Craftsmanship: How Wicker Furniture is Made
Perhaps the most attractive aspect of wicker furniture is the way it looks. The wicker weave is not a subtle one: it grabs the eye almost immediately. Its stylish contours accentuate a room, drawing your attention from the designs on the wall to the designs in the furniture.
That kind of look isn’t achieved by accident. Creating wicker furniture is a very deliberate and labor-intensive process—and it’s a process that requires a skilled wicker furniture maker from the very beginning. Selecting the right materials is just step one in a long line of steps that go into creating wicker furniture.
It’s in this section that a piece of raw rattan transforms from its wild roots in Australasia into something completely different—something worthy of your living room.
Throughout this section, we’ll explore how wicker furniture is made by isolating various aspects of manufacturing. However, we’ll tackle more than simply the wicker weave; we’ll also go into what a furniture maker does with rattan after it arrives in their warehouse—and we’ll follow the process until we’ve arrived at a complete piece of wicker furniture.
The Wicker Weave: The Basics
When done right, a wicker weave has a very “natural” look – as if birds somehow landed and decided that instead of creating a nest, they’d like to create a basket (or chair).
Of course, the wicker weave doesn’t arrive to that look by accident. Wicker weaving is a skill that’s been passed down from generations dating back to ancient Egypt and beyond, but it’s not something that people come by naturally. It takes a good degree of skill to be able to handle a wicker weave.
By traditional definition, a wicker weave is simply woven fiber that is formed to create something rigid—in this case, furniture and other items like baskets. As you’re already aware, wicker is not a material itself; instead, it’s the result of weaving a material together in order to hold a solid shape. When handled properly, wicker will hold its shape well despite being very light-weight, which is part of the attraction of wicker furniture in the first place.
If you’ve read this far, then you likely already know all of that. So let’s dig a little deeper into the world of wicker weaving to establish exactly how the weaving is put together.
Wicker Weaving 101
What’s so interesting about wicker weaving is that you often use the same material as both a support structure and as material to hold everything together. For example, a rattan chair will utilize both rattan for the limbs and for the smaller pieces that help hold everything in place. Accomplishing a weave with just one material takes a skilled eye and a lot of experience.
If you’re entering wicker weaving with no idea how it’s done, it may be a good idea to start at the beginning and learn about weaving in general.
Simply put, weaving is accomplished when you take different strands and interlace them with each other in order to create a cohesive whole. There are a lot of different patterns used for weaves; it’s important to remember that wicker isn’t actually a specific pattern of weave.
Instead, a “wicker” weave can include any number of simple or artful weaves. A simple cross-stitching pattern would be an example of a wicker weave. What separates a wicker weave from other weaves—like patterns of fibers cross-stitched into clothing – is that wicker is meant to create a rigid frame.
This definition allows a high variety of stitching patterns to be incorporated into wicker designs, which is why you see so many different types of patterns crafted into wicker furniture.
However, if you want to really train your eye to spot different types of wicker weaving patterns, there may be some worth learning:
- Under-and-Over weaving (or “randing”): Because this is the simplest technique, it is also the easiest. In order to weave this pattern, you lay down one strand of fiber. You then lay another perpendicular fiber over that and continue in this pattern. Interlacing these fibers so that they go “under and over” creates a quick and simple weave.
- Double weaving: Double weaving is the same technique as above, only using two different fiber strands instead of simply one at a time.
- Pairing: Pairing utilizes the same basic pattern of Under-and-Over weaving, but adds a twist: a strand (or double-strand) of fiber is added in and crossed between each spoke so that whichever weaver was “under” is lifted to an “over” position.
- Waling: This is a weave typically used when building up the vertical spokes of a woven piece. It’s a complicated interlocking method known for creating good strength and allowing the spokes to hold their direction—thus allowing the entire structure to hold its shape well.
- Triple twist: Interlacing three weavers at a time, the triple twist is often used to strengthen a weave; it’s particularly useful when new spokes need to be inserted into a weave pattern and held in place.
In many cases, wicker weaving is simply about adding new levels of sophistication on top of the “under and over” pattern; if you want to learn weaving yourself, that pattern is the first you’ll want to master.
Adding Levels, Spokes, and Sides
Wicker weaving gets complicated as you enter three dimensions. It’s not enough to use a simply under-and-over pattern to create a wicker plate; you’ve got to be able to incorporate all three dimensions to create objects as sophisticated as baskets and even furniture.
There are a number of ways to accomplish this. One common method is to create a wicker weave in a circle, using the under-and-over technique as well as pairing to utilize a skeleton of spokes on the bottom. Then, when you have finished the bottom of the basket, you will add longer spokes that can be bent (or pre-bent) to move upwards. You insert these longer spokes into the sections of the weaving left open by the previous spokes and snip off the edges of the spokes already there. If you have constructed a strong weave, the new spokes will hold firmly in place.
These new spokes will be much longer than the finished height of the object you’re creating – you can then use the remaining material (once you’ve constructed a weave moving vertically to the height you’re happy with) to weave a pattern for the rim of the basket.
Naturally, there are a lot of different ways to create and incorporate wicker into different types of furniture. Some objects are created entirely from a weave – such as baskets – while others will rely on heavier frames. There’s a lot more to learn about weaving and how you can use these patterns to create entire varieties of household items, but this “101” lesson will hopefully have provided you with the groundwork to understand what you’re looking at when you encounter a wicker weave in your life.
When you understand all there is to know about wicker weaving, you begin to discover why rattan is perfect for wicker furniture. As a strong, lightweight (but not hollow) fiber, rattan offers everything that wicker items require. However, that doesn’t mean rattan doesn’t still require processing to become wicker furniture. Rattan, like any other raw material, has to go through some degree of modification before it’s ready for use in furniture.
Starting with Large Rattan Poles
When buying rattan wholesale, furniture makers often encounter large, solid rattan poles. These can sometimes range up to 80 feet in length.
Rattan comes into the furniture factory in big, long stalks. It has to be cleaned and processed, the same way a banana may have to have its skin removed. At Wicker Warehouse, we’ll remove the skin from the rattan and keep it aside to use for other purposes.
We cut these poles down to lengths of 8 feet and then remove the strong outer skin—though we save this skin for later use. With the strong skin removed, the poles of rattan can be processed and cut down to just about anything we want, from small “spaghetti”-sized rattan for weaving to wide, “fettuccini”-style weavers.
Of course, while a basket can be made out of “spaghetti” sized rattan, furniture requires a little more strength. That’s why we will also cut broom handle-sized rattan rods for use in furniture. This allows us to create a frame that provides a strong, sturdy foundation to whatever furniture item is being created.
When you look at a large piece of wicker furniture that incorporates a lot of small “spaghetti” sized rattan weavers, you’re likely looking at a combination of rattan rod sizes. The weave itself will be made out of the smaller rattan while the structure is made out of the larger broom handle sized rods. The difference in rattan processing is what allows an entire piece of rattan furniture to be made from the same material, giving it its cohesive appearance.
Building Rattan Furniture from the Ground Up
Before you build anything, it’s necessary to construct a foundation. You can see this when skyscrapers are constructed—for months and even years, workers dig down first, laying a strong foundation. Without a strong foundation, you can’t make a strong structure.
The same principles hold up in the construction of rattan furniture. Luckily, rattan is a material that’s not only ideal for wicker weaving, but is strong enough to support furniture as its foundation, as well. (There are some exceptions to this when regular wood is used to bear more weight or create straight edges. These issues will be addressed later on.)
To begin making rattan furniture that will be expected to bear weight, we have to start with a very strong and sturdy foundation. That is why we will begin our work on furniture by constructing a strong rattan frame, usually by working with the thicker, “broom handle”-sized rattan poles.
After creating a strong rattan frame, we will then hand-weave wicker patterns and attach them—as well as all sorts of different rattan textures—over the frame.
Of course, you can’t construct the kind of rattan furniture we construct—furniture full of subtle and curved edges—unless you knew how to work with the rattan poles and create a furniture frame that features more than straight edges. In order to construct a foundational frame for furniture that itself looks attractive while allowing us to incorporate a large variety of different wicker designs, we have to process the rattan poles before construction.
Shaping and Integrating Wicker Weaving
The basic process of rattan furniture assembly is easy enough to understand: you construct a frame and weave in different patterns and textures of rattan over that solid frame. However, what if you want the frame itself to be part of the design of the furniture?
Since we incorporate attractive design into each and every rattan frame we create, it’s necessary to shape the larger rattan poles even before we assemble the entire frame.
After all, if you look at a wicker chair or a wicker couch, you’ll likely see that it’s flowing and curved—even the larger rods seem to be curved. Does rattan just grow this way and furniture makers happen to get lucky?
As it turns out, there is a lot of work that goes into the process of shaping and curving rattan. Rattan is a good material for accepting these modifications and then holding it well—once rattan has been shaped, it will hold that shape sturdily. But it does require both equipment and know-how in order to get rattan into a desired shape.
Smaller rods of rattan, like many fibers, can be manipulated by hand in order to be woven into a certain shape. However, there’s no way to accomplish this with larger rattan strands, especially because rattan is not hollow.
Furniture makers will use steam – applying both heat and moisture – to modify the shape of rattan poles. First, we will build a form for the shape we want the rattan to hold after it’s been steamed and cooled. Then we steam the rattan and shape it to that form, allowing it to cool (as well as dry). One of the chief advantages of rattan is that it will hold its shape well after it has been steamed, molded, and cooled—in addition to retaining much of its strength. This allows us to create just about any rattan furniture shape we like. If you see rattan furniture with any sort of curve, then the rattan has likely gone through the steaming process.
While this might seem like an intensive process for one piece of furniture, it’s important to remember that many different rattan poles can be steamed at the same time using the right equipment.
With the right equipment and craftsmanship, even the heaviest of rattan poles can go into a form. As a result, we can create rounded rattan, square rattan—really, we can fashion rattan poles into any shape we like. This allows for nearly endless varieties of rattan furniture designs. It also allows rattan to provide the design for different types of furniture from couches to end tables.
However, you’ll notice we employed the phrase “right equipment and craftsmanship.” At every point in the process of modifying rattan from a raw material to a completed piece of furniture, you need skilled craftsmen. It’s not just in the weaving of wicker designs that craftsmanship factors into furniture-making. As you’ll see in the next section, every step along the way requires a skilled eye and a skilled hand.
Hand-Made Furniture: The Art of Rattan Craftsmanship
When you look at a completed piece of wicker furniture, it’s easy to appreciate the craftsmanship. After all, it’s obvious in the weaving of the wicker itself: without a deft hand, there’s no way the design could exist. However, the goal of this section is to enlighten you on the totality of craftsmanship present in each piece of hand-made rattan furniture. In truth, the craftsmanship begins with the processing and shaping of the rattan and only ends when the furniture is ready for sale.
Understanding the Role of Rattan Poles and Frames
In the previous section we covered a little bit about the important role broom handle-sized rattan poles play in the craftsmanship of rattan furniture. The truth is, without these larger poles, no real weight-bearing rattan furniture could be constructed wholly from rattan.
If you want to identify rattan pole craftsmanship in the wicker furniture you’re considering, it’s worth taking some time to explain the exact role of rattan poles. With a well-tuned eye, you’ll be able to spot different types of rattan furniture simply by understanding what kind of frame was used during construction.
The phrase to remember here is what we call “pole rattan furniture.” We define pole rattan furniture as rattan furniture with rattan poles that touch the ground. Many chairs, couches, and tables fall into this category: any piece of furniture heavily relying on pole rattan that has been steamed, cooled, and finished would qualify as pole rattan furniture.
However, even rattan furnishings that don’t feature broom handle or pole rattan still require a frame. Smaller rattan pieces can be constructed with smaller rattan “spokes” as their structure—this is typically the kind of rattan framework you’ll see in baskets, for example. Many furnishings will utilize some combination of rattan sizes, utilizing heavy poles for the furnishings and smaller “spaghetti” sized rattan for weaving.
With rattan’s ability to hold its shape after steaming and cooling, it’s entirely possible to create a unique shape for furniture through the framing alone while weaving in wicker patterns over the top of these frames. Many “Tahiti”-style frames will utilizes this method. However, the truth is that a variety of rattan furnishings will utilize the basic method of attaching wicker weaves over thicker rattan pole frames.
Constructing the Frame and Holding it Together
Because wicker craftsman can indeed construct a piece of rattan furniture using rattan as the only material used, many people ask about how rattan can be used in all aspects of a rattan’s structure. Many people wonder how you can look at a piece of rattan furniture and only see rattan. This is possible thanks to the craftsmanship of the people creating the piece by hand.
Though it requires experience and a certain amount of artfulness in order to execute, the process of holding a frame together using rattan is actually quite simple to understand.
All of the poles will be attached to one another by our skilled craftsmen. These attachments—often known as joints—will then be wrapped with the rattan skin we removed and kept in the early stages of rattan processing. We may also wrap joints with “Fettucini” sized rattan so that all of the connections and joints are covered and look pleasing, revealing none of the work underneath. The overall effect is that the entire chair is covered in or constructed from rattan, making it more attractive and giving it the “organic” quality that only rattan wicker can achieve.
Because even rattan peelings are strong, these joints hold up well. An additional material of use is leather because it shares many of the qualities of rattan skin that we furniture makers are looking for to cover up joints.
How each frame is constructed, however, will depend on the make of the furniture being constructed. For example, on an end table, the construction process will loosely follow these steps:
- Constructing the frame first. This includes using a heavier rattan for the frame. This part will vary depending on the type of piece being created; a loveseat, for example, will require more work on the frame to ensure it can support enough weight.
- Covering the joints and connections. Wrapping the joints and connections with rattan (either using rattan skin or smaller cuts of rattan) is essential so that nothing but rattan shows.
- Creating crossbars for the shelf underneath. While the shelf itself will be mostly smaller rattan, it will still bear weight; that means the crossbars that support this weight will have to be inserted next.
- Weaving. Once the basic structure is finished—featuring both the frame and the crossbars for the shelf—we will hand the furniture off to our wicker weaver. The piece will then be hand-woven and hand-tied to create the overall look of complete wicker covering the piece. If the worksmanship is done properly, there will be no additional rattan sticking out; it will instead be a cohesive whole.
An end table is a fairly straight-forward example of rattan furniture, but it should give you an idea of what the process is like and in which order the steps need to be accomplished.
Wicker Weaving Craftsmanship
The wicker weave on the exterior of the furniture is going to be the most noticeable part of the entire set; it needs to be done right. Because the wicker weave is often one of the last steps of the process (aside from additional steps like painting, sealing, and installing cushions), it’s important to have skilled, quality craftsman working on the wicker weaving. Even in synthetic wicker, the wicker should be hand-woven and hand-tied.
You can quickly tell if the hand-weaving on the wicker was skilled or not. For starters, the beginnings and the ends of the weave should not be exposed; they should be covered by the middles of the weave. The weave should also be consistent yet artful; anything protruding that shouldn’t be protruding or a weave off here or there might indicate that the weave wasn’t made by an experienced hand.
A Note on Wood-Lining
Although much of the furniture we make includes a foundational frame made from rattan, sometimes it’s important to line wood into the making of furniture. This is usually done for two reasons: first, we’ll include wood in the frame of the piece for furniture will need to support a lot of weight. Beds are a common example of this. Second, we sometimes use wood when straight lines or ninety-degree angles (such as trunks) are needed. We approach every piece of furniture as its own creature and use wood only when necessary.
Trunks and bedroom furniture are some of the most common furniture items we create that feature wood. This makes the trunks strong enough to sit on, and obviously offers the support a bed needs if it’s going to be subject not only to daily sleeping by two people, but the various challenges of family life (including children jumping on the bed). Of course, the wood is incorporated into the rattan design so that you can’t see it, allowing the full rattan “look.”
The use of wood is a chief difference between trunk ends and bedroom furniture as opposed to loveseats and rocking chairs. We generally don’t use wood to line living room or dining room seating, including couches and loveseats. However, we also don’t approach every item with a steadfast rule of whether or not to use wood: each piece is different.
Crafting Synthetic Rattan Furniture
In examining the process of crafting rattan furniture thus far, we’ve mostly dealt with creating furniture almost entirely out of rattan. Even though there are a number of steps in the construction of rattan wicker furniture, it’s possible to use the full stalk of rattan in order to craft each piece, from the skin on down.
Now it’s time to address the creation and craftsmanship of synthetic rattan furniture. While the end-result of synthetic furniture looks and feels similar to real rattan, the truth is that the entire process is in many ways different from crafting natural rattan furniture, with many similarities to point out as well. In this section, we’ll explore the materials and strategies used to create synthetic rattan furniture that resembles the real thing.
Constructing Synthetic Frames
The first step in creating a piece of rattan furniture is to process the raw material. As stated, rattan will arrive to our factory in large stalks that have to be peeled of their skin and cut down into varying sizes.
In the creation of synthetic furniture, however, aluminum is the primary material. Aluminum poles don’t require the same processing as rattan; for example, you don’t need to steam aluminum in order to bend it into its proper shape. Aluminum frames are very easy to create for this reason.
Aluminum, like rattan, is a very handy material for creating wicker furniture. Like rattan, aluminum is lightweight while also being strong and easy to shape. This allows us to make a variety of designs for synthetic wicker furniture the same way we’ll try out a number of designs for natural rattan. With synthetic frames, the possibilities of design are really limitless and bound only by the imagination of the designers and craftsman working on them.
Like rattan, aluminum frames also have to be considered by the furniture maker. Is the aluminum thick enough to support the kind of furniture that’s being created? These questions must be answered before the furniture maker continues.
Of course, synthetic frames are bound together using different methods than the binding for rattan furniture. As you’ll see, however, we easily interlace synthetic wicker on the outside of these frames much in the same way we’ll attach natural rattan to larger rattan rods. Even though the materials are different, a great deal of the process is the same.
In order to produce a piece of synthetic wicker furniture that is resistant to weather damage, however, it means finding the best synthetic materials for producing the synthetic wicker weave.
All About Synthetic “Wicker”
With aluminum poles serving as the structure for our synthetic wicker furniture (the same way pole rattan works for natural wicker), the next question is simple: what material we use for synthetic wicker weaving?
We use high density polyethylene, or HDPE. Unlike natural rattan, HDPE is non-porous. It can also be bought already-dyed from the factories that produce it, which means we can skip the typical sealing/painting process that is often required when producing rattan furniture. It is possible to paint HDPE another color after the dying process, but it will require a special type of paint in order to work right.
It’s the non-porous nature of synthetic wicker like HDPE that makes it so special. Being non-porous, HDPE will not absorb moisture. HDPE is also infused with ultra-violet protectors that allow you to keep the furniture out in the sun without having it succumb to UV damage. These properties are already inherent in the HDPE before we weave it onto the furniture.
When it comes to craftsmanship, the process of synthetic wicker is just like the process in weaving natural wicker. We will take the aluminum frame we’ve created and integrate hand-woven synthetic wicker into the design, covering up any joints to ensure that the overall look of the piece of furniture is exactly how we want it to be. The weaving patterns we use with synthetic wicker are just as hand-crafted and artistic as the natural rattan weaving patterns.
The result of crafting this hand-woven synthetic wicker over the rest of the frame is that the HDPE is what gets exposed to sunlight and rain. Because HDPE is non-porous and UV-protected, it won’t “weather” like natural rattan. Even if you were to remove the HDPE from the furniture, you would simply expose aluminum underneath, a material that is highly weather-resistant.
Putting it All Together
The same essential process—starting with a strong, lightweight frame and weaving wicker over it—is what we use for both synthetic and natural wicker furniture. However, because of the nature of synthetic wicker, it’s important to note a few key differences that come along during production of synthetic wicker furniture.
- Painting and sealing: In natural rattan, sealing helps to preserve its longevity and painting brings it from its natural colors to the color of your choice. With synthetic wicker furniture, the HDPE is already pre-dyed and there’s no need for sealing because the material is non-porous. Additionally, if you want to paint synthetic wicker, you’ll need a special paint; this is not true for natural rattan. (Another note: the water seal around natural rattan will eventually start to wear down. The sealing process makes it better capable of handling water, but it will still eventually wear away. If you’re getting charged extra for water sealing, you might want to try another furniture maker).
- Pliability: HDPE has to be warmed to be pliable, similar to the “steaming” undergone by rattan during its own shaping. However, the two processes aren’t the same, even if both substances need a little “coercion” for extra pliability.
- Full coloring: Painting a rattan chair can be done after the whole structure is completed. It’s not the same with similar furniture made from aluminum and HDPE. Instead, we will paint the aluminum frame first in order to ensure a proper color match and then weave the HDPE wicker to the outside. This is because HDPE doesn’t respond exactly the same to the paint that we will use on the aluminum, whereas natural rattan furniture will respond to paint in a uniform manner.
Aside from these key differences, much of the process of crafting wicker furniture from natural and synthetic materials follows the same basic steps. However, it’s important to find a furniture maker who will pay attention to the subtleties of handling each type of material.
Cushions, Fabrics, and Finishing the Furniture
If you look at a piece of wicker furniture, you’re bound to notice the wicker designs—the elaborate weaving, the uniform color, the natural appearance. However, there’s more to consider when you’re buying your furniture, just as there’s more to consider from the furniture maker’s point of view: cushions and fabric.
After all, no one is going to sit down on a piece of wicker furniture without a proper cushion to make the piece comfortable. And while some wicker items don’t require cushioning (hampers, end tables, etc.), many of your most important wicker purchases—like chairs and couches—do.
That’s why it’s essential to not only examine the process of building natural and synthetic wicker frames, but understanding the craftsmanship of fabrics, cushions, and everything involved with finishing a complete work of wicker furniture.
Cushions: Maximizing Comfort and Effectiveness
As someone who’s going to be sitting and lying in your wicker furniture, you should place paramount importance on the kind of cushions you deal with.
For indoor natural rattan furniture, we focus on cotton fabrics filled with foam. These cushions, designed for inside use, are probably the most comfortable you’ll find on indoor furniture—and they work well with rattan because we will construct a frame that properly holds the cushions in place.
There’s more to the story of cushions than comfort, however. It’s also important to get the most possible life out of your cushions. In order to accomplish this, we’ll work on building rattan furniture that can hold cushions that will be easily flipped over. A prime example comes from our Savannah Rattan Bistro Set: you can see that the chair cushions fit snugly in with the rattan and are symmetrical, allowing them to be flipped over at a moment’s notice.
Flipping over cushions regularly helps to maintain them, keep them clean, and also extends the life you’ll get out of them because you’re constantly changing where the cushions are getting most of their wear and tear. Look for similar designs to the Savannah Rattan Bistro Set if you’re concerned about the wear and tear your cushions will receive on a regular basis.
The effectiveness of these cushions also makes for easier furniture maintenance. As the cushions are held snugly in place by the furniture frame we’ve designed, you can easily remove them and re-attach them later when you want to dust off your wicker furniture or flip the cushions over. The end result of a well-designed wicker cushion set is that you’ll get more life out of them, they’ll be easy to maintain, they’ll lock in place, and they’ll offer you the most possible comfort.
Fabrics: The Unsung Hero of Long-Lasting Wicker Furniture
Like the materials from which your wicker furniture is crafted, the fabrics that line your cushions need to be strong, durable, comfortable, and attractive. While few people think about fabrics when they consider wicker furniture, it’s an important piece of the puzzle—and one that you’ll need to pay attention to during your next furniture purchase.
Fabrics, like wicker materials, come in both natural and synthetic versions. Cotton fabrics are ideal for inside use as they’re comfortable, sturdy, and match the organic attractiveness of natural rattan. Look for fabrics with higher stitch counts if you want a fabric that wears well.
Synthetic fabrics are generally very strong. Mostly made out of spun polyester or acrylic materials, synthetic fabrics are also difficult to dye. When the fabric mill applies a design print to the fabric it produces, they use what’s called a “silk screening” process. This sets the dye on top of the fabric without dyeing it through—cotton, in contrast, can be dyed through. The advantage of synthetic fabric’s inability to color all the way through, however, is that they are also resistant to fading.
Another advantage to synthetic fabrics, like synthetic wicker, is that they can include added ultraviolet (UV) ray protection. When we at Wicker Warehouse use synthetic fabrics, we generally use spun polyester with a minimum of 500 hours of UV protection. There are synthetic fabrics available with higher-grade UV protection, such as Sunbrella acrylic fabrics, which offer some 2,000 hours of UV protection. These fabrics employ a more expensive dying process, but the end result includes better wear.
It is possible to receive spun polyester floral fabric with no UV treatment. This fabric will be less expensive, but the trade-off is that it will wear out faster when exposed to the sun. As is so often the case with furniture, you get what you pay for.
Sealing, Painting, and Finishing
After all of the craftsmanship—shaping the materials, painting the aluminum, creating a wicker weave, selecting a fabric—has been finished, the wicker furniture piece is nearly complete. However, the specific final step in finishing a fully-crafted piece of wicker furniture depends on how it was made.
- Sealing: Generally, sealing is only necessary as a final step when working with rattan. We generally don’t water-seal our rattan furniture because the seal wears off and only adds to the final costs of the piece. Some wicker furniture makers will use inexpensive steel instead of aluminum in their synthetic pieces and use a water seal to prevent rust—this, too, however, fades eventually.
- Painting: Most often, painting is only a concern at two points: finishing a natural rattan piece or finishing a synthetic frame. It’s important to paint aluminum to the same color as the pre-dyed synthetic wicker that will be used on the outer sections before the outer sections are assembled. Natural rattan, however, is porous and will easily accept paint. Before the cushions are attached, natural rattan pieces can be painted whole.
- Finishing: This is a very important point, because how an item is “finished” depends on how it was made. Some furniture makers will finish a less-expensive steel frame with water sealant, for example—however, as this easily wears off, we believe it to be inferior to aluminum. Others might finish natural rattan with a sealant as well. In general, it’s best to look for wicker furniture that has been minimally-sealed. Synthetic wicker should already come pre-dyed, painted, and ready for outdoor use; it doesn’t require further sealing or finishing.
Now that you understand what goes in to creating a piece of wicker furniture (literally) from scratch, it’s time to look at all of the varieties of furniture this process can create.