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Getting to know rattans

Commonly confused with bamboo, rattan is a solid climbing palm found in tropical rain forests mostly in the region of Southeast Asia and Malay Archipelago. With more than 600 species belonging to 13 genera, rattan can grow up to 185 meter in length. Species can vary from single-stemmed to multi-stemmed. Rattans have elongated and very flexible trunk. Stems are surrounded with cover leaf bases that are severely spiny. To provide extra protection to the palm, the spines are occasionally arranged in interlocking and neat rows. Also rattans usually have whips, either at the ends of the leaves or the leaf sheaths.

Also called cane, it is the next most essential forest produce after timber. Rattan’s popularity has increased considerably because it is almost effortless to work with, involving basic tools and low-cost apparatus. Rattans are environmentally friendly since it is biodegradable. It gives a sustainable earning to several people living in the borders of woods.

Rattans outstanding characteristics are its strength and flexibility. Its stems are used widely in manufacturing cane furniture and matting. Its unique beauty lies in its elegance and simplicity. Additional uses of rattan are in rural areas, basketry, construction, thatching and for cordage.
Processing rattans include three major processes – primary processing, secondary processing and manufacturing process. Primary Processing may comprise trimming, scraping, drying, straightening, treating, grading, sorting and splitting. Sometimes it is also important to include pretreatment especially in harvest sites or campsites. It is required to pretreat green rattans shortly after they are cut, failure to do so result to the vulnerability of rattans to staining fungi which can tarnish them.
The only ASEAN countries that practice cane treatment are Lao PDR and Myanmar. The Secondary Processing includes steaming, peeling and splitting, sorting, scraping, non chemical methods - smoking, kiln drying, boiling in oil, chemical methods – bleaching, bending and moulding, drilling, grooving, end-coping, and binding or assembly.
The manufacturing process is mostly stated by species, diameter and other early physical conditions. The advance manufacturing methodologies in Malaysia represent a usual production process in producing rattan products with excellent quality. Rattan is selected and goes through straightening that can be done using a pneumatic machine or done manually.

Rattan products are classified into groups – primary, secondary, finished products and other uses. Primary rattan products can be generalized as raw or full canes that are treated, coarse or polished rattan. In ASEAN country like Myanmar, rattan stick is the primary product that is used in tying teak logs collectively to make a log-raft. Secondary products are typically wickers, splits, and cores. In Thailand, rattans are passed on to wickering machine. In Indonesia, partly finished products are ski, fine-refined canes, and core and part furniture components. Manufactured goods like chairs, tables, mats, frames, cabinets, dining sets and other rattan furniture belong to the finished product category. Other uses of rattans include traditional medicine where fruits and roots are used, dye for ceramic and pharmaceutical industries. Small quantities of skin waste are used as stuffing for car chair or jock.
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