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On Cane Making

I have taught classes on making and caring for canes.

  1. Soak the ratan in the bathtub for several hours which will allow you to straighten it. Cut into lengths.
  2. Swing the cane, using each end to see where the handle should be. There is definatelly a wrong and right end. Usually, but not always, use the bigger end for the handle.
  3. Sand the end of the cane into a round, and sand the shaft where the "bumps" are.
  4. Varnish the cane. It should be varnished several times using a marine varnish.
  5. Wrap the handle end with tape, and then leather. Using double sided tape will help the leather stick in place. This is where your artistic ability come in to play.

QUESTION:
I recently found a source of rattan by the devious method of trying the yellow pages. Now I was able to make 10 straight canes for the huge sum of $3.80. I think others in fairly large cities may well have equal success if they look, why fool around with dowels or garden stakes when the real thing is cheaper?

Indeed. When buying rattan, however, you can't simply say, "Oh, I bought thirty feet, that means I can make ten canes!" Rattan has warps and knots and such in it. When I'm cutting canes, I probably discard about 50% of the raw material in order to get something that really balances well.

QUESTION:
Now I am also looking for some help, does anyone know about staining or finishing canes? Any ideas on what to use for a grip on straight canes, or any other hints?

If you're going to stain and varnish it -- and there's a lot of disagreement about whether canes should be coated -- you can use pretty much any wood stain to stain it with. I finish mine with spar varnish, which takes a lot of work -- it's messy stuff, and it needs to dry overnight. Since I usually make about six coats of varnish, a cane isn't exactly a quick-and-dirty toy for me. Polyurethane is much quicker because it's fast-drying, but all polyurethane finishes have something of a tendency to flake, and this is really exacerbated when you're dealing with a flexible cane. Be sure to have all your sanding done before you stain and varnish, and round the striking tip as well.

For grips, if you're not a leatherworker and don't plan to be one, you can fashion a simple handle made of tool dip. I usually wrap the handles with cord first in order to provide some traction.

Wrap the handle end with tape, and then leather. Using double sided tape will help the leather stick in place. This is where your artistic ability come in to play.

Or: wrap the handle end with string, for texture, then dip it in Tool Dip. Repeat when dry if desired. (Tool Dip is that rubbery stuff that coats the handles of pliers. It can be bought at hardware stores, in cans like paint. And it can be used to coat all sorts of things you want a smooth finish on.)

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