Rattan or wicker? It’s a question we get asked a lot here at Wovenhill, and the answer might surprise you. Keep reading to find out the difference between rattan and wicker…
What is rattan?
Let’s begin by taking a look at rattan. Rattan has become a very popular material for the construction of all sorts of household items, from garden furniture all the way through to log baskets and storage baskets. (As an interesting aside, rattan canes were the standard implement for school corporal punishment in England and Wales!).
But, what exactly is it?
It’s a common misconception that rattan refers to a single type of plant. The truth is that rattan refers to approximately 600 different species of Old World climbing palm. These species belong to the subfamily Calamoideae.
Rattan is a close relative of the palm tree and tends to grow in a pole-type shape, reaching a diameter of between one and three inches. Left untended, rattan can grow to as much as 100 feet in height.
Where does rattan come from?
The majority of rattan species are found in Southeast Asia, where they thrive in the region’s closed-canopy, old-growth tropical forests. However, other species of rattan can be found in the tropical parts of Africa and other parts of Asia.
Around 80% of the world’s rattan originates from a single country; Indonesia.
Rattan is typically planted in ‘gardens’ between 2 and 5 hectares in size (that's 5 to 12 acres), with each garden yielding around 1.3 metric tons of rattan each growing period.
What are the other names for rattan?
Although commonly referred to as rattan, you will sometimes see this material referred to as rattan palm, calamus rotang, calamus, Malacca cane or Manila cane.
Today, these names have largely fallen out of usage in favour of the generic ‘rattan’.
What parts of rattan are used?
Rattan is usually harvested 7-8 years after planting, although some species are often taken after 10 years. In general, the larger the diameter of the rattan species, the longer it is left to grow (the largest diameter rattan species can be left to grow for as much as 18 years).
When rattan is harvested, it’s the central core of the plant that is taken along with the vertical grains. The outside skin of the rattan pole is also taken (this is also referred to as the rattan ‘peel’).
How is rattan prepared?
Once the rattan has been harvested, it is then prepared.
The preparation process of rattan begins with the rattan being thoroughly washed to remove any dirt and to wash away the layer of silica which tends to coat the core rattan.
Following this, the rattan will then be cured. This is done by smoking the rattan in sulphur fumes. As the rattan cures, it changes from a pale green into the yellow that most people recognise.
After about a day of smoking, the rattan will be fully cured.
Following the curing process, the rattan then needs to be dried to remove any excess moisture content. This is done by leaving the cured rattan out in the sun for around two to three days.
Once fully dried out, the rattan is ready for use.
How is rattan turned into baskets?
The central core of the rattan plant is used to create the end product e.g. storage basket. In doing so, the rattan is cut into smaller pieces and steamed into shape. The rattan skin, or peel, is then used to bind the rattan joints together.
What is wicker?
Okay, so now you know all about rattan. But, what is wicker?
Well, in contrast to rattan, wicker is a technique rather than a material in itself.
Wicker is a technique for making products such as furniture or baskets that are woven from pliable plant materials. The wicker technique dates back as far as ancient Egypt, where reed and swamp grasses were woven into baskets or small tables.
However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that wicker became incredibly popular throughout Europe and North America. Throughout the Victorian era, rattan was used to create a wide variety of wicker furniture for use both indoors and outdoors. The Victorians particularly favoured wicker furniture as they believed it to be more sanitary than upholstered furniture.
What are the other names for wicker?
Because wicker is a technique, you will often see it referred to as wickerwork - denoting the construction method.
What is wicker made from?
As we said at the outset of this section, wicker is a technique that normally uses pliable plant materials such as rattan to create baskets and other items. So, theoretically, wicker can be made from a wide range of different things.
As you’ve probably already guessed, a large amount of wicker products are made from rattan - however, in recent years we’ve seen an increase in furniture made from synthetic rattan (also known as resin wicker, synthetic wicker, all-weather wicker or HDPE wicker). Another form of artificial wicker uses high tensile wire that is then tightly wrapped in paper.
At Wovenhill, we much prefer to use natural rattan in our wicker baskets. Rattan is a strong, durable, easily maintained material that provides years of faultless service.
Turning back to natural materials, you can also find wicker furniture that is made from seagrass, reeds, bamboo, willow switches and even canes.
What are the benefits of wicker?
The wicker technique has many benefits which we’ve set out below:
- Aesthetics - wicker is a beautiful weaving technique. It takes many years for wicker weavers to become proficient at their craft. The very finest pieces of wicker furniture are practically works of art.
- Minimal maintenance - the wicker technique creates strong, durable pieces that’ll give you many years of trouble-free service.
- Lightweight - pieces made using the wicker technique are lightweight and easy to move. This makes wicker perfect for storage containers, log baskets or pet beds that might need to be moved around occasionally.
- Water resistant - wicker items can also be used outdoors as it is water resistant. Naturally, you don’t want to leave it completely submerged, but if you happen to spill water on your storage basket or log basket, you don’t need to worry about damage.
What’s the difference between rattan and wicker?
Hopefully it’s already clear what the difference is between rattan and wicker. But if not, here’s our definition:
Rattan is a material, whereas wicker is a weaving technique.
Wicker furniture can be made from a wide array of different plant materials such as seagrass, bamboo, cane or rattan, whilst rattan is basically a raw material which can be turned into wicker furniture.
The key is to remember that the terms tend to be used interchangeably. That is, people will often refer to rattan as wicker and vice versa.
Tip - when buying wicker pieces, make sure you check the material which they are made from. Where possible, select wicker furniture which is made from high-quality, responsibly-sourced rattan, bamboo or seagrass.
What wicker baskets are made from rattan?
So, at this point, we hope we’ve convinced you not only of the beauty and practicality of rattan, but of the benefits of storage baskets made using the wicker technique too.
Below, we’ve set out some of the most popular wicker baskets that are made using rattan (although we also stock a wide range of storage products made from seagrass and bamboo too. We’ll look into these materials in further detail in future blogs).
Do you need an attractive, affordable, environmentally-friendly way of storing household items? Then a rattan wicker storage trunk offers the perfect solution. Our rattan storage trunks feature carry handles for ease of movement, durable leather closure straps and robust hinged lids, meaning they’ll last you a lifetime.
Explore our complete range of rattan wicker storage trunks.
Rattan wicker is the perfect material for log baskets. Lightweight, yet strong, rattan wicker log baskets offer an attractive way to store and move around your firewood.
Our range of log baskets are made from sustainable, natural kubu rattan and are finished with hoop carry handles and eco-friendly jute basket liners.
Explore our complete range of log baskets.
Shelf storage baskets
Have you got shelving at home, but need containers to use with them? Then rattan shelf storage baskets are a great choice.
Ideal for use in bathrooms, bedrooms, living rooms or conservatories, rattan shelf storage baskets are strong, yet lightweight and will comfortably fit a wide range of items from toys and clothing to books and DVDs.
Explore our complete range of shelf storage baskets.
Rattan wicker laundry baskets are extremely popular - and it’s easy to see why!
Offering an attractive, lightweight and strong way of storing your laundry, these laundry baskets offer far more than cheaper plastic alternatives. All of our rattan wicker laundry baskets come with a removable, washable liner so that you can keep your laundry basket clean and fresh!
Explore our complete range of laundry baskets.
Rattan wicker pet beds are perhaps the best type of pet bed you can buy. Why? Well, consider the alternatives. Soft upholstered pet beds can quickly wear out, become smelly and lose their shape. Cheap plastic pet beds are just that - cheap.
Instead, a rattan wicker pet bed will last for years, can easily be cleaned with a washcloth and water and will retain its shape and structure; no matter how much your pet tosses and turns in their sleep!
Our rattan wicker pet beds also come with a comfort pillow as well as a lowered section at the front to make it easier for smaller dogs or cats to get in or out of the bed.
Explore our complete range of pet beds.
Wovenhill: the home of quality rattan wicker baskets
We hope you’ve found our guide to the differences between rattan and wicker useful. Explore the rest of our site to see our complete range of rattan wicker storage products.
Please also take a look at our baskets made from seagrass and bamboo too!
Remember, all of our storage items are made exclusively for Wovenhill. We control stock, quality and design, so if you’re after the best wicker storage products, choose Wovenhill!