Wicker Vs Rattan

Among some of the misconceptions in the furniture world, one of the most common one is confusing wicker with rattan. The following paragraphs are going to clarify this confusion once and for all.

What is Rattan?

Rattan is a vine which mainly grows in South East Asia, India, China and Indonesia. There are several different species of rattan which can grow up to 180 meters in length. Although, rattan technically belongs to the palm family, it looks more like a vine (similar to a bamboo).

The vine is used readily all over the world which is why in recent years because of forest destruction and conversion, the natural habitat of rattan has depleted rapidly. Owing to this fact, the Forest Department of Indonesia has established a safeguarded rattan cultivation program. The commercial cultivation of the rattan plant is a viable venture however and offers bright possibility of future supply.

Photo of Rattan Baskets

Rattan Made Baskets

Rattan is mainly used for furniture making, the outer sheath of the vine or its skin is removed and cut into thin strips when rattan is being processed, these strips are used as weaving material for the furniture. The inner part of the rattan is molded into different kinds of furniture.

Furniture companies that specialize in rattan furniture, mostly have their processing plants in the Philippines or other areas where rattan grows naturally, the wood is treated and processed in these plants before it is shipped off to where it is needed.

Rattan is considered by many as one of the strongest woods to make furniture out of, because the plant’s grain grows vertically instead of forming rings as is true with other kinds of hard woods such as mahogany and oak, the material can be manipulated and molded into any kind of shape and design that you would like using specialized shapers.

Rattan is shaped in a wetted condition and once it is dry it maintains the shape forever. Though, highly versatile there are some issues with having rattan furniture as an outdoor option. While it does give your home that very nice Caribbean and tiki look, the material can’t really withstand the unpredictable weather, too much rain or sun can easily damage your furniture.

The furniture can become cracked and can also fade fairly easily. One could simply move the furniture in bad weather, as rattan furniture is particularly light weight but really nobody wants to do that much work.

Man, however, has formulated and easy enough solution for this, which is man-made or synthetic rattan.  Synthetic rattan is manufactured from a food grade plastic material called polyethylene. The rattan Furniture supplied by Lloyds Garden Furniture is synthetic.

This material is a big hit with homeowners as it requires minimal maintenance and is highly resistant to UV rays and humidity. Which means you can leave your furniture out for as long as you want and it won’t get cracked or faded.

What is Wicker?

Wicker as opposed to rattan is actually not a furniture making material at all but is an ancient technique which is used to manufacture items from natural materials such as rattan and willow etc. The willow and rattan are first dampened so that they can easily be woven into different kinds of furniture using the wicker technique.

So, rattan is a product while wicker is merely a process; a process of weaving the wood such as rattan or other materials into a finished furniture piece or any other accessory.

Photo of Wicker Chair

Traditional Wicker Chair

To create a piece of wicker furniture various techniques can be used, the wicker weaves are made up of spokes, weavers and vertical supports which are the horizontal strands. To help shape up the reeds of the material such as rattan, the material is first soaked in warm water to make it more malleable. The thickness of the material is what decrees how long the material is going to be soaked in the water.

Because there are so many craftsmen doing the wicker technique, there is a lot of variation found among the wicker style. The most standard and common wicker technique is going over one spoke and under the next and then going on like this. This kind of weave is transformed into a kind of braid intertwining around two to four pieces at a time.

Wicker patterns are extremely intricate, some patterns are so delicate that actual images can be created from them.

Next time you hear a salesman confuse the two terms, feel free to correct and inform him.