DIY Sunday – Bamboo Tools

December 19, 2010 § 2 Comments

In the last trip through the forest in Kuala Kubu Baru, I picked up some strips of bamboo. “Yeah I can make tools of these in a SNAP! No problem!”. Yet they sat wrapped in newspaper by my bed for three whole months, until a quiet Sunday like today  breezed in. And so, after about 2 hours of DIY-ing, I now have a bamboo rib and two bamboo tapered end tools. Simple tools that are solid essentials when throwing on the wheel.

Step 1: Split the bamboo into manageable widths. You may have a huge piece of bamboo like this goliath on the right here, in which case you’d need a chisel and a hammer (fun!) or you may have cut a lucky break and found manageable little splices. Hopefully the splices are about 1-2 inches wide and 5-8 inches long, which is ideal.


Step 2: To make sure your tools last, you gotta cure the bamboo. I’ve been told that the traditional way to do this is to leave it submerged in running water for 3 months or so, in a river or in the sea. Since there aren’t any rivers or seas handy in the Damansara Heights area, I boiled the splices for 15 minutes. Theoretically, this would kill off any mites in the bamboo, and hopefully break down the starch in the bamboo making it unpalatable to any future mites.

Step 3:  Cut the rough shape out. Once the bamboo dried out, I found some tools – a coping saw and a mini planer. The planer is a beauty – made of finished hard wood, from Japan – when I bought it 9 years ago, I didn’t know what I’d use it for, but it was so beautiful I had to get it. Now my purchase is vindicated!

The bamboo was surprisingly easy to saw through. The coping saw allowed me to cut a nice curve for the rib, and I managed to keep it relatively straight for the tapered end of the sticks.

Step 4: Finish off the edges with the planer. Since I’m going to use these tools every time I throw on the wheel, they need to be comfortable in the hand.

I planed the grip edges of the tools to round. Sandpaper wasn’t even necessary, because the bamboo whittled off clean and smooth. And I kept the points as sharp as possible.

And that was it! Remarkably simple project, which I had put off for ages, suddenly done 🙂 I’ve still got a few pieces, which I’m planning to make into a throwing stick, scratch tool, and… who knows what else. I also want to make a coiled wire yumi…

Basic Bamboo Pottery Tools... Made At Home!



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