gears (9K)   Canoe-Seat Repair: Replacing Cane with Strapping

My seats have holes round along the frame where the cane was wound through. Your canoe seat may be different, so you may have to adapt.

In these pictures, my canoe is mounted on sawhorses, and I'm standing with my right hand close to the end of the canoe.


My old cane seats

The canings in the seats of my Ogilvy 16 were works of art, but after 25 years, they were brittle and cracked. The stern seat, shown here, was in fair condition, but the cane in the front was in shambles.


I soon decided that caning was not my forte.

It took me a long time to find new cane. However, I could not manipulate the fragile reed with my ham hands, as it broke each time I tried to pull it tight. After two afternoons, I quit in order to preserve what little sanity I had left.


Here's what my seat looked like after ripping out the cane.

I decided to use the holes, no matter what. I wasn't going to saw or cut or drill or staple the seat frames. So I went to Wheeler's on the Lincoln Road in Fredericton and bought 10 meters of military-grade one-inch-strapping. I couldn't find any narrower strapping anywhere. But how was I going to get one-inch-strapping through those tiny holes?

The first thing I did was tie one end of the strapping loosely at one corner of the frame. I then cut the other end to a taper.

Next I poked this tapered end up through the second hole on the row in front of me, using a toothpick-thin wooden dowel (the butt end of a shish-kebab skewer) to shove it through. I grabbed the tapered end with a pair of needle-nosed pliers and yanked the whole 10 metres through, letting the tie-off stop the other end from slipping through.


Pliers came in handy for grabbing.

I then poked the taper down the hole on the opposite side of the frame. But the end of the taper had gotten frayed really fast, and wouldn't fit through the next hole. So I got a half-used bar of soap from my shower and caked the end threads so I could twirl them to a point, just like the Kaiser's handlebar moustache.

Then I could poke the point through, grab the taper tight lengthwise with a pair of needlenose pliers, and yank it up (or down) with a brute force heave-ho. Grabbing as much of the taper as I could get kept it from fraying as well.

I continued running the strapping back and forth to the matching holes on the other end. Each time after I hauled the strapping down a hole, I skipped one hole over and pulled the strapping up the second hole over each time, both going up-and-down and later as I went back-and-forth as well. I had to pull the entire length of the strapping through each go, it was time-consuming grunt work.

When you're managing 10 metres of strapping, it's easy to get it tangled around the edge of the seat. This means you have to haul it all out back to the hole where you screwed up, then line it up straight and haul it back through again. In this picture, you can see I also forgot to go two holes over before I poked the end through and pulled it up. Don't get distracted, or it'll cost you time and temper.

Once you've finished the up-and-down section, poke the strapping up through the hole above the corner hole on the bottom of the frame and pull the end up through.

Here's where you start weaving the strap over and under as you go back-and-forth. Alternate starting over-and-under at the start of each row, to get that mesh effect. Again, I skipped a hole each time back, so rain water can drip through between the straps. Pay close attention as you weave the web, for you won't be happy if you see you've missed an over or an under. You'll have to undo a lot of work to get back to where you screwed up and do it over right. I did.


A plug secured the strapping in the holes.

When I finished all the rows, I went back to the hole where I started, and untied where I lashed it. I pulled it taut, then pushed a short section of the toothpick-thin wooden dowel into the hole beside the strap to plug it in tight.

I tried various means of securing the end of the strap under the seat, including jamming it under a previous loop, but it just got looser every try, so I put all my faith in this plug. When I finished the columns, I plugged the other end the same way. I plugged four more holes each mid-side this way for insurance.


Dangling strapping

Then I cut the end of the strapping, leaving a few inches to dangle so I could yank on it and tighten the webbing later on if needed. I left a little to dangle down on the other end as well. I wouldn't tie a knot, as knots in strapping don't come out easily, if at all.


The last tool I used was my lighter. I scorched both ends of the strapping to keep them from fraying.


Here's the final product. It's not as pretty as the old cane job was, but it's mine. There's no sag, and the folks who sold me the strapping told me it should last forever. I used a ten metre ribbon of strapping, and I thought I would have enough for both seats. But I didn't and I'll need another length for my other seat in the spring.

I still have to whittle 24 plugs for the left-over holes. One size dowel was too small, and the next one up was too big to fit sweetly in. I guess that's what winter's for.

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