I have access to a big stand of bamboo and would like to try my hand at making some furniture. However, when I cut a few pieces down and let them dry, they warp. Instead of maintaining their round shape, they flatten like a flattened O. Did they dry too fast? Is there a way to dry bamboo so it maintains its shape?
Rob Johnstone: You have been caught by the classic rookie bamboo harvesting boondoggle, according to Adam Turtle from Earth Advocates Research Farm, ‘a non-profit home … of several related Bamboo ventures’. You most likely cut down the best looking cane in the grove, which was a cane of the year. They are great looking poles, but are unsuitable for furniture. In fact, the only commercial value of a first year plant is for animal fodder or making paper. First year plants are really just a great looking “water balloons” according to Adam. Cut down a first year cane and it will certainly crack and dry asymmetrically. Second year poles are good for fodder and light temporary basket making. Third year, permanent basket making and light construction. Bamboo only gets to furniture grade in its fifth or sixth year. This presupposes that you are working with a species of bamboo which has sufficient wall thickness in the first place.
With all of this to consider you may be thinking that you might as well go back to sugar pine to make your project, but don’t lose heart. Bamboo, properly aged and dried, is a wonderful material that not only has a rich history, but an important future. It is beautiful, sturdy, and compared to many wood species, ecologically superior.