Prepping Wood for Making Wicker Patio Chairs Prepping Wood for Making Wicker Patio Chairs
Wicker patio chairs are made with a type of weaving using flexible reeds, canes and branches. While wood is not commonly used for the weaving process due to the coarseness of the finished product, wood is sometimes used to create the frame work for the patio chairs. Here are tips to help you prepare wood for use on wicker patio chairs.
You will need to be careful in your selection of wood for wicker work. Branches need to be a regular thickness for several feet and they must retain some flexibility. The long trailing branches of willow (withes) are a traditional choice for wicker.
To give a woven piece of wicker work for furniture a smoother and cleaner finish, you will need to remove the bark. This is often done by peeling as soon as the wood is chosen. You will find that freshly cut branches will peel easily because the sapwood is still moist. Cut away leaf buds and any branching twigs. If the wood is not to be used in weaving immediately, soaking it in water will help maintain its flexibility.
You will want to use thicker branches for the framework of your chair. Up to 2 inches in diameter is not unusual. The framework is made by bending the branch to the desired shape and tying it so that it will retain that shape as it dries out. Branches that are difficult to bend are soaked in a steam or hot water bath until they becomes more pliable. A constant pressure applied to the wood while it is heated will enable smooth bending without the risk of the wood splitting.
Although usually only done for the more coarse sort of wicker work as is used for trench liners and fencing panels, long branches are often split to produce two or more lengths from the same withes. Willow withes are the easiest to split in this way although craftsman using a sharp blade and a guide can split most branches.
The most important aspect of any wood used in wicker work is that it is flexible enough to be woven. You will want to take advantage of the natural flexibility of newly cut branches or shoots by weaving them as soon as they are cut. Once the bark is peeled off, soak the branches in water to remove the sap from the outside of the branch. Vigorous scrubbing with coarse cloth can help this process although some sap is necessary to help keep the wood flexible.
The strength of wicker work relies upon the closeness of the weave and the complexity of the threading. A simple warp and weft type weave will have some strength but it will need a solid frame to be really useful. This is why the frames for wickerwork are carefully prepared from wood that will only bend under pressure. Once a piece of wicker work has been created it needs to dry before being put into use. Often a wicker chair will need to be tied for several weeks.