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What Is a Rush Seat?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 16, 2024
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A rush seat, also known as a cane chair or seat, is a woven seat made out of long grass-like vegetation that has been dried and used to weave the part of it that people usually sit in. There are several different materials that can be used to make a rush seat. It can be made out of natural grass like cattails or seagrass that are wrapped together or fiber rush made from twisted paper. These seats usually have an average lifespan of about 20 to 30 years. Weaving a rush seat is often called caning, and it can be completed as a do-it-yourself project or by a professional.

As a form of seating that has been around for hundreds of years, rush seats are comfortable and surprisingly durable. Natural versions are constructed of twisted grasses that are woven around a wooden frame to create a strong, lightweight seat. The seating surface is slightly flexible and gives a little when someone sits on it rather than being rigid and hard. Several different types of grasses can be used to make a rush seat; some examples include cattails, bull rushes, seagrass, and fiber rush which is made of twisted paper. The strands are joined to add strength to form narrow rope-like lengths which are woven in a closely spaced manner around the seat frame.

With proper care, a rush seat can last for 20 to 30 years; the lifespan is often shorter, however, if there are cats in the home. The seat can be cleaned with water and mild soap outdoors on a sunny day. To clean between the strands, a soft brush should be used, and the seat can be allowed to dry outside. Stains can be removed using denatured alcohol on a cleaning cloth. The seat can be protected against future marks with a sealer made from equal parts white shellac and denatured alcohol applied to the top.

Eventually rush seats wear out: A good way to test is to press a fingernail into two of the strands, and if they break it is time to for a replacement. It's possible to purchase the supplies and replace the seat by weaving a new one with a process called caning; this can make a relatively simple do-it-yourself project. Instructions are available on the Internet, in some books, may come with the supplies if a complete kit is purchased. Another option for replacing a rush seat is to to seek the services of a professional chair caner who is an expert in seat weaving.

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Discussion Comments
By MagicStrom — On Dec 23, 2013
@FeistyFox2: Don’t be intimidated! It might seem difficult, but replacing rush is much easier than it seems. The hardest part is just getting started. Once you've got the basic steps down, it's actually good fun.

Your best bet for this type of project is a video, and there are many out there. But make sure you keep searching until you find a chair and a type of rush that are similar to your project.

Good luck. And please let us know how it goes!

By FeistyFox2 — On Dec 22, 2013
I just bought a set of beautiful dining room rush seats at a garage sale, but they’re over 30 years old and all of the rush is frayed and broken. I’d like to do the repairs myself, but I’m not sure I’m capable. Rush seats seem so intricate! Can anyone help?
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