Part I The Abaca Fiber
Abaca which is known in the western world as Manila Hemp, Havana and, Seagrass (A misnomer because Seagrass is another natural plant fiber.). It is an indigenous fiber of the Philippines. Abaca fiber is used in the manufacturing of Philippine furniture and accessories. The fibers are often woven into sheets to make upholstery for furnishings or hand woven to make a variety of accessories.
In 1820, a US Navy lieutenant brought abaca fiber samples to the United States. Soon after, an export shipment of abaca was made to Salem, Massachusetts under the product name of simply “Manila”, since the Philippines was then more known by the name of its capital city, Manila. After the opening of the port of Manila in 1834, the Americans became the largest importer of abaca. The American navy used abaca rope because it had a remarkable tensile strength as it was more resistant to salt water.
These same natural fibers are also used for high-tech applications, such as composite for automobiles. Compared to composites reinforced with glass fibers composites with natural fibers have advantages such as lower density, better thermal insulation, and reduced skin irritation. Further, unlike glass fibers, the fibers from Abaca is an ideal material for an emerging green economy because it is lightweight, strong, naturally resistant, inexpensive to produce, and is 100% biodegradable.
Due to environmental concerns caused from the production of synthetic fibers and plastic composites. A number of different industries such as auto, furniture, and construction have switched over to using Abaca for their products. By way of comparison, to produce one ton of Abaca requires less than 10% of energy that is used for the production of plastics such as polypropylene. Overall, the fibers from Abaca are an ideal material for an emerging green economy because it is lightweight, strong, naturally resistant, inexpensive to produce, and is 100% biodegradable.
Currently car manufactures such as BMW and Mercedes Benz have been using Abaca thermoplastics for “soft” applications to replace the plastic portions of dashboard fixtures, the plastic paneling that is used on the car’s doors, and for the linings on trunk and floor mats.
Examples of Furniture and Accessory made with Abaca
The texture and look of abaca is rustic, but still smooth to the touch. It is tightly woven to create a strong, natural product.