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Wicker baskets - What is the difference between Wicker and Rattan

Jun 20 2016

"Wicker" is any type of product that is made in a specific way, in particular in a woven design. The term itself is believed to have originated from Sweden with the word "Wika" translating to the term “to blend” and the term “vikker” translating to the word “willow”.

The most successful material that is used to make wicker baskets is the vine off the rattan tree. The Rattan tree can only be found in the rain forests of Southeast and East Asia, Africa, and South and Central America.  The best rattan vine used for wicker products is the Honey rattan, found in the Southeast Asia region. The material itself has many properties that make it ideal for wicker products. It can be cut to various lengths and shapes, and it can be weaved and twisted into shape without snapping or splintering like normal wood.


What is Rattan?


Rattan is the ideal material for wicker weaving.  It grows into a long slim stem, and in a way looks like bamboo with its hollow center. To the touch, it has a harder outer core, yet the inner core is soft and somewhat porous, making it ideal for weaving. With no out of season period throughout the year, the rattan vine is ideal, as it can be harvested all year round.  Transportation of the raw materials isn't a issue either, as lengths as long as 600 feet, can be cut down to manageable lengths. To dry the rattan, it is placed in a tee-pee styled position, so it can be air dried.


 
 

Turning Rattan into Wicker


Changing harvested rattan vines into a piece of furniture involves a number of stages. From material to finished product, the whole process is done by hand. The first stage of the transformation process, is to remove the unwanted thorns and abnormalities from the rattan. This is done by pulling the vine through a fork shaped device, stripping the thorns off as it passes through. After this process is completed, the rattan is left to dry out before being shipped to the factory.

The ideal time to work with rattan is when it isn't fully dried, and still flexible enough to weave. A steaming process has to take place to make the rattan flexible enough to weave..  It is considered to be one of the strongest woods available to the market. Reason being that as there is no circular rings in the vine and just grows vertically meaning that no weak points can be seen. Once steamed and let dry, it stays in the shape forever. Simple as that

Wicker products can be dated, all the way back as far as 1400 bc. The earliest known piece of wicker has been found in Egypt. In the Early days it wasn't seen as furniture material and had other uses. Many different forms of tools for different trades like fishing, planting and harvesting was made out of rattan. It wasn't until the 1800s when the materials became more available and used for furniture making.

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