Those of you with a affinity for home décor will have noticed that Rattan and Cane furniture is back in fashion this year, in a big way. For us however it has never gone out of style and is an important part of our heritage as a retailer.
Fred Aldous the First had been working in the Victorian cotton mills of Manchester when he noticed that they were using cane baskets to carry the cotton, this gave him an entrepreneurial idea. He began importing the cane from South East Asia to sell to the Victorian cotton traders so they could make their baskets.
Cane is the product that Fred Aldous ltd was founded on, and it is something that we still sell to this day. These photo’s from the Fred Aldous archive were taken around 1940 and show the way how cane was processed.
The thick bark of the rattan palm vine is covered in thorns, which are removed once the plant is harvested ready to be processed. Once the bark has been stripped from the vine, it is processed into two different types of cane, Chair and Centre.
The Chair cane is flat, made from the outer parts of the vine, whilst Centre cane is round, made from the centre of the palm. After the vines have been removed of all traces of the thorns they are then mechanically sanded ready to be split into cane lengths.
These lengths are then sorted by graded width or gauge from No.0 upwards, these are then chopped into lengths of 2 – 3 metres and sold in 500g bundles.
Centre Cane No11 - 3.5mm 500g
Centre Cane No10 - 3.30mm 500g
Chair Cane No1 - 1.7mm 250g
Chair Cane No4B - 3.7mm 250g
Strips of Chair Cane can then be woven to make pre woven cane, this webbing can be used for a number of uses, from seating to decorative framework. This is sometimes referred to as Open Weave Rattan Webbing.
Cane furniture first arrived in Europe around 1660 from the Dutch colonies in South East Asia, but there is evidence of cane being used for furnishings in Ancient Egypt. In England, during the Restoration period, furniture designers were influenced by the decorative and functional colonial furniture and began using cane and rattan within their designs.
Perhaps the most famous use of Cane in furniture design was for the Bentwood Chairs by Gebrüder Thonet first produced in 1859. The No.14 Café Chair is considered to be the first piece of flat pack furniture, and the most successful mass produced item of modern furniture design. With a cane seat base and bent wooden back rest the chair had a clean aesthetic and simple assembly process, making it popular with cafés and restaurants worldwide.
Today, there has been a notable trend for natural wood inspired by Scandinavian interiors so it is no surprise that cane and rattan have made a come back. From 70’s inspired pieces to contemporary aesthetics, cane furniture can find a place in any home.
If you would like to try making your own cane furniture and items for around the home, then we encourage you to give it a try and keep the craft of cane working alive. To get started with Cane head to our Cane Work department here.