Soaking Cane

Furniture makers debate the fine points of soaking cane. April 10, 2008

It has been suggested to me to add glycerin to the soaking of cane process. Would this help? I'm using conventional cane half weave in sheet form. Soaking for 15 minutes.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor H:
Glycerin will make the cane more pliable. Do not soak the spline.

From the original questioner:
I shouldn't soak the spline? Will it swell up the spline so it won't fit in the groove?

From contributor H:
You should not soak the spline because if you do, it gets soft like the cane and you then cannot drive it into the groove. It just mashes flat.

From contributor P:
I have to disagree completely with contributor H. I've been caning for a lot of years, and done a lot of pieces. In fact, I usually do a few pieces every month. If you don't soak your spline, it will break when trying to turn a corner. It will also break if you try to drive it dry into the groove. I use a plastic hammer to drive it in, occasionally with a block of wood. Once it's in, clamp it and let it dry. You need to clamp it so when it shrinks, it doesn't pull out of the groove.

From contributor T:
I'm with contributor H. Spline goes in dry, sized correctly, can be bedded to match original, as in one of a set. I use shaped (concave edge) blocks to set the spline. For curved groove pieces, I pre-curve the spline by soaking it and putting it in the groove till it's dry. I overlap the ends of the spline when doing this so it doesn't come up short when the cane in the groove forces the spline to the outside of the groove (as in if it were a circle, the radius would be larger with the cane in the groove. Hey, always more than one way to skin a cat.

From contributor J:
Contributor P, I agree with you on soaking the spline. The only time softening the spline causes a problem is when I forget and let it soak too long.