The Cane Paradox

This sounds like a Robert Ludlum book, but what I am describing is Cane webbing and Paradox Walnut. My first all-natural table with no artificial ingredients. The top is cane from the Indonesian rattan liana, the rest is splendid figured walnut from the wilds of California, finished simply with oil from the Chinese Tung tree.

Not that this was my plan. My plan was for a walnut frame with a cane top dyed deep red. Then I was planning to make another table like this one, with a natural cane top. As you will see later, the deep red cane is not to be.

The Beginning

It started with these two magnificent, if oddly shaped, slabs of Paradox Walnut.

Paradox Walnut, also known in woodworking circles as Bastogne, is a mule of a tree. Created by the cross-pollination of an English Walnut by a California Black Walnut (also known as Claro Walnut), this wood is a paradox because it grows much faster than either parent species yet results in harder wood. As it is the result of two separate species, the Paradox Walnut is a sterile hybrid and thus, very rare …and beautiful, often having more grain contrast than its parents.

This particular slab of walnut displays a type of figure known as “fiddleback” or “tiger stripe”. This is a type of chatoyancy resulting from a wavy fibers running up the length of the tree. When cut correctly, the hills and valleys of that waviness get cut off flat, such that the wood fibers are severed at the flat surface, pointing one direction on their way up the “hill”, then the opposite direction going down the other side of the hill. This interacts with light reflection and absorption creating a luminous and three dimensional appearance. This 3D effect cannot be seen in a still picture, but the static reflection/absorption can be, as you see here.

Tiger Stripe in Paradox Walnut

The Table Frame

I had to plan that slab to get the best figure and the right sizes, so it started with squaring up the block.

From here the grain on the surface will be compared with the grain of the newly cut 90 degree surface. The face with the best chatoyancy will become the broadest, most visible face. Boards would be made for the rectangular frame and for the legs. The boards opposite each other are book matched. The top edge of the frame is grooved to accept the cane and the spline that wedges it in place.

Then the legs were cut and shaped.

Put together, with some corner braces and a plywood top for stiffness, we have most of the job complete.

The picture on the right is shown after staining the top a little darker. It was stained to be less obvious when seen between gaps in the cane. And this is where my plans were foiled!

The Cane Top

As I mentioned before, my plan was to have a deep red stained top.

The first plywood top I pre-dyed red expecting red cane. If I had researched that earlier, I would have known that staining cane is not commonly done, because it doesn’t work well. Here’s what I mean by that.

Simply using dye resulted in a weak pink color. To get it deeper required building up layers. I used dyed shellac for this and it worked. The problem with cane is that it is not very porous. The shellac didn’t penetrate, rather dried on the surface. This picture shows how it was easily scraped off – not a good surface for a table that will likely have all sorts of things tossed on on top.

So I knew I would have to stay natural. But the cane was so light I didn’t like it with the dark walnut. I had seen that cane would take a dye, but just not a deep dye and that was ok. Here’s the difference between natural cane and the cane I dyed. It is darker, but not a deep stain.

I caned the top, then coated it with a thin sealer. I tested this the same way I tested the red dyed cane, and nothing chipped. In fact I scraped so hard the cane itself cracked and broke before I could see any surface chipping.

The Finished Product

So, now the finished product. This video has music, so turn down your volume if you don’t want to hear it. And because this is a large video file, you may want to avoid downloading this if you are on a cellular connection.

Cane and Paradox Walnut End Table

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