Rattan / Malacca Cane
Rattan (from the Malay rotan) is the name for the roughly 600 species of palms in the tribe Calameae, native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Australasia.
Most rattans differ from other palms in having slender stems, 2–5 cm diameter, with long internodes between the leaves; also, they are not trees but are vine-like, scrambling through and over other vegetation. Rattans are also superficially similar to bamboo. Unlike bamboo, rattan stems (“malacca”) are solid, and most species need structural support and cannot stand on their own. However, some genera (e.g. Metroxylon, Pigafetta, Raphia) are more like typical palms, with stouter, erect trunks. Many rattans have spines which act as hooks to aid climbing over other plants, and to deter herbivores. Rattans have been known to grow up to hundreds of metres long. Most (70%) of the world’s rattan population exist in Indonesia, distributed among Borneo, Sulawesi, Sumbawa islands. The rest of the world’s supply comes from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Bangladesh.
In forests where rattan grows, its economic value can help protect forest land, by providing an alternative to loggers who forgo timber logging and harvest rattan canes instead. Rattan is much easier to harvest, requires simpler tools and is much easier to transport. It also grows much faster than most tropical wood. This makes it a potential tool in forest maintenance, since it provides a profitable crop that depends on rather than replaces trees. It remains to be seen whether rattan can be as profitable or useful as the alternatives.
Generally, raw rattan is processed into several products to be used as materials in furniture making. The various species of rattan range from several millimetres up to 5–7 cm in diameter. From a strand of rattan, the skin is usually peeled off, to be used as rattan weaving material. The remaining “core” of the rattan can be used for various purposes in furniture making. Rattan is a very good material mainly because it is lightweight, durable, and -to a certain extent- flexible.
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.
‘Malacca cane’ is a cane or walking stick made of the brown, often mottled or clouded stem of an East Indian rattan palm, Calamus scipionum.
Shipment / Storage / Risk factors
Rattans usually shipped in bundles. Rattan core, peel and split rattan may be shipped in bales. May be exported as whole rattan, peel, core and sometimes split rattan, and may be washed or unwashed.
Whole rattan should be of natural yellow colour, blacked washed and free of knots.
Rattan peel is graded according to size and colour. First grade is of even straw colour and thoroughly flexible, second and third grades not so good in colour and less flexible, lower grades are not even in colour.
Rattan core prices according to flexibility, evenness of colour and cleanliness. Must be kept dry and, if shipped in a damp condition, may become mouldy in transit. Unless kept cool and with proper moisture content, rattan core is liable to become desiccated, which renders it brittle and unfit for the purpose intended.
The unwashed type is not affected by contact with salt or fresh water, nor is it greatly affected by oily substances, as these can be washed of. The washed type will suffer in appearance on contact with salt or fresh water or oily substances, but both types can be washed by being immersed in fresh running water with a layer of clean sand underneath. The canes are then rubbed with sand and hung up to dry. If rattan or cane is immersed in water for any length of time the centre core should be inspected, as it is here that the first evidence of rotting will appear. This process will not, however, remove oil which has penetrated the outer skin.
A remark on the “Shipping Order” should be made where cargo is received in a damp condition.
The use of “Dry- Bag” desiccants might be appropriate in certain instances.