There is something very special, about a top grade Malacca cane. Nevertheless, the first questions must be, what is Malacca and where is a Malacca cane from.
A Malacca shaft is a member of the rattan family which holistically holds roughly 600 species. A slender woody type stem of an Asian rattan or maniala palm be it Calamus rotang, Calamus Ascipionum) or Calamus scipionum. Traditionally,grown in the Malacca district of Malaysia.
Structure of Malacca
Internally, a Malacca shaft is fibrous rather than solid like wood or hollow like bamboo. The outer side of Malacca is defined as ‘skin’,‘bark’ or ‘cuticle’ The Malacca shaft holds a more translucent silky huge and feel with no two shaft’s holding the same colouration, diameter, length or structural straight length.
The bark of a Malacca is individual to each cane. Being from the rattan family the Malacca shaft holds growth ‘nodes’, ‘steps’ or ‘jumps’. The further apart these nodes were located, the more the Malacca shaft became desirable. In contrast, the closer the growth ‘nodes’ were, the lower the quality of the shaft and the need for adaptation.
The modification to achieve the desired cane structure involved paring down the lower closely aligned nodes, but this also took away the lower levels of the shaft bark. This is why you will see descriptions for a Malacca shaft full bark, half bark or three quarter bark. Where the bark has been removed the area was sanded, filled and painted to achieve a near match to the remaining bark on the shaft.
Unfortunately, the primitive technique that was applied, caused many bared shafts over time to become worn and discoloured due to the loss of the protective bark. The increased porosity within the lower shaft area causing the paint to discolour and flake away. This has evolved into seeing variable amounts of quite shabby looking canes
The Malacca Backbone
There is a very unique characteristic in Malacca that will not be found in wood or other rattan species and that is the ‘backbone’, ‘ridge’. ‘high ridge’ or ‘tear drop ridge’ This ridge can be seen or felt running down one side on a Malacca shaft. The premium quality cane will hold an easily visual distinguishable ridge from the top to bottom of the cane. The lower quality will go from three quarter to half way down the shaft. This may or may not be due to the paring of nodes and bark.
Quality Verses Availability
The naturally grown shafts of Malacca were graded from poor to excellent for the making of walking canes. Varying textual reports suggest that historically availability of pure excellent Malacca shafts would be no more than 2%.
The characteristics of king of king’s Malacca’s are that they are perfectly straight with no deviation along the shaft. The bark or skin in existence from the top of the shaft to the bottom as the nodes are far enough apart to achieve the desired length The ridge or tear drop line from top to bottom and a colouration, and sheen that is magnificent be the pigmentation light blonde or through the scale to a deep rich red brown. The price, for this level of Malacca is to say the least, high and the reasoning, why predominantly only used in the premium walking canes. One must add at this point that a cane with a Malacca shaft was primarily used as a day cane rather than a dress cane.
For further reading please look to the following texts:
Fascinating Walking Sticks by A.E.Boothroyd
Canes Through The Ages by Francis H. Monek,