Cane - Rattan – Wicker - A Primer to understanding this unique Timber Cane (Rattan):

The use of Cane in home furnishings is not new. It dates back to the 1700s in Asia and the Philippines where cane was used to craft many household articles.

England’s love affair of Wicker and Rattan bespeaks Victorian in its most romantic sense. And began back in the 1800’s, America followed in the 1920’s with South Africa catching on in the 1950’s. South Africans longed for a porch full of cane furniture as it was cheaply made and was strictly a type of furniture used on the patio. Today, innovative, well-made designs and combinations of wood, wrought iron and leather with Cane make it an attractive option in dining rooms, bedrooms, lounges and family rooms. However, the Rand is no longer stronger than the Dollar and labour is no longer exploited in South Africa that has resulted in a par of Cane, Wooden or Upholstered Furniture. But, Cane is definitely back for an encore as South African consumers again delight in their casual and comfortable appeal suited to our lifestyle.


Cane is a vine that grows in the mountain regions of the Mallaca Straights and Philippines where the rainfall normally exceeds 1000 mm annually. It grows in tangles, horizontally, like ivy, but is solid, not hollow as in bamboo. Cane is pliable and easily bent and curved (with the aid of steam ovens) to form many shapes for frames. Although highly flexible, it is one of the strongest timbers available.Although Cane is as strong as wood for furniture making, it is much lighter in weight and will withstand tough, daily usage.

All wicker is cane

Although many consumers use the terms “wicker” and cane (rattan) interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Wicker, which means woven, is a by-product of Cane (rattan); hence all Wicker is Cane, but all Cane is not Wicker. Wicker is a term for the smaller stems from the cane plant and is obtained during the harvesting and production period.


Cane cutters live in the jungle in wooden houses built on stilts with their whole livelihood: goats, hens and cows, etc. They are experienced people and control the cutting of cane for harvesting which takes place when the vine is six to fifteen years old. Cane has become scarce due to deforestation and fines applied for cutting immature cane that results in the cutters moving deeper into the jungle. When knots on the cane are far apart this indicates good rain, whereas close knots are as a result of a dry season. If the vines are immature, creasing will take place. At this point, stems can be several metres long with a growth path through every part of the jungle terrain that will not permit use of vehicles and other machinery. As the vines are removed, they are cut into 7m lengths, tied into bundles of usually 50 poles and carried on the backs of the workers, sometimes several miles to local furniture factories or Export Agents.

Natural Manau: Sizing 20/22mm – 32/34mm diameters
Natural Manau cane is the most popular of all the natural canes as it is the easiest to bend.
Natural Batang: Sizing 20/22mm – 32/34mm diameters.
Natural Batang is exactly the same as Natural Manau but not as easy to bend and therefore preferred in straight work.
Natural Tohiti: Sizing 14/16mm – 18/20mm diameters.
Natural Tohiti is the same as all the above natural canes except that it comes in smaller diameters.
Weaving Cane: Sizing 2mm – 15mm diameters. Centre Cane is as the name indicates, the centre of the cane. The raw cane is forced through a stationary cutter and the solid centre of the cane is cut into round pieces of varying millimetre sizes depending on the size of the cutter used.
White Poeleot: Sizing 2/3mm, 2/4mm, 3/6mm diameter White Poeleot is a natural raw material with its skin on. White Poeleot is very popular as a weaving cane through the weaving industry, and is therefore very strong.
Kooboo Basket: Sizing 3/6mm. 4/8mm. 8/11mm. 10/15mm diameter. For those of us who remember being caned at school, that is exactly what Kooboo Basket is. Kooboo is used mainly in the manufacture of dog baskets, it is extremely strong and very supple.
Rattan Peel: Sizing 5/6mm. 6/7mm diameter. Rattan Peel is referred to as Wrapping and is cut from the skin of the Kooboo Basket. Rattan Peel is used for the wrapping of the joints in cane furniture.
Flat Flat: Sizing 5/6mm. 8mm. 10mm. 16mm (width) x 1mm thick. Flat Flat has all the characteristics of centre canes except of course its profile is “flat flat” and as the name suggests it is a flat strip of centre cane. This is ideally used for filling in a basket because the weaving goes quickly and it is very light.
Seagrass Cord: Sizing 3/4mm diameter. Seagrass cord is very popular in the manufacturing of lampshades and basketware. Seagrass has a lovely natural appearance and also has a delightful natural grass odour.
Webbing: Sizes ½ inch x 18 inch (45.72cm), ½ inch x 24 inch (60.96cm) x 15-metre roll. Octagonal mesh webbing (because there are 8 sides to each hole). This is the standard traditional webbing used in the seats of antique chairs and for the paneling of the sides of furniture. It is actually made from chair cane 2.5mm. This webbing has its skin on.


When the poles arrive at the Export Agents in the East, The poles are stripped of bark, boiled in large vessels with a mixture of Palm and Crude oil to eliminate the jungle green colour, fumigated with methol bromide to remove insects as well as moisture and then stood on end in teepee style to dry. The tough outer skin is carefully peeled away. This skin becomes peel cane, known to us as Wrapping, which is to bind the joints of the furniture frame. Wrapping, an extremely tough material is also woven to make cane seats and backs (known to us as Webbing) in addition to other uses. Next, the cured and stripped poles are sanded, cut into appropriate lengths needed for export. These Export Agents export these Cane products to our Import Agents in South Africa.

The species of canes we use for furniture and basketware

Polished Pole Cane: Sizing 10/12mm – 32/34mm diameters. Polished Pole Cane is the description given to all canes that have had their outer skin removed and the cane has then gone through a sanding process to produce a smooth finish. As the skin has been removed from the cane, the cane will now absorb a stain and this cane is therefore ideal for using in furniture that is going to be stained a darker colour. There are three different species of cane in this category, namely Batang, Manau and Tohiti. There is very little difference between the three canes and all types are interchangeable.

Natural pole canes:


We place monthly orders with our Import Agents in South Africa for about 2.5 tons a month of the various sizes and types of cane used for Furniture and Basket ware. Our purchases are dollar related and fluctuate with each purchase. Obviously we have to be astute, as we cannot change our prices monthly, at times certain Canes are unavailable and we have to substitute, ships docking late or strikes at the harbour.

The process and production of cane furniture and basketware


The CUTTING Team Leader and his team initiate the production of furniture in first sorting the type and sizes of Canes needed for the product to be made. The Canes are measured according to specifications and are cut accordingly.


The cut Cane pieces are put into the steam oven that makes them temporarily flexible enough to form into a furniture part in combination with a handmade jig around which the poles are shaped. The jig, a sort of a mould that is handmade and crude in appearance, is actually fashioned with careful accuracy to precise measurements by using the steam oven, which makes the poles pliable, the worker molds the pole to the jig.


The formed Cane pieces are then assembled into a frame using screws and glue. When cool, the pole retains the shape. The advantage is that it is accurate and economical for huge quantities of poles. The disadvantage is that it requires much teamwork.

Wrapping, stopping and filling

The frame is then wrapped with Wrapping covering the joints for aesthetic appeal as well as further strengthening the frame. After wrapping, the frame goes to the Stopping division, where screws and or nails are covered for an all over smooth effect. Once the frame has been stopped, it goes to the Filling section where the frame is further Filled with supports making the frame steadfast for support and durability.


The frame then goes to the Weaving division where specialist craftsmen weave the structure applying skill and talent into their designs. These craftsmen achieve this level after a minimum of 10 years experience.


Natural Finish: This finish is a clear lacquer used on Cane that still has its bark. Refined Finish: Centrecore Canes have had the bark removed. Centrecore is then sanded, lacquer applied and sanded again for a more refined finish. Stained Finish: Like wood furniture, Cane is most often given a finish using stain. We offer 15 different colour stains, which are spirit dyes. This means that it will not cover or hide the grain of Cane but will enhance it.


Cushions of foam or fiber fillings provide comfort in Cane furniture and when covered in a pretty fabric give the furniture its zest. Foam is a cellular material, created by a chemical reaction that results in millions of tiny cells, each acting as a small spring. These cells provide foam cushions with contoured, even support in proportion to the weight applied to a given spot. Our Cane Furniture seats are filled with Polyurethane foam, which is manufactured in a variety of densities and varying degrees of hardness/softness. A good way to tell quality foam is to lift it. The foam should be heavier than it looks and difficult to compress.
The Cushion backs are favoured with a filling of Polypuffs, soft bouncy little balls of foam, a densely textured material of polyester and other synthetic fibers producing a heavy over-stuffed looked.


The fabric selected for upholstering a cushion of a Cane suite or chair is just as important as that for a fully upholstered piece. Like with conventional upholstery, the classic standard for wear applies here: “The tighter the weave, the longer the wear and makes it stain resistant”. For the cleaning of cushions, it is recommended that you use 1 liter of water with 1tablespoon of Bicarbonate of Soda to sponge cushions down for cleaning and freshness.