Rattan stems and the outer skin of rattan are used to make different parts of furniture, which include the structural framework and the woven parts. Cane, wicker, and peel wrap are generally made from rattan. These can also be made from other materials
In its original form, rattan is a relative of the tropical palm tree. It starts to grow upwards like a tree, but then bends back to the ground and snakes through the rain forest like a vine. After a few years of growth, the vines are cut into 12 to 18 foot (about 3.7 to 5.5 meters) sections and hauled away for drying. Furniture companies that specialize in furniture made with this plant often have processing plants in the Philippines or Southeast Asia to treat the wood and ship it out to large furniture manufacturing plants in America. North Carolina has a significant number of wicker and rattan furniture companies.
Rattan is considered to be one of the strongest woods available, since its grain grows vertically instead of forming the concentric rings of most other hardwoods. The straight wood is usually steamed and then bent into the desired shape through the use of specialized shapers. Once dried, it will retain its shape forever. These poles are often used to form the frames of what will become rattan or wicker furniture.
Where does Rattan come from?
The use of Rattan to make garden furniture has a long and illustrious history, possibly dating right back all the way to the early yawns and stretches of the human species itself. There is evidence of Rattan furniture being a popular choice for stylish members of the ancient Egyptians, although it is in Asia (especially Japan, China, Indonesia and Malaysia) where the material has the richest history of exploitation, trade and manufacture.
Rattan furniture first became a mass-produced product in the United States in the 1800s where there was money to be made in selling the pieces to Victorian England. Later still, the material became a favourite of the proponents of the Modernists and Art Deco movements.
The popularity of Rattan furniture soon began to drive the price of the raw materials up so manufacturers looked to create a synthetic substitute that retained the look, feel and lightweight nature of Rattan, but was more durable.
Rattan is a popular material for outdoor furniture due to its unique aesthetic appeal, ease of maintenance and high level of comfort it offers. It is available in a wealth of styles and designs and can be made either from natural or synthetic rattan. They look almost identical, however, there are a few important differences between the two materials.
Rattans are extensively used for making furniture and baskets. When cut into sections, rattan can be used as wood to make furniture. Rattan accepts paints and stains like many other kinds of wood, so it is available in many colours; and it can be worked into many styles. Moreover, the inner core can be separated and worked into wicker.