This is an introduction to weaving chair seats with Danish rope cord. In this tutorial I will be covering the Danish "Split Rail" chair, but note that there are several types of chair designs that require different tactics in weaving the chair seat.
Danish seat cord is treated paper that is twisted into a three-ply rope. There are two different types of rope cord-- "laced" and "unlaced." Laced rope cord is more like your typical rope, where the three twisted strands can be plainly seen. In unlaced cord, the three strands are not as noticeable. Both types are approximately 1/8 inch in diameter and about 180 feet per pound. This is important to know because paper cord is sold by the pound rather than by the foot. Each chair typically requires two pounds of rope cord. In this chair, I used the laced rope cord.
If you are re-doing a chair that already has a rope cord seat, make sure to take note of the original details, such as the amount of times the cord is wrapped around the frame. Standard chairs have a 16 inch x 16 inch frame and a standard method of wrapping, but some chairs have a 17 inch front rail and a 16 inch back rail. You don't need to know the exact dimensions of your chair, but you do need to know how many strands go from side to side and how many strands go front to back.
When removing the old rope cord DO NOT remove the original nails or hooks. In most cases you will be sent a handful of new fasteners from where you order your paper cord from, but the original nails will still hold your seat and give you the spacing you need for your project.
-Roughly 2 pounds of rope cord (for a 16"x16" seat)
Step 1: Prepare Your Chair
Begin preparing your chair by cutting away all the original rope cord. As you can see in this picture, I removed all the nails, which is a big mistake. This was my first attempt at seat weaving, and with all the nails removed, I lost the original spacing for the rope cord. Along with the spacing, I also lost where the weave began and ended.
It is helpful take pictures of the original weave and to take notes on how the weave begins and ends.
The weave happens in three steps or "rail wrappings" -- the front rail, the back rail and the side to side.
Step 2: Step One: the Front Rail
Once your chair has been prepped, the next step is to wrap the front seat rail. The front seat wrapping is important because it covers the entire front rail, while at the same time providing support for the side to side weave.
The front rail weave doesn't carry full weight, but it is the most important step out of the three. Typically, weave breakage will occur on this front rail. While weaving, remember to keep the weave tight, but not too tight. A little give is fine, but too much give will cause sagging.
The first step in this weave is to remove approximately 100 feet of cord from the spool. To keep the cord from tangling, you can wrap the cord around a dowel. To keep the cord in place, you can split the end of the dowel with a knife, and place the cord through the the split. You can then wrap the cord around the dowel to prevent tangling.
Next, begin on the left side of the front rail by tacking the end of the rope cord to the inside of this rail. The cord will go under, and over the front rail, and then pulled across the length of the seat to the back rail. Pull the cord over the back rail and tack on the inside. The back rail cord is then looped around a hook and brought back again to the front rail. Repeat this once more and finish by wrapping the front rail, spaced the same way as your original chair. As you can see from this picture, I wrapped the rope cord about ten more times before repeating the loop to the back rail. Repeat these steps until you reach the other side of your chair.
Use a wood block to push the cord together before tacking to keep the wrap as tight as possible.
When done, tack the cord under the inside of the front rail to finish. The back rail will have wood showing at this point, whereas the front will be completely wrapped.
Step 3: Step Two: the Back Rail
This is the easiest wrapping because it is not load baring-- it is purely cosmetic. In this step, you will work directly from the spool-- do not cut any cord. You are simply covering the bare wood with the rope cord. No need to wrap from the back rail to the front rail in this step.
Take the cord and tack the material to the inside left edge of the back rail. Then wrap the exposed areas on the back rail until you reach the right side. Next, tack the material off on the inside edge of the back rail. The spacing on this step should reflect the spacing on the front rail of the chair.
Step 4: Step Three: Side to Side
This step can be the most complicated in the process. It is called the side weave. Be extra cautious during this step because the cord can easily tangle. Typically, I don't wrap the cord around a dowel because the area you'll be working in is much tighter than the front and back rail.
Unlike the front and back rail, the side rail has an upper and a lower rail. This double rail feature is why this chair style is called the "Danish Split Rail." Remember, this side rail weave can be tricky. You may have to repeat this step a few times before getting the correct look.
First, take the remaining cord off the spool and tie the two ends together in a knot that can be easily removed when finished. Because you are weaving two pieces of rope cord at the same time, tying this knot keeps the material even. Take the end of the rope cord that does not have the knot and tack the loop to the inner left side of the front rail. You will begin your weave on the left side and work your way over to the right.
Take the knotted ends and weave over and under the already established front rail weave. Note, you will want to end your weave over not under. When at the opposite side, take the ends of the cord and loop them through the split to the inside part of the chair, between the upper and lower side rails. Next, take the knotted end of the cord from under the lower side rail, and pull up past the upper side rail to the seat. You may now begin your weave back to the left side of the chair going over and under the front rail weave.
When you reach the left side, pull the cord over the upper and lower side rails, and wrap the section of bare wood on the lower rail that sits exposed next to the cord that you just wrapped (that goes around both the upper and lower side rails). Next, pull the cord through the split and around the upper rail and weave back to the right side.
Repeat this pattern until done.
To finish, pull the cord material until tight, undo the knot, cut off excess rope, and tack the ends on the inside side rail.
You now have a Danish rope cord seat that will last you for years.