Canes have a sweet, sharp bite and are one of the most intense striking toys in BDSM. But most people would be surprised how easy and inexpensive they are to make. Here's our process for making rattan canes. Although many people think canes are made out of bamboo, most BDSM folk use canes made from rattan. Bamboo can split into sharp splinters. Rattan is a reed that grows in China and Indonesia. It is relatively easy to find, because it is used to make furniture. Check your local Yellow Pages for furniture-making or caning supply stores. If you don't have any nearby, you can order rattan over the Internet as well
Traditional canes are made of rattan, a woody reed from the East Indies. It has a jointed stem that resembles bamboo, but is not hollow. Rattan is very tough and strong, and makes the most durable natural canes we know. Like bamboo, it comes in all sorts of diameters; traditional canes are about 8mm, but thicker and thinner ones are also useful. Rattan can sometimes be found at craft stores or Oriental basketwork shops. It is used to make wicker furniture, so a repairer of that might have a stock of it as well. Unfortunately, most of the cane-sized rattan that comes into this country (Australia) has been bent into coils, which warps and sometimes cracks it.
If you must deal with the coiled stuff, it should first be cut to length with a fine-toothed saw. Coping saws and hacksaws work well. A dressmaker's tape is a handy way to measure along the coils. Obviously, you should discard cracked peices. Less obviously, your canes will be much more durable if the tip includes one of the joints of the stem. The convoluted grain in each joint resists splitting, as opposed to the very straight grain that runs for the foot or so between joints. A lot of the coiled rattan has been peeled and sanded, but the joints are still noticeable if you look and feel carefully. Cut the stem about a stem diameter to one side of the joint; this will become the tip of the cane. (The ends without joints included are fine for handles - the tips are what take the shock and strain.)
You can make the canes any length you like; People have different preferences when it comes to cane lengths. Remember that the longer the cane, the more whippy (and hard to control) I prefer 20-30 inches (50-80cm) as they are easier to aim and more convenient in close quarters. Long ones have more power, but can be awkward. The natural variations in your coil will probably give you several choices.
You can also cut the rattan to make double canes. A double cane is a length of rattan that has been bent back on itself, to make what looks something like a snowshoe frame or loop. These canes fit nicely onto a buttock, and are easier to transport. To make double canes, carefully bend the rattan back on itself, tie it in position, and soak it again. It may take multiple times of bending, tying, and soaking to get the shape you want. Don't try to force the rattan to bend farther than it wants to, or you will end up with a kink–and not the good kind!
You can also bend just one end to make a shape similar to a walking or candy cane. We find this shape to be less practical, but some submissives strongly identify “cane” with this shape, so we always make a few of these. Rattan is sized via a number system. We find that sizes between 10 and 15 are most useful; to start with, I recommend ordering size 12, which is 3/8 inch or 9 mm in diameter. This will make a whippy cane with enough strength to stand up to fairly heavy use. Each tip needs to be rounded off; any kind of edge here will break skin far too easily. Coarse sandpaper works well, especially in a power sander of some kind. Hand sanding will also do, as will a fairly coarse metal file. Whatever you use, try for a smoothly rounded end. Now hand-sand the whole length of each cane with medium paper; try to remove the stray fibers you find sticking up from the wood. They are a nuisance during varnishing.
The cut pieces will have to be soaked and steamed to straighten them without breaking. We soak ours in the bathtub for a day or two, but any water will do. Don't let them dry out. After soaking comes steaming and straightening. You will need some way of keeping the canes straight as they dry; we lay them in a series of grooves we routed into a plank, and then clamp another plank on top of them. You can also try shoving each one down a length of pipe; plastic water pipe won't rust and stain the canes. (even come with screw on plastic caps)
When you have your straightening rig set up, boil a big kettle of water. Wrap the canes in a towel or two, lay them in the (drained) tub and pour some boiling water over them. Dose them every minute or so for a few minutes, and then unwrap them; the scalding will make them limp and easy to uncurl. (Dishwashing gloves help keep your fingers from scalding, too.) Quickly, before they can cool, bend them straight and put them in the jig. Put the jig in a dry place with good ventilation for five days Remove the canes and hang them up for air drying; we use clothespins/pegs on cords. Let the canes dry for a few days until they feel dry to the touch, but still whippy. The key to a useful, long-lasting cane is to preserve a bit of moisture inside. Once a cane is completely dried out, it will become brittle.
After a few days of air drying, brush them thoroughly with a coat marine varnish. Regular varnish is too stiff for canes–it tends to flake off after a while. Marine varnish is flexible and will completely seal the cane. Check boating supply stores or order it off the Web: Give each cane at least three coats; let each coat dry enough that you can sand off any lumps. Some newspapers on the floor under them will be a good ideas, since at least one of them will drip no matter how careful you are.
The handle end of each cane can be left as is, or a grip can be added for comfort or appearance. You can dip the handle ends in plastic tool dip - it will take several coats, and you can hang them from the same setup you used in the varnishing. The fumes of this stuff are truly nasty; be sure you have good ventilation. Less toxically, you can wrap the grips with cord or leather lacing, sew a scrap of leather or cloth around them, or cover them with tape. Bicycle handlebar tape makes a fine grip.
You can of course prepare other kinds of wooden rods this way - and avoid all the straightening hassle by picking ones that are straight to begin with. Bamboo is cheap and widely available, and also stiffer than rattan, which makes aiming easier. Bamboo, of course, is hollow and the tip must be made at a joint, just as described for rattan. Bamboo works fine for light to medium blows; heavy blows with it can be dangerous. Bamboo can split without warning, and the splits have edges like razors! Hardwood dowels from the hardware store can have the same problems. Avoid either of these materials for heavy canings.
Many other plants have canelike shoots. Forsythia is a very popular ornamental, and the older branches from the inside of the bush can make quite a reasonable cane. Prepare as you would rattan. They aren't as durable, but the price is right, especially if rattan is hard to buy where you live. Apple trees develop suckers each year, especially upward from the top branches. These grow straight, to about the right length, and are pruned off in great numbers every year. They are quite tough and durable. The buds make rough little bumps along the shoot; they can be sanded off if they seem too harsh.
Some twigs, such as birch or willow, are fine for scenes but far too flexible to be considered or used as canes. Handling them is a whole different topic.
There are also synthetic canes, mostly plastics. Plastics are much denser than wood, so they hit harder and the stroke is more penetrating. They are very easy to clean, which is a good thing because the thinner ones break skin quite easily. There are shops in most large and medium cities that sell plastic supplies. There can be a confusing variety of materials there: Delrin, Lexan, and fiberglass are three kinds of rod that are tough enough to make good canes. Acrylic is not tough enough; I have broken several. If the clear look appeals to you, get Lexan. Sora, from San Francisco, makes some very nice Lexan canes, if you want to buy ready-made. If you prepare your own, you won't need to varnish them, but be sure to remember to round and smooth the tip!
MissBitch & MissBonnie Hints and tips
we recently found a source of rattan by the devious method of trying the yellow pages. Now we where able to make 10 straight canes for the huge sum of $4.60. We think others in fairly large cities may well have equal success if they look, why fool around with dowels or garden stakes when the real thing is cheaper?
Indeed. When buying rattan, however, you can't simply say, “Oh, I bought thirty feet, that means I can make ten canes!” Rattan has warps and knots and such in it. When we’re cutting canes, we probably discard about 50% of the raw material in order to get something that really balances well.
If you're going to stain and varnish it – and there's a lot of disagreement about whether canes should be coated - you can use pretty much any wood stain to stain it with. We finish ours with marine varnish, which takes a lot of work – it's messy stuff, and it needs to dry overnight. Since we usually do about six coats of varnish, a cane isn't exactly a quick-and-dirty toy for us. Polyurethane is much quicker because it's fast-drying, but all polyurethane finishes have something of a tendency to flake, and this is really exacerbated when you're dealing with a flexible cane. Be sure to have all your sanding done before you stain and varnish, and round the striking tip as well.
As noted before, marine varnish provides excellent sealing properties while maintaining flexibility. You will usually want to apply ‘at least’ two coats. We do each coat in two parts, so there is always a dry portion of the cane to attach the hanging string to. If you are only going to use the cane on one person, you can choose not to use varnish–but you will need to re-soak the cane frequently to maintain its moisture level. Varnishing seals in the moisture and provides a barrier to body fluids–rattan, as with all woods, is porous.
At this point, all you need is a willing submissive to try your new canes out on. Have fun!
Further Reading Canes and how to use them
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