New life for old treasures: Senior Center hosts caning course

Clair Purdy canes a rocking chair that has been in his family for generations on Thursday at the Manistee County Senior Center. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

Clair Purdy canes a rocking chair that has been in his family for generations on Thursday at the Manistee County Senior Center. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Weaving cane from one side of the seat to the other, Clair Purdy ballparks the age of the antique rocking chair that will soon be passed down again.

“It’s at least my grandmother’s and it may possibly be my great-grandmother’s,” he said. “My folks cobbled it up a few times, and I started this project last summer.”

From one generation to the next, this family heirloom was given new life Thursday during a chair caning class provided by the Manistee County Senior Center.

Instructor Dale Picardat said that’s exactly the beauty of the course.

“It’s about the accomplishment,” he said. “People bring in chairs of their own. I’m not here to do it for them, I’m just here to oversee what they’re doing.

“It’s a fun type of thing to do, and it’s pretty easy.”

Picardat said his knowledge of caning is nearly 40 years old, but he began the course at the Senior Center last year. There was enough interest for him to run the program again, so Thursday’s class was the first of five to six more that will be held Thursday afternoons at the Senior Center and are open to the public.

“Everybody here was in my last class,” Picardat said. “Some of them picked up another chair and some of them are still working on the same chair.”

Attendees are provided print-out instructions and guidance, if needed, from Picardat, who said there are basically seven steps to caning a chair.

An average chair may take 15 to 20 hours of work, according to Picardat, but one like Purdy’s family rocking chair — with a double-curved back that also needs to be caned — may take up to 50.

Purdy said he’s willing to put in the time.

“Well it’s been in my family — that’s one reason — and the other probably is because I’m bored,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll probably give this to my son when I’m done.”

Clearly, a fitting destination.

“Most of the people will bring in a family chair so they can restore it,” Picardat said. “And really, that’s the primary purpose of the class. It’s rewarding to them.”

For more information on the class, call the Senior Center at (231) 723-6477.

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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