7 Characteristics of bamboo
1. Bamboo is not completely hollow.
Bamboo has plant fibres which form horizontal discs across sections of each cane as the bamboo grows. From the outside of the pole the clue to spotting these is the prominent bumps or ‘nodes’. If you want to run a wire, pipe or water through the centre of your pole, then these discs of fibre can easily be knocked through with a sharp spike or even a broom handle.
Left: Workshop staff hanging from a bamboo pole, shows it is strong and has very little bend.
Right: A bamboo slat is being bent in the workshop by hand. Slivers of bamboo are easier to bend when dry.
2. Bamboo doesn’t bend easily when dry
You may have seen fantastic architectural structures with arching bamboo beams in a tropical paradise. These buildings are usually made from locally harvested ‘green’ bamboo, which is bent soon after harvest using heat, wooden jigs and lots of hard work!
3. Bamboo handles are not made from bamboo poles
Posh handbags with what appear to be bamboo canes curved into handles are actually made from bamboo roots dug up from beneath the ground.
4. Bamboo will naturally change colour if left outside.
Rather like timber, bamboo poles, fencing and bamboo boards will turn a silvery grey if left exposed to the elements. To stop this happening the bamboo will need treating with wood preservative, oil or varnish.
5. Bamboo poles can split or crack at any time.
Even dried bamboo contains residual moisture and will continue to respond to changes in temperature and humidity. Direct sunlight on one side or heat from a radiator can make the bamboo ‘pop’ and soon after you may see a small split gradually emerge. Do not be alarmed, the bamboo itself will still maintain much of its strength. No two bamboo poles will behave the same!
6. Bamboo walls can vary in thickness.
Some types of bamboo such as Tonkin, have very thick walls and are not only heavier, but would be harder to make completely hollow, as the cell structure is very dense. Our Moso bamboo, Tali and Javan Bamboo can all easily be hollowed out.
7. Bamboo doesn’t like being joined together.
Bamboo poles are essentially cylinders and therefore trying to join them at right angles requires a bit of extra help from other materials. We have experimented with timber, fire cement, resins and fillers combined with bolts, hinges and twine.