Rattan, or rattan core, is among the oldest natural furniture material in use today. Rattan vines are different from bamboo, because it is a solid timber, whereas bamboo is hollow. Rattan is a relative of the tropical palm trees which grow mainly in the rain forests of Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. This vine like plant grows either single, or multi stemmed and can grow to several hundred feet long. The leaf bases are spiny and have spines growing in neat interlocking rows. Also there are whips with grapnel like spines, which support the plant as it climbs up trees. It starts to grow upwards like a tree but then can and sometimes does bends back down to the ground. The core of the long stem is what is used in the manufacture of rattan products. Once the rattan vines have many years of growth they are cut down to between 12 and 18ft and put aside to dry. Rattans may also be peeled to form thin pieces ready for the weaving process. Sometimes the curved outer layer can be used as a decorative trim. For images, put “rattan vine” into Google images and you will find images of the plant in its natural environment.
Wicker is a weaving process, so not a material. So when furniture is called wicker furniture it is basically defining furniture which has been woven. When comparing a wicker chair to a rattan chair, we are really comparing a product to a process. A rattan chair is made of rattan; however a wicker chair could have been made with other raw materials like straw or bamboo.
The word cane is often used instead of rattan and wicker. Many manufacturers call their rattan furniture Cane Chairs furniture. But it is essentially the same thing as wicker. In other words, it made using the weaving process but it might not necessary be rattan. Only furniture named rattan is definitely rattan.
The earliest examples of cane dates back to more than 3000 years ago, and was always manufactured by hand.
Primarily cane furniture was first developed in India and was also common in the second century AD in China. Eventually the west caught on and by the late 1600’s it was imported to England and the Netherlands.
These days rattan furniture is highly popular for indoor and outdoor use. Thanks to advance of technology you can get many different weave colors, from black to blue. And they are still just as durable if not more. You can leave the furniture outside in all weathers and with just a little maintenance they will still look great from year after year. The frames are often made from tough welded aluminum which makes them weatherproof. The designs you get these days are pretty amazing too. Gone are the old fashioned rocker chair designs that would be seen in your grandparent’s conservatory. Now you can get really sleek designer looks which really have put cane or rattan furniture on the map.