Weekend project time-consuming but worthwhile

One of the first purchases my wife and I made after we moved into our present home was a set of four kitchen chairs to go around an antique table her aunt had restored and given to us as a house-warming gift.
That was more than 30 years ago. And although the maple ladder chairs now have a low-luster sheen from their years of wear, the seats of woven rush have deteriorated.
Two sons, countless spilled glasses of milk and cups of coffee, and years of dropped food have turned the golden brown colour of rush to a filthy grayish black.
The seats were covered with cushions that restored a soft mound to sit on. We’ve worn through four sets of padded cushions.
Yet even then some of the strands of rush had broken from constant wearing—and we faced the choice of either throwing away those maple chairs or restoring the seats.
The decision was reached at Christmas that something had to be done as we simply couldn’t postpone it any longer. We really liked the chairs because they have a lot of sentimental attachment from all the family meals around the kitchen table.
An Internet search helped us buy a book on weaving chair seats. Then about two weeks ago, we ordered the rush.
The book said you could weave a chair in a couple of hours. Well, like all instructions about ease, the time was misleading. And when it was suggested a single person could do the work, I took it as fact.
The rush arrived in time for the Family Day holiday weekend and my wife proudly told me that it would be a good family project. Little did she realize it would take all three days to weave those four chairs.
It ended up being an all-family weekend.
Marnie began Saturday morning by cutting each individual strand with a pair of scissors, which left a big mess in our family room. It also took a lot of time to cut each strand.
When it came time for the second chair, I took it to the workshop and cut the strands with my serrated “Leatherman knife.” It was much simpler and by cutting around all four sides, the old seat then dropped to the floor, where it could be picked up as one woven piece.
The four rails holding the weaving of the first chair sure looked naked—we had reached the point of no turning back. And I think at that moment we began to realize the project was much bigger than we expected.
It took until mid-afternoon to finish that first chair. Our hands were red, dried, and sore from all the stretching and pulling of the rush to keep the weave tight and square. Our lower backs ached from bending over the chair.
And without the two of us working together on every corner and turn, the seats still would be under repair. The idea that a single person could do the job clearly was misleading, as was the time frame.
The chair wasn’t perfect, but Marnie and I had danced around that chair 25 times and wound out more than 200 feet of rush. We were excited by how good it looked. The new golden seat gave new life to the chair and we had a rush of pride in our accomplishment.
Then we were on to chair #2. Our speed improved dramatically as it only took us three hours to finish the second one.
Still, we were exhausted.
We began again mid-Sunday morning. It was pretty evident that once the rush was removed, that all the glued joints had dried out. And so was the case of the fourth chair.
As such, both required being pulled apart, being glued, and then clamped. That took most of Sunday.
The chairs are now back under the table with new golden seats, although our lower backs are a little sore. We’ll wait until warmer weather to put the two coats of shellac of the chairs so they can dry in the garage.
The chairs look almost as good as when they first arrived some 30 years ago. Okay, the weave isn’t as straight but if they can last for another 25 years, this family weekend will have been worth it.

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