut a fine nylon scourer into strips to scrub blackened and faded surfaces, working over the surface several times, avoiding tearing the cane.
Clean into tight spots
Use a small nylon scrubbing brush or old toothbrush to scrub over reeded joints, built-up areas and fine crevices. Use a hose with a pressure nozzle to wash away debris and the cleaning solution.
Remove the old lacquer
Furniture from this era is likely to be finished with traditional shellac. Any traces of the original finish can easily be removed with methylated spirits, using a medium-grade nylon scouring pad to clean the entire piece.
Repair the reeding
Apply exterior-grade PVA adhesive on reeding behind loose sections and bind with tape. To replace reeding, soak a new piece in warm water until it’s soft enough to wrap around the joint, securing the ends with small panel pins.
Apply the finish
Dilute off-the-shelf pre-mixed shellac with 10% methylated spirits and apply with a quality fibre brush.
TIP: Shellac adheres well to cane, and several coats can be applied quickly to achieve a rich, protective finish.