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Rush chair seat is a very ancient craft; examples were discovered in Egypt’s tomb, and since the 14th century, the craft has been practiced in England.
It became very common during the 17th and 18th centuries in nations that specialized in furniture and then enjoyed a resurgence at the end of the 19th century when top-notch developers of “Art and Crafts” admired its purity and simplicity.
Unfortunately, the resurgence was short lived and in the first half of this 21st century, the popularity decreased due to absence of low skilled labor. Rush chair seat is again enjoying resurgence with latest interest in both ancient crafts and vintage furniture.
What is rush chair seat
Rush chair seat also known as a cane chair or seat is a woven seat made of ling grass like dried vegetation. These seats are generally comfortable and durable with an average lifespan of 20 to 30 years.
There are different materials that can be used to create a rush seat such as natural grass like cattails, bull rushes and seagrass, fiber, paper fiber and pre-twisted cable, and are so much simpler to use for novices. Even beginners in “Art and Craft” can easily replace a rush seat. The following are just a few steps to replace a rush chair seat.
Rush chair seat replacement
Rush chair seat replacement can be done by anyone. First you need to fiber. You can find very affordable rush chair kit on Amazon here.
Great thing, if you decide to but this kit is brochure with 30 page detailed instructions. Instructions are full of close up photos and tips. Beginner caner will benefit a lot but also an experienced caner will get some useful tips as well.
For those who have everything at home, I prepare short decription on how Rush chair seat replacement can be done. There are few possible explanation. I choosed one I feel is the simplest.
Step by step instructions
With heavy shears and pliers or utility knife, cut and pull off worn rush fibers. Remove any plier tacks and discard old rush.
Cut the fresh rush into the chair frame lengths because most chairs in the front are larger than in the back. Single strands of rush will be woven to fill in the front corners to make the opening rectangular.
Measure the front and back rails to determine how far from the corners to weave. Subtract the back rail length from the front rail length. Divide the outcome into half and evaluate the distance along the front rail beginning with each front post. Mark at these points a pencil line.
Tack one end of the coil to the inside of the left hand rail close to the left front post to start weaving. Pull the rush over and below the rails, tackle the rush inside the right seat rail, near the correct front post, and cut off the surplus with scissors.
Pull the rush tight enough to create the corner square while weaving this and consecutive lines. Too excellent a pull, however, will displace the rush, making keeping the corner square difficult. A pencil momentarily inserted at each front inside corner between the front post and rush will stop this first row displacement.
Repeat the above operation by tacking the rush on the inside of the side rails at consecutive points. Squeeze the corner between your thumb and forefinger to create a circle while weaving the remaining rows. Check the corners, using a square, every few rows, and adjust as needed.
NOTE: Twist the rush constantly so that the fibers are narrow and uniform in diameter. Do not duplicate the rows. When a coil becomes too short to move over the rails, discard it. Continue adding single rows until you have filled the front corners and achieved the pencil marks.
Weaving the center of the seat
At the inside of the left seat panel next to the left back post, tackle the end of a 30 ft. coil. Pull the spindle in a counterclockwise direction over and under the four seat rails; continue to weave the same pattern over and under the seat rails to the end of the spindle.
Leave on the next coil with a square knot has shown a sufficient length of rush to tie. Locate the knot between the weaving under the seat, so it won’t be visible from the top of the chair. Use a wood and hammer block to snugly push rows against each other. To avoid slipping cables on the rails, drive on each in a temporary tack.
Great example done little bit differently on below video
If your weaving has advanced to a sensible stage, momentarily tackle the last rows, then remove the earlier inserted temporary tacks. Now is the time to add fillers of plastic to give the seat shape and cushion.
You can make the fillers from any corrugated cardboard (for example, the cardboard in which you chair kit was shipped). Cut the estimated size and shape of the fillers. Add two layers of filler for tiny seats on each side. Add three layers of filler on each side for big seats. Tuck them in the fiber rush rows.
Completing the seat
Continue to weave until rush covers the side seat rails. To avoid loosening the seat while filling the middle section, make sure you’ve woven the last line of rush, with a temporary tack on the side rail.
Push the loose end up at the middle of the seat through the opening. Weave the loose end above and below the front rail, through the opening, over and below the back rail, and again through the opening. This is known as a pattern of “figure eight.” Continue to weave in the “figure” eight pattern until rush covers the spaces on the front and back rails.
The rows should be pressed as tightly as possible wherever they go through the slot for best outcomes. Finish with either the back or front seat rail tacking the end of the rush. Remove all tacks that are temporary.
How do I change the color on rush chair
Changing color on rush hair or adding protection natural layer of oil finish is needed to protect it and keep it clean at the same time.
Traditionally, shellac flakes were mixed with denatured alcohol. Take 1/4 cup flakes 1 cup alcohol.
Second choice would be a combination of solvent-based polyurethane, cooked linseed oil, and paint thinner (1/4 oil and 1 cup of thinner). This will also provide a satisfying and durable finish. You can find both on Amazon.
First you need to spread first coat of shellac with a paintbrush if possible and let it dry about 30 minutes. After you need to spread another coat.
With linseed oil is different. Apply it in several coats with a rag. When you apply enought to cover everything, remove excess off with new clean rag. Wait for oil to dry and repeat the proces. This oil finish should be implemented every two or three years in order to renew the seat.
Additional upholstery for rush chair
For some of us traditional rush chair seat are not enought comfortable to seat on but still we want antique look of rush chair itself. Best way is to add simple layer of foam over and cover it with durable fabric.
Fabric for your future dining chair should be stain and moisture repellent. Spills should stay above the surface and not penetrate inside into the cushion. Search for great durability and natural color palette to get chair antique look.