Rattan basket

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Project by Betsy posted 10-12-2009 12:53 AM 2234 views 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve always wondered about making baskets. Never done it, but figured it had to be easy if they say athletes, supposedly the dumb ones, could take basket weaving in college to get credit. Boy was I wrong! Basket weaving is not for the faint of heart. The actual weaving is not that hard – but getting the frame set and doing the side piece to get the basket to stay together while you do the actual weaving is not easy.

Anyway, I was thinking that I might try to incorporate the weaving into some box tops, but figured I better take a class or two to get the idea on how to do it properly.

So this is technically not “woodworking” but since I plan to try to incorporate it into my woodworking – figured I could post it here as a project.

This basket is done with rattan. Here’s a little explanation of what rattan is – taken from a website.

Rattan grows in a long slender stem, which maintains an almost uniform diameter throughout its length. It grows in a manner similar to a vine, but has an inner core and is not hollow like bamboo. The shade in the rain forests is very dense and climbing on tree limbs is the most practical way for the rattan vines to reach the light above the forest canopy. The outer portion of the stem is extremely hard and durable, while the inner portion of the stem is softer and somewhat porous.

There is no harvesting season for rattan, it grows year round. Harvesting can be difficult due to the landscape and inaccessibility of the jungle. The diameter and length of the rattan according to the specie of rattan can be as long as 600 feet, however they are cut into 12-15 lengths and tied into large bundles to make the journey from jungle to processing area. Rattan, originates from South East Asia from Loas, Cambodia, Phillipines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam with over 500 species of which only 4 are used in the production of our gift accessories.

The first step in the rattan product development process is harvesting. This is labor-intensive and is typically carried out by teams of villagers, who take turns harvesting their rattan gardens with other local farmers helping out. To watch the farmers cut and strip the rattan of its thorny outer layer is pretty amazing. These guys climb the trees, get out their machetes and then start hacking away – only its not really hacking. It requires great skill to first cut the rattan and then, with a secondary blow, split off the outer layer and peel out the core rattan.

Once the rattan has been harvested, it has to be prepared before it can be used in weaving for rattan-based craft. The first step is to wash the rattan in the river to remove any stains and clean the product, stripping away the layer of silica that tends to coat the core rattan.

The next step is to cure the rattan, turning its color from a pale green into the yellow that most people are familiar with by smoking it. The raw, washed rattan is loaded into what looks like a wood-framed tent that has its floor about a foot off the ground. Many “bushels” of raw rattan are piled on top of one another until the wooden frame is full. The frame is then covered with tarpaulin, which is secured to the ground using stone weights. The charcoal is ignited and placed under the tent, and the smoking process begins. It usually takes about a day or so to complete this curing and smoking process.

After curing, the rattan has to be dried to remove excess moisture and make the product suitable for use. This is done outside under the hot equatorial sun, and takes perhaps another two or three days to complete.

After drying, the rattan is ready for use. It is then further processed into peel for weaving, or core products that are flexible and can be used used for binding to create the baskets and home accessories at our factory.

Thanks for looking.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

9 comments so far

View dustyal's profile


1295 posts in 3498 days

#1 posted 10-12-2009 01:08 AM

Nice basket… Basket making takes a high skill and I’d never have the patience for it. I like rattan furniture… strong, but light in weight when the Mrs decides to rearrange furniture. We got rid of the very heavy oak antique furniture in favor of rattan along with some wicker and some bamboo pieces… I really don’t know the difference other than a lot easier on my back when it comes to reorganization…

-- Al H. - small shop, small projects...

View lew's profile


12100 posts in 3778 days

#2 posted 10-12-2009 04:00 AM

Nice work, Betsy.

I saw a “woven” basket in a woodworkers magazine a couple of years ago. Thought they might make nice Christmas gifts. Never did try them- so thanks for the warning!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View jerryw's profile


158 posts in 3939 days

#3 posted 10-12-2009 04:31 AM

nice basket! you picked a very hard basket for your first one. try a nantuckit style basket next time. they use a wooden base about 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick with a 1/16 in. groove in the edge. insert your staves into the groove and bend them up and start weaving. i make a lot of the bases for a local basket maker.

-- jerryw-wva.

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3549 days

#4 posted 10-12-2009 04:34 AM

Oh my fingers hurt just thinking about all the work you put into this wondrous basket. Great job!

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3241 posts in 3735 days

#5 posted 10-12-2009 05:35 AM


You just keep expanding your skills! Can’t wait to see how you incorporate this new skill with your boxes.

The information you shared on rattan was extremely informative. Thanks for posting.

-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3600 days

#6 posted 10-12-2009 06:24 PM

Looks good

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View ohwoodeye's profile


1991 posts in 3176 days

#7 posted 10-12-2009 06:35 PM

I did flunk basket weaving in college so I majored in Under Water Yugoslavian Folk Dancing instead. Didn’t fare much better. Nice basket.

-- Directions are just the Manufacturer's opinion on how something should be assembled. ----Mike, Waukesha, WI

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3919 days

#8 posted 10-12-2009 07:08 PM

Thanks for all the kind words.

Jerry – I’m going to have to look into that style. Maybe I might try that as well!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View woodbutcher's profile


592 posts in 4189 days

#9 posted 10-12-2009 09:34 PM

Wow that rattan, looks like a wood product to me. That basket looks like it could be as difficult to complete as a dovetail might be. Nice job. I really like the square sides at the handle. Great job!

Ken McGinnis

p.s. I took the liberty of mailing photos to Frank Klausz, and asking him just what he had taught you recently!

-- woodbutcher north carolina

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