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.
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 at our factory.