The Book of Bamboo


Using bamboo

Bamboo works. Bamboo does more things than any other material. Many of its traditional uses are inventoried here. A shape-shifter, bamboo’s super-human abilities are amazing. Its grass fiber is all that plastic would like to be, plus more. This is an encyclopedia of bamboo ideas.

-- KK 08/18/13


Arundinaria gigantic: 30 feet by 1 1/4 inch, - 10°F
(Arundinaria macrosperma).

One of two bamboos native to the continental United States, its "canebrakes" once covered large areas from Virginia to Texas and provided an effective exist from the South for runaway slaves headed north for freedom before the Civil War.



We live surrounded by such an abundance of tools that the advantage of a material that requires few tools, and those hand powered and even handmade in many cases, is not so apparent in industrial centers as in the hinterlands where bamboo is most abundant.

Bamboo's high silica content is famous for dulling tools. Tool effectiveness will be increased, time spent sharpening reduced, and work in general cheered by using molybdenum steel or an equally hard alloy. Many a bamboo house has been machete built, but more tools are demanded for more refined work, some peculiar to processing bamboo and therefore unavailable at standard tool sources. The Chinese bamboo tub and bucket maker requires some thirty different tools and gadgets to measure, cut, fit, and assemble his wares.



For kites or other miniworks, soak the pieces to be bent overnight in water with a dash of ammonia, then tie in desired shape around a mold to dry. You can heat small pieces in a candle flame. The mortar holding the fibers in place becomes flexible with heat and permits bending to chosen shape, which is retained after cooling. Take care not to scorch or burn bamboo by leaving candle too long in one position. Try using a bucket of hot sand to shape small pieces, as eyeglass doctors do to shape plastic frames. Don't force the bamboo's pace, nor try to bend it too far, or you' ll crack it.



Bamboo animal cages and feeding troughs reduce expensive importation of metal cages, are more amiable to the cages, and can be repaired from locally available material.