Caning, a Diminishing Craft (and thus a business opportunity?)

One of the more memorable vignettes from creating With All The Precision Possible: Roubo On Furniture Making was when we were working through the section of chair caning, a topic both Michele and I have plenty of experience.

We found Roubo’s to be perhaps the most concise description of the process from beginning-to-end, starting with the raw bamboo and ending with the final seat decks and backs.

I thought of Roubo’s passage when I came across this video of preparing bamboo for basket weaving, with is really just chair seat caning with a curve.

The problem of finding artisans to undertake chair caning is a frequent topic on the Professional Refinishers Forum as many of the craft practitioners are retiring or dying with few successors in the pipeline.  I remain convinced that this is a tremendous business opportunity for a number of folks interested in self-directed employment.

The space needs for a caning studio are small — a single work table with area to walk around it (like a dining table) is about all you need to get started for the work itself (storing work pieces is obviously a different matter altogether).  The inventory is not excessive, and the varieties of work possibility are darned near endless.  I’m guessing that with a modest amount of practice and some diligence in making connections with the nearby refinishing and antique restoration markets a competent chair caner could work as much or little as they wanted, with income levels probably in the $200-$500/day range.  If they are conscientious and add a little rush weaving to their palette the work will never stop coming IMHO.