The cane is probably the implement most associated with Corporal Punishment. There is something very emotive about this traditional, English disciplinary tool.
Part of the cane’s mysticism was the ritual and theater associated with its application – which was as much about psychological torment and fear as it was the actual beating. Making the condemned wait in anticipation for hours or even days. The flexing of the rod as a scolding takes place. Then, finally, the rite itself: having the reprobate bent over a desk, or a chair, or perhaps touching their toes as the skirt is lifted (or pants lowered) and underwear lowered.
Traditionally administered in half dozen batches referred to as ‘six of the best’, caning was an art that involved more than just the technical ability to apply an accurate stroke — the psychology must also be understood. To the uninitiated, a caning may seem rather staid but I can assure you, a heavy caning was one of the most painful and intense forms of CP you could have received.
Straight Or Crooked?
So why do traditional canes have crook handles? There are lots of different possible explanations.
One is that originally walking canes were used to beat people with so the crook handle is just a remnant of this. Maybe the crook was used to stop the cane slipping out of the hands during a vigorous thrashing. The crook was also used to hang up the cane in a visible place so it would be a constant reminder to errant young children. What is absolutely certain is that the crook handle is always associated with school canes.
The design of the handle didn’t make much difference to the use of the cane but many people had a personal preference. Some straight canes had some kind of ‘padded’ handle, which made them easier to use than a plain straight cane.
Does Size Matter?
There were also so-called ‘fibre-glass’ canes and ‘dressage’ canes (canes covered with leather), which were not really canes at all.
The traditional size of a school cane was around 32″, however rattan canes are approximately 5/8″ thick and 50 inches long. Both sizes were very severe implements, but probably the fiercest canes are chosen for their fearsome visible appearance!
Canes came in a huge variety of lengths and thickness. The longer the cane the more swing, the greater the arc, and the more ‘swish” sound. Remember, the longer the cane the more difficult it was to control, so beginners should chose a short, lightweight cane. The weight of the cane changes the sensation and intensity of the stroke. The thinner the cane the more ‘stingy’ and biting it felt, while thicker canes were heavier, more `thumpy’ and tended to bruise the skin. With more weight they penetrated more deeply.
Often canes were named and graded by their thickness: Nursery Cane (1/4″ diameter), Junior Cane (3/8″), Senior Cane (7/16″) and Reformatory Cane (7/16″ Dragon Cane). Lengths usually ranged from 24″ to 32″ for crooked canes, and from 18″ to 24″ for straight ones.
There are many types of cane. They are actually tropical grasses, reeds or palms characterized by knuckles, nodes or joints where the new segment of growth shoots off. The Bamboo cane is probably the best known but it was not at all suitable for CP as it is inflexible. It could also easily break during use, resulting in razor-sharp edges.
The best types of cane to have used are those that come from the climbing palm or rattan family as these have a flexible stem. There are enormous varieties of rattans, with innumerable differing qualities. The most popular varieties for making a punishment cane are Kooboo, Dragon, Palambang and Malacca.
No two canes are identical as they are natural products – grown and not manufactured. There is an endless variety of rattan. Thickness, flexibility, curvature, colouring and surface finish all vary. Most standard canes are made from Kooboo. For more serious punishments, Dragon canes were used as the rattan is denser and slightly stiffer than Kooboo. It also has a very smooth surface which helped it fly through the air faster.
Caring For Your Cane
Canes are made from natural reed with their own moisture content and so will stiffen and become brittle as they dry out over long periods of time. This will make them more prone to snap — which is something you definitely want to avoid.
The best place to keep your canes is in a bathroom. The worst place is near radiators and central heating, as the dry heat will considerably shorten their lifespan. Always hang a cane by its crook or lay it flat, never lean it against something resting on its straight tip.
If soiled, canes may be washed with soapy water (also alcohol or household bleach can be used if blood is present). You can then wipe them with a wax based furniture polish that will help to preserve both the surface seal and their appearance.
Periodically – say once a month, depending upon the humidity of your environment – you can help your canes remain supple by re-soaking them.
To do this, stand the cane in, say, a coke bottle containing about 6 inches of water and let it soak overnight.
If you overdo the soaking, the crook will start to straighten out, so, to ensure it remains curved, tie a piece of string tightly around the end of the crook and the start of the straight section before soaking so that the crook end can’t move further away from the straight section.
It is also possible to stand canes in a light, non-viscous oil, such as Linseed Oil, for 24 hrs. This will not only help keep the canes flexible but will also add weight to them.
After soaking, re-varnish, oil, or re-polish the sanded tip to help minimize future moisture loss.
(Author Unknown- Contact Us if You Know!)
Edited by Jessica Cocker for appearance and readability.
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