Before bamboo poles can be used for any lasting craft it must be cut and cured. Cutting is best in August or winter, when the water and resins are down. Bamboo can be harvested in the summer, but with a higher chance of cracking and splitting. Any cutting device will work for harvesting bamboo. If cutting with a knife, cut at a 45 degree angle with one swipe to prevent splitting or crushing the bamboo.
The key to curing the bamboo is to remove the moisture, natural starches, and sugars, without cracking the bamboo. Here are a few methods that may work for you:
1. SOAKING: A method commonly used in India to soak bamboo poles for ninety days in water. Then set to dry in a sunny area for two weeks.
2. AIR DRYING: Cut the bamboo leaving the branches and leaves still attached. Store the bamboo upright in the sun for two weeks. Then continue drying in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight. Depending on the area, watch for molding.
3. ABURANUKI: The Japanese
method of drying used by the Shaku Hachi or flute makers of Japan.
There are a few things you need to know about when working with bamboo:
1. Pre-cut with a sharp blade before any sawing. This will prevent fibers from splintering during the cutting process.
2. If you need to make holes in your project, you are much better off burning the holes through. The bamboo seems less likely to split during drilling or later.
Lastly, you will need to use some kind of finish for your project. The traditional heat and grease works well. Just lightly heat the piece over coals just until it's warm, then liberally apply oil, grease or fat, to the piece. At no point should the bamboo become too hot to hold bare handed.
Other methods include the use of modern sealers. A highly recommended sealer is shellac. Shellac is nontoxic, food safe, water proof and will last for years.
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