You’ve probably seen chairs like mine before: once-beautiful antiques, hand-woven cane seats, intricately carved details. But once a misguided foot punches through the seat, it’s completely useless. Chairs like this rarely get fixed because let’s face it, most people don’t have the tools or the know-how to hand weave a cane seat. Daniel’s grandparents gave us their old chair that was beautiful, but not functional. After about a year, I decided to research what it would take to get it sit-worthy.
First, I took to the internet to see how complicated it would be to weave it myself. I quickly discovered that this labor-intensive craft is something that seems to elude those under sixty years of age. I decided to ask around at some local antique shops to see how much this would cost to repair. In my experience with what most people would deem antiquated trades, you cannot find these people or the information you need on the internet. You have to actually pick up the phone and call them or sometimes even go in person to find out the information you want to know. And usually, they are very glad to tell you anything you want to know! With dying arts like these, I’ve found that craftsmen are eager to share their knowledge with future generations.
I quickly discovered that this labor-intensive craft is something that seems to elude those under sixty years of age.
I found an antique repair shop nearby and called to see if they could fix the chair. The man at the shop told me they don’t do this type of work. It’s an intricate process, done by hand-weaving the cane through individual holes in the chair. He gave me the number of the only guy he knows who does it: Taylor. “He works out of his house on River Road” he said. I asked if he knew how much Taylor charges. He said to count the holes that go around the seat and it would cost me about that many dollars. I counted sixty-five. Since we paid nothing for this chair I figured it was worth it to basically have a brand new chair afterwards and to save me hours and hours worth of research, buying materials, and labor.
I called up Taylor and reached Philip instead. I asked to speak to Taylor and he said “Oh, that’s what the guys at Jeff’s shop call me. Taylor is my last name.” I told him I’d gotten his number from the guys at the antique shop and told him about my chair. Immediately I could tell he cares about his craft. “Weaving cane is my favorite thing to do in the whole world.” He quoted me a dollar per hole—just like the antique guy said—and we arranged a drop off.
I never did meet Taylor in person. We did all our pick-ups and drop-offs at the nearby repair shop. He doesn’t have a website, but he posts about his weaving process on Facebook. Due to his high volume of repair work, it was a two-week wait to get my chair done. But in the end, the chair looked good as new and I couldn’t be happier!
During the time it took to get the chair re-caned, I visited an antique shop and checked the price-tag of some cane chairs I happened to notice there. $120 for a chair in good condition. So here’s your free business idea: go dumpster-diving for some chairs with broken cane seats and learn how to weave new ones. You’ll learn a dying art, give some quality furniture a new life, and have very little competition for business.