Antique Canes and Walking Sticks
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Malacca Canes

Early in this century, Malacca was referred to as the “King of Canes." Malacca is one species of rattan (Calamus Ascipionum) found on the coast of Sumatra. Rattan palms have long, slender stems, and were perfect for fashioning walking sticks. The stem is not round, but has a ridge or spine, often called a “teardrop,” running along its length. It is very light-weight, yet strong, with no two specimens being alike. The stem is made up of links with joints or nodes at both ends like bamboo. The bark is strong, with what appears to be a satiny, natural gloss or surface glaze. Color varies from brown to blond or reddish amber.

With regard to its value and subsequent use in the production of walking sticks, it was necessary that there be sufficient length between two joints, sufficiently elevated “teardrop” or ridge (the more pronounced, the more desirable), appropriate taper towards the tip, and glossy surface. Malacca walking sticks meeting this criteria, called “single bark” or “full bark” Malacca, were much prized. Inferior sticks, upon closer inspection, have been altered in appearance on the lower third of the stick, where a joint or node has been shaved down, smoothed, re-tapered and finally repainted to match the upper two-thirds of the stick. These are called “half-bark” Malacca. “Bent” Malacca refers to a crook handled Malacca waking stick where the entire stick is fashioned out of a single stem. It is unusual to find such a stick, given the length of stem that is required. “Stepped” Malacca, as pictured in the carriage cane below, with silver fittings covering the joint or node.

Malacca: Three examples

Half-bark Malacca

Teardrop Ridge

Stepped Malacca

 

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