What Is Rattan Furniture?

What is Rattan?

Rattan grows in a long  slender stem, which maintains an almost uniform  diameter throughout its length. It grows in a  manner similar to a vine, but has an inner core  and is not hollow like bamboo. The shade in the  rain forests is very dense and climbing on tree  limbs is the most practical way for the rattan  vines to reach the light above the forest  canopy. The outer portion of the stem is  extremely hard and durable, while the inner  portion of the stem is softer and somewhat  porous.

There is no harvesting season  for rattan, it grows year round. Harvesting can  be difficult due to the landscape and  inaccessibility of the jungle. The diameter and  length of the rattan according to the specie of  rattan can be as long as 600 feet, however they  are cut into 12-15 lengths and tied into large  bundles to make the journey from jungle to  processing area. Rattan, originates from South  East Asia from Loas, Cambodia, Phillipines,  Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam with  over 500 species of which only 4 are used in the  production of our gift accessories.

The first step in the rattan  product development process is harvesting. This  is labor-intensive and is typically carried out  by teams of villagers, who take turns harvesting  their rattan gardens with other local farmers  helping out. To watch the farmers cut and strip  the rattan of its thorny outer layer is pretty  amazing. These guys climb the trees, get out  their machetes and then start hacking away –  only its not really hacking. It requires great  skill to first cut the rattan and then, with a  secondary blow, split off the outer layer and  peel out the core rattan. Once the rattan has been harvested, it has to be  prepared before it can be used in weaving for  rattan-based craft. The first step is to wash  the rattan in the river to remove any stains and  clean the product, stripping away the layer of  silica that tends to coat the core rattan.

The next step is to cure the  rattan, turning its color from a pale green into  the yellow that most people are familiar with by  smoking it. The raw, washed rattan is loaded  into what looks like a wood-framed tent that has  its floor about a foot off the ground. Many  “bushels” of raw rattan are piled on top of one  another until the wooden frame is full. The  frame is then covered with tarpaulin, which is  secured to the ground using stone weights. The  charcoal is ignited and placed under the tent,  and the smoking process begins. It usually takes  about a day or so to complete this curing and  smoking process.

After curing, the rattan has  to be dried to remove excess moisture and make  the product suitable for use. This is done  outside under the hot equatorial sun, and takes  perhaps another two or three days to complete.

After drying, the rattan is  ready for use. It is then  further  processed  into peel for weaving, or core products that are  flexible and can be used used for binding to  create the baskets and home accessories.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RATTAN AND WICKER: Rattan is a solid core product. It is a vine that is stripped of all bark, steamed, bent into a jig; dried, stained and shaped into furniture pieces. Wicker is a term for anything woven…a process. Wicker is woven from rattan bark, grasses, cane or water hyacinth and used in combination with rattan core to make a long lasting piece of furniture. The photo clearly illustrates the various weaving techniques on a rattan frame.