Refinish Furniture

Restore antique rocking chair with wicker reed and splint

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An antique rocking chair was located that needed lots of tender loving care and restoration. The wicker reed weave back and splint seat were missing, but gave evidence of what may have been there.

A good way to find what an antique chair may have looked like is to go to a search engine and search the images for other rockers or antique chairs so you can see how they should look.

We have a supplier for wicker reed and splint materials for just about any repair you need to make.

See below for some weaving information.


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Antique rocking chair with wicker reed and splint needs restoration.

Question: Dick wrote: Dear folks,

I have attached pics of a rocking chair that we found at a sale. We would like to refinish it but do not have any idea what the seat and back were made of.

Antique rocking chair needs splint and wicker reed weave

antique rocker side

Can you help us? We are going to refinish, I hope, and give it to our son who's wife is exspecting their first child in several months.

If you can tell me what material was used on this chair, then do you have instructions or patterns, and the material to help us refinish this piece?




Antique chair

The chair will need a combination of splint and wicker reed weave.

Clean holes and start the round wicker reed weave

I would clean out the pairs of holes and glue round reed of that size into the hole on one side, then come up over the front horizontal rail and to the back horizontal rail. For strength I would make a wrap around the rear horizontal rail going over the top of the horizontal rail around and from the bottom of the rail go to the top rail and go from the front over and down the back to the rear horizontal rail, then go around the rear rail from the front and wrap around and come up over the top back of the rear rail, across the top of the front rail and down and into the other hole of the pair.

When you make the wrap around the rear rail make it so that the wrap is to the outside of the pairs, which means each of the two strands of the pair would have the wrap on opposite sides, so that the strands will be together.

antique rocker holes

It looks like there are seven pairs of holes making 14 holes, that would work ideal for the horizontal weave. Come over the top front outside of one of the vertical bent rails (leave six to eight inches of reed to work in underneath the seat for strength of the starting strand) and go under the first pair of vertical strands, then over the second pair and so on until you come to the other bent vertical rail, go over the top of that rail and around from the inside underneath go over the top of the first pair of strands, underneath the second and so on. Just keep on with the seat and continue up the back. You'll end up with a couple of inches at the top where the vertical strand pairs are separated by the front and back of the top horizontal rail. You can continue your weave up the back using just the one strand that comes down the front, then continue the weave on the single strand in the back.

Wicker reed catalog

It looks like the chair at the links is woven with a flat or flat oval wicker reed. You can find the reed you need at wicker catalog Measure the holes for the round reed pairs very carefully and get a size that will fit very snugly. Any woodworkers glue will work fine.

Soak the wicker reed

The reed is pretty easy to work with after it's soaked and makes the bends without breaking. You still have to use patience and care though. I'd recommend the Caners Handbook to get some detailed information about handling the reed. It may have a recommendation different from mine for the weaving too.

As always when you're giving directions you can picture each bend in the road in your mind. This all looks clear to me as I do each part in my mind as I'm typing it, but if I've left you at a fork in the road just let me know and I'll see if I can clarify a little more.


Email question, additional information:

Good day,

These are fine looking pieces but they are not like the pics I sent you. They have two separate horizontal "rungs" for attaching the weaving material. The pics that I sent has two "rails" that run from the front horizontal rung to the back of the seat where they are bent almost "90 degrees" and run to top where they are mortised into a horizontal rail. Then these two rails are anchored at the bend at the seat's back by another horizontal rail.

That's a horizontal rail at the front of the seat, one at the back or bend of the seat and one at the top where the two bend rails are mortised into the top rail. There are no "pairs" of rungs or rails to which you can weave what you are referring to.

Then there are 14 pairs of round reed remnants still embedded in a rail 3" below the front horizontal seat rail.

There are 1/4" wide stains on the side rails of the bent rails that run from the seat to the top of the chair.

Thanks for you help and time.


Email reply, additional information:

Hi Dick

More antique chairs

Go to Google and put "antique rocker", without the quotes, in the search bar and click on images. You can find some very close cousins to your chair.

Then go to our wicker catalog for information and materials.

Splint chair seat

The weaving method is called splint. The old timey method used strips of wood about 1/2 inch wide. The wood splint can be pretty difficult to work with and the 1/2 inch flat reed shown is a very acceptable material and is a lot easier to use.

Caning handbook and video

There is a link to a book called the Caner's Handbook that explains splint weaving and there's a Chair Caning Video that explains hand weaving cane.

Wicker weaving is relaxing

It takes a while to do the weaving, but it's relaxing and really gives you a sense of accomplishment when you see the end result.


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