Friday, 29 January 2010

The Asian Rattan Adventure - part three

Our visit to the rattan processing factories!

The first thing you notice when you walk into the large barn where the fresh rattan is stored is the smell, a sweet "fresh air" smell a bit like newly mown grass. The recently delivered long lengths of Indonesian rattan are stacked high awaiting grading and sorting. It is surprising just how soft and pliable the fresh, unprocessed rattan is, it has an almost velvety texture and it feels moist, it bends so easily. First stage, the vines have to be measured by diameter.

The sorters sit on a bench with a series of thickness gauges attached in front of them. As they pass the rattan through the gauges, they are constantly manipulating the vine to make it straight ready for the next process, it is fascinating to watch. Their hands are so sensitive to a change in diameter that they hardly seem to need the gauges, every so often they will cut a length and throw it into one sizing section, then the next length of the vine may be only 1mm thinner or thicker, but that too will be measured and thrown into the next sizing section along. As they do this there is a constant clicking sound as the rattan taps together like drumsticks beating.

Next the rattan goes for cutting. One operator feeds the rattan into the rear of the machine, whilst a second sits in front catching the split rattan as it flies out. It takes a great deal of coordination between the two workers. The machines may be cutting the cane to different widths so are separated by boards to prevent the cut canes from each area becoming mixed up. Once cut, the cane is hung out to dry either outside or in one of the barn like storage areas. Then it is bundled together and taken to the weighing and packing area.

Here assorted lengths of cane are hung on hooks over a deep pit, bundles of the different lengths are then  selected, equally combined, weighed and tied together ready to be hanked or wound into rounds.

Finally the rounds or hanks are packed ready for boxing and weighed again, ready to be sent all over the world. All of the photos above have been captured from video footage that we took during the visit. I am hoping to edit it soon and eventually make a short film available online, the trouble is, (as always) time is money and I have so much work that I need to catch up on I can't really spare the time to do the editing!!

Part four will unravel the mystery of how pre-woven cane panelling is made.

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