Canes break! - it's an undisputed fact - but here are a few tips to help yours last longer. Handling Rattan is very flexible and the temptation to swish a cane back and forth through thin air is very great but should be avoided as it puts the fibres of the cane under too much stress. Make sure there is always something with a bit of give in it to stop the down swings, like a bum cheek or a cushion.
Testing a cane for flexibility by bending it into a shallow C shape is an acceptable method but bending it too far can cause irreversible damage.
Centre cane is quite fibrous and occasionally little hairs will lift on the surface. Do not burn them off and resist pulling them off. Clip them off with nail clippers and apply a light rub of linseed oil to soften the ends back into the cane.
Judicial canes can be very extreme if soaked overnight to make them supple and whippy. This is when they are at their most dangerous and at full force can cause the skin to split open and leave permanent marks. Only the bottom third of the cane needs to be soaked. Without soaking, and applied with a lighter touch, they are much less aggressive.
Rattan needs a drink from time to time to stop it drying out and becoming brittle. This can be done by immersing the ends in a bath of lukewarm water for a few minutes, or having them with you in the steamy confines of a shower unit. Alternatively you can simply rub water into the shaft or pass them through the steam of a kettle. Allow them to dry in the open air. Do not store them or cover them whilst damp as this encourages mould to grow.
Do not immerse crooked handled canes, as this could cause the crook to straighten. It is always a good idea to use a strong elastic band across the crook, or tie with string, to help it hold its shape until it has dried.
Keep leather or suede handles above the water line when soaking..
If your cane is varnished you will need to lightly sandpaper the tip to allow the intake of water. After it has had a drink and dried you can either revarnish the tip or rub it over with linseed oil.
After their drink, and once dried, canes will appreciate a light rub-over with linseed oil.
To clean, a simple wipe over with a damp cloth should do but if you prefer you can add a bit of sterilising fluid to the water. Use the sterilising fluid found in the Baby Care section of the supermarket. Not too much though because it is a mild bleach.
If you need to deal with blood on the cane use a 50/50 solution of water and Hydrogen Peroxide and rinse the cane afterwards.
Centre cane is very absorbent and it may not be possible to remove stains without bleaching. Spot clean with neat sterilising fluid.
Hemp and Jute
Hemp and flax (Chatham hemp) have a very distinctive smell, somewhat sickly and earthy. It can be prone to loose fibres and fuzziness.
Jute is possibly classed as the chosen rope for shibari work. It is lighter than hemp and handles really well.
Hemp and jute do not stretch like cotton or synthetic ropes and rarely leave rope burns when pulled over the skin.
To treat hemp and jute.
There is no requirement to treat rope but it does make it look better and last longer because you remove any specks of dust or grit that may act abrasively on the rope fibres.
Remove any tape and knot the ends to prevent fraying. Place the rope into a net laundry bag or loosely tied pillow case and hot wash without detergent. If you have a dishwasher you can pop the rope into that. This is actually a better way of washing it as it isn't agitated like machine washing and so the twists stay tighter.
Keep the rope under tension when drying by stringing it out like a washing line.
Once dry, burn off the loose fibres by running it through a flame
Take a rag and moisten it with Tsubaki oil. Run the rope through the damp rag several times and then leave overnight for the oil to seep in. The next day take a clean rag and run the rope through it to remove any excess oil.
Cotton rope is good if you are not the sort who wants to bother with treating rope. It is also good for people with allergies. It has more stretch than the hemp or jute.
The natural unbleached rope will take a dye so you can create your own coloured rope.
To wash the rope, remove any tape and knot the ends to prevent fraying. Place the rope into a net laundry bag or tied pillowcase and wash it at 30°. Use plenty of fabric softener.
If you use a tumble dryer use a couple of dryer sheets.
Cotton does not have the strength of hemp and jute and so it is not suitable for suspension work.
For suspension the ideal thickness for hemp or jute is 6mm or thicker.
Tsubaki is a natural plant extract made by cold pressing the seeds of the Camellia Japonica plant. It replaces the animal based oils traditionally used in treating shibari rope. Tsubaki has been used for centuries in Japan to clean and protect Samurai and Katana blades and cosmetically to give hair body and lustre and moisten the skin.