What stain or paint will stick to chair cane? It has a smooth, hard finish and will not absorb standard stains or paints. I see painted or stained furniture coming from the manufacturer. – Gene & Ardy Brandt
Tim Inman: Chair cane can be stained, painted, or even finished with conventional furniture clear finishes. There are some special characteristics to understand with cane, in order to help get the best coating and color for your particular use.
First, the hard slick outer surface of the cane is not easily penetrated by stains. When chair cane is stained, it is best done by allowing the stain to soak in from the back side. I prefer water-based stains like aniline dyes for this. NGR’s [Non-Grain-Raising finishes] would work, too. With the water dyes, I often soak the cane to get the correct color before I weave or install the cane. The cane will look different wet than it will when dry. So be sure to let a sample piece of cane dry out so you can make your color choices accurately. Once installed, surface glazes can also be used to add character and correct the color, too. Oil-based stains will work, but they are not as easily controlled nor as predictable. A light coating of furniture lacquer will seal in the color. Don’t lay on heavy layers of lacquer or varnish on cane. Be sure to seal the bottom and top of the cane surfaces if you decide to finish the cane.
Paints will “stick” just fine. The concern is flexibility. Cane is very flexible, and “moves” frequently. A brittle or hard paint would be very prone to chipping or flaking off. A more flexible coating would give much better service.