Refinish Furniture

Repair Rattan and Wicker Furniture and Accessories

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First Things First

Study the damage to your wicker furniture and determine just what repairs need to be made. Does the frame need repairing or is the wicker weave broken or missing big chunks. It's best to take lots of pictures before you start any repairs of your wicker furniture so you have a record of weave patterns and the actual repairs to be made.

BOILED linseed oil or tung oil

There are two types of Linsee Oil, boiled and raw. The boiled linseed oil will harden nicely, but the raw linseed oil will take until the second tuesday of next week, then never really be properly cured.

There are two types of tung oil too. 100% tung oil is pretty thick and a little more difficult to work with than the other which is generally called by such names as tung oil finish or something else after the tung oil. You can get both types of tung oil from our online catalog The Rockler Tung Oil in the middle of the page is the thicker kind and the Chinawood Deck Oil farther down the page is the thinner type.

Don't try to boil raw linseed oil yourself. Linseed Oil is highly flammable


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Cracked Wicker

If some cracking is occurring it's best to not figure on replacing anything, just keep the cracking from getting worse. Cracking is generally caused by excessive dryness.

The best thing for cracking wicker is tung oil or boiled linseed oil. They'll replenish the oil in the reed, then cure and harden to a nice finish, or pre-finish, if you want to put another finish over it. Not polyurethane, it will crack even worse than dry wicker. Even if the wicker is painted or has a clear finish the tung oil or boiled linseed oil will enter the reed through the cracks and if it is dry enough to crack, then the finish is probably missing or thin anyway. Apply the tung oil boiled linseed oil with a brush and make sure that you get in all the nooks and crannies. Let the oil sit on the surface until all is absorbed that will soak in. As an area gets dull looking, add more oil, since the dullness is an indication that it's really being sucked up into the dry reed. Add until no more will be absorbed, then remove the excess. Use cloth or paper towels to remove the excess, then use a dry brush to remove it from the cracks and crevices. Let the tung oil or boiled linseed oil dry for at least 24 hours, then apply a new coat of paint or clear finish as required.

Dispose of the oil soaked rags and paper towels in a safe manner, because the oil is very volatile and if rags or towels are left in a pile, the pile will heat up and could cause a fire by spotaneous combustion.

Wandering Weave

Is the problem a kind of misguided weave? If weave is skiddley wampus or overlapping other weave it would indicate that it probably got pretty wet, then was sat on or something was set on it or something else that would cause its weave to go away from its normal position. This condition is usually very easy to remedy if the rattan is bare. If it's painted or has a clear finish on it you will probably have to strip the area to get down to bare reed.

If you have to strip, then the reed sould be damp enough to work with, if not or you're starting with dry bare reed, then cover the area with rags or towels and keep them wet for about 1/2 hour to one hour, then try moving the weave to where it's supposed to be. If the wicker resists movement, then soak it some more until it will move to where it should be.

Be careful not to disturb the weave in the surrounding area while you're working with it or while it's drying. You should let the piece dry for at least 24 hours before you use it. It may feel dry to the touch and look dry, but it's innards could still be damp, especially in a humid or cool climate.

Pictures and Diagrams

Always take pictures and draw diagrams of the weave pattern where you will be making repairs, because sometimes it will be necessary to remove more of the remaining weave. Drawing diagrams of the pattern helps to understand the weave pattern better too.

Some wicker works are real works of art with patterns of flowers, cornucopias and other intricate designs, so it's very important to study and make diagrams of weave patterns before starting.


If you have a tendency toward heaving a sigh and saying "I can't do that", always remember that someone else has done it, so it can be done and you can do it too. Study closely and muster up a heap of patience. If you start to feel impatient then stop for a cup of coffee or a jog around the block. I turn around and look at the treadmill and imagine myself walking on it. Heh, heh.

Soak the Reed

The rattan reed comes in very long strands and are sold in coils. The strands are moist when they are coiled to make them easier to handle and store. When dry, the coiled reeds are very brittle and will need to be soaked to make them supple and easy to work with.

When you soak rattan reed, only soak the amount you will be working with. Start with one piece of reed the length you will need and let it soak in warm water for about 30 to 45 minutes. When you take a piece out of the water, put the next one in to soak.

Repairing a Hole

If you have a hole that involves one or more strands in a simple weave, for instance from the front to the back of a seat, then you should remove the full strand which is broken, but remove and replace only one strand at a time.

Illustration 1 (the art may not be fancy, but it sure didn't cost much) represents a side view of a chair or similar piece. The up and down curved piece is the back. The shadowed piece is the broken piece to be replaced. The strand may be just

wicker repair

Illustration 1
rattan repair

Illustration 2
Reed repair

Illustration 3

a single piece that terminates inside the back and under the seat, but is more than likely a longer strand that will be doubled back to make the next row and possibly one or two more. It may be the dickens to get inside the back or the under seat weave to cut the strand. so it's generally easiest to cut the strand before it enters the back or underneath and push it through. Be sure to soak the pieces to be removed with wet towels or rags, so they're supple and will do what you want them to without damaging any surrounding weave. Illustration 2 shows a flat view of Illustration 1.

When you weave the new strand in be sure to leave two or three inches on each end that are tucked into the existing weave. When the wicker strand dries it will take its new shape instead of the coil and be very happy to be part of a nice piece of furniture.

Some times it just isn't practical or necessary to replace a whole strand, for instance the full width of a wicker couch seat or back with just one widthwise strand broken or someplace where it's just plain impossible to get to the whole thing to replace it.

Illustration 3 line 1 shows a broken strand that we'll just replace one weave. Soak the area well with wet towels so it's easy to work with, then carefully work the two broken ends under the last cross strand that it went over, line 2. Take a short piece of reed and weave it through to replace the old missing portion, line 3. Be sure to leave plenty on each end to tuck in for sturdiness.

The pictures all show the reed as round, but it may be round, half round, half oval, or flat wicker rattan reed.

This may seem to be a simplistic explanation of wicker repair, but most repairs are variations of what I've described and it really isn't difficult. The main ingredient, as I stress with all phases or furniture refinishing, repair, or antique restoration, is patience. If you feel itchy antsy, slow down, stop, do something else for a while. You're supposed to be enjoying all this stuff and when you picture the end result as you're working, it really is a pleasure.

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