Over the past decade, many of the more inquisitive customers at White Stores have wanted to know how our rattan garden furniture is actually made. Now, thanks to the assistance of one of our Vietnamese suppliers, all can be revealed!
Modern day rattan garden furniture, often also referred to as wicker garden furniture, is mostly produced by South East Asia countries like China, Vietnam and Malaysia. Although the weaving technique employed by these skilled craftspeople has hardly changed over the centuries, the actual materials they use to construct the furniture have dramatically been improved upon in recent years.
Thanks to the latest developments in technology, organic rattan has now been replaced by a synthetic rattan, more commonly known as PE rattan or poly rattan, made from non-toxic polyethylene fibre. That’s a new type of tough and flexible plastic to us non-scientific folk. Not only does this new version of rattan look identical to the original, the advanced properties of this durable and long-lasting material make it particularly well suited to the rigorous demands of outdoor furniture.
First and foremost, synthetic rattan has a high resistance to the potentially harmful effects of water and sunshine. Without this built-in UV protection from sun rays, the rattan weave would eventually crack and snap when exposed to sunlight. It’s equally resistant to the other environmental hazards encountered by our outdoor furniture on a daily basis, namely mould, insects and fungus. Salt water and chlorine doesn’t bother synthetic rattan either, so it’s equally at home near the beach or swimming pool. Combined with the use of lightweight, rust-proof aluminium frames, contemporary rattan garden furniture is weather-proof and easy to move around, yet robust enough to last for many years of regular use.
Modern rattan garden furniture is also well-known for being supremely low maintenance. Synthetic rattan has a glossy look. There is no need to varnish or paint this furniture every year to protect it from the elements. Just keep it clean with soapy water, a sponge and a gentle hose down when required. Lastly, there’s the added bonus of synthetic rattan being 100% recyclable and ecologically sound.
How Rattan Garden Furniture Is Made
Now that we have established its impeccable outdoor living credentials, let’s go step-by-step through the actual process of making this incredible rattan garden furniture.
Producing rattan furniture remains a highly skilled job for individual furniture makers, even in the 21st century. The weavers must skilfully work in three dimensions to create each piece of furniture by hand. Firstly, the basic aluminium framework for the furniture is assembled. Lightweight aluminium tubes are cut, bent, curved and welded together to suit the furniture’s shape.
Strips of rattan weaving are then added to the framework to create the chair, table, bench, lounger, daybed or whatever design you require. A typical weave pattern consists of horizontal strips threaded under and over vertical strips. Ideally, there should be as few visible spaces or gaps in the weaving as possible.
The soft texture of synthetic rattan makes it easier for people to manipulate and work with. Back in the day, the strands of organic rattan needed to be soaked in water for many hours to help make it more flexible and pliable before this phase, known in the trade as ‘randing’, could begin.
Small nails or staples are used to physically attach the rattan weave to the furniture frame, this is known as binding. It’s a fine balancing act, as each section of rattan weave needs to be taut, but may break or snap if the weave is too tightly wrapped.
Along with a wide choice of weave sizes, colours and textures, there are many different types of weaving pattern that can be used to produce a different look or style for the rattan garden furniture being manufactured. Popular patterns include normal weaving, loose weaving, staircase weaving and fishtail weaving.
It can take even an expert weaver hours to hand weave a single rattan chair! Once the item of furniture is made, each piece goes onto the QC (Quality Control) inspection stage before being carefully packaged for transport to local garden furniture dealers, wholesalers and UK retailers like White Stores.
This short but revealing YouTube video shows us a brief glimpse into daily life on the busy factory floor at one of the leading Vietnamese makers of rattan garden furniture –
Imperfectionally Perfect Rattan
As you have seen in the YouTube video above, rattan garden chairs and tables are products expertly crafted and woven by human hand, not automated factory robots. They are individually crafted objects, not mass-manufactured smart phones or laptop computers which look exactly the same as one another. That’s why scratches, scuff marks, gaps and other slight imperfections can sometimes been seen in the weave and frames on rattan furniture. It’s the price we must pay to own a truly unique piece of garden furniture.
Of course, it doesn’t necessarily help matters when all of the Far East’s rattan furniture makers insist on their employees working directly on hard concrete rather than use suitably padded floors in their factories and workshops. (Again, as shown in our blog’s YouTube video above.) Unlike their Western counterparts, I guess the local shoppers in China and Vietnam are more focussed on low pricing rather than faultless presentation.
James Whiteley, the founder and managing director of White Stores, has politely asked all of our garden furniture suppliers to improve this part of the production process during his many on-site visits to their factories and workshops over the past decade. However, this seemingly simple change would significantly hike up the overall manufacturing and retail cost of rattan garden furniture, something that nobody wants to happen.
Rattan Furniture In The Garden
In the meantime, here are just a few examples of the beautiful work achieved by these incredibly talented rattan garden furniture makers.
Special thanks to our supplier Viet Products Corp. Furniture for their help in making this guide to how rattan garden furniture is made.
For more information about rattan garden furniture, please see our Rattan Garden Furniture Buyer’s Guide or Cleaning & Caring For Rattan Garden Furniture Tips.
If you have any further questions about rattan and the traditional or modern methods used to manufacture garden furniture, please go ahead and ask us in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box below…