Rattans are extensively used for making furniture and baskets. When cut into sections, rattan can be used as wood to make furniture. Rattan accepts paints and stains like many other kinds of wood, so it is available in many colours; and it can be worked into many styles. Moreover, the inner core can be separated and worked into wicker.
Due to its durability and resistance to splintering, sections of rattan can be used as staves or canes for martial arts – 70 cm.-long rattan sticks, called baston, are used in Filipino martial arts, especially Modern Arnis and Eskrima. Rattan is generally the only material accepted for the construction of striking weapons in Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) martial combat.
Along with birch and bamboo, rattan is a common material used for the handles in percussion mallets, especially mallets for keyboard percussion (vibraphone, xylophone, marimba, etc.).
The fruit of some rattans exudes a red resin called dragon’s blood. This resin was thought to have medicinal properties in antiquity and was also used as a dye for violins, among other things. The resin normally results in a wood with a light peach hue.
In early 2010, scientists in Italy announced that rattan wood would be used in a new “wood to bone” process for the production of artificial bone. The process takes small pieces of Rattan and places it in a furnace. Calcium and carbon are added. The wood is then further heated under intense pressure in another oven-like machine and a phosphate solution is introduced. This process produces almost an exact replica of bone material. The process takes about 10 days. At the time of the announcement the bone was being tested in sheep and there had been no signs of rejection. Particles from the sheep’s bodies have migrated to the “wood bone” and formed long continuous bones. The new bone-from-wood programme is being funded by the European Union. Implants into humans are anticipated to start in 2015.
The flexibility and durability of rattan canes make them an effective instrument for inflicting disciplinary pain (caning). A rattan 4 ft (1.2 m) long (1.2 m) and half an inch thick is used for judicial corporal punishment in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei. It is soaked in water before use to make it heavier and even more flexible. This punishment is delivered to the offender’s bare buttocks. It was a rattan (not bamboo, as widely misreported) that was used for the caning of Michael P. Fay in 1994. It is also used to discipline recalcitrant soldiers in the Singapore Armed Forces.
A somewhat thinner rattan cane was the standard implement for school corporal punishment in England and Wales, and is still used for this purpose in schools in Singapore, Malaysia and several African countries.