When I moved to Newport, Rhode Island, I didn’t expect for my backyard to have enough bamboo to feed a family of pandas. I thought of bamboo really as something that only grows where pandas live i.e. not Rhode Island.
But as it turns out bamboo does grow in Newport, and my backyard does, in fact, have a very thick grove.
So here are some things I’ve learned:
- Bamboo grows really, really fast
- Bamboo makes a great privacy screen
- Bamboo, if you let it, will overtake your entire yard, grow through the cracks in your deck, and grow into the neighbors yard leading to uncomfortable conversations over the fence
- If you treat it right, cut bamboo can be very useful. If you don’t treat it right, it rots
In the effort to stop the spread of the bamboo, I’ve trimmed back some of the new sprouts during the summer which quickly rotted away. I was, admittedly, a little disappointed because I had found some other dried pieces in a corner outside that made excellent plant stakes. I had been hoping cutting these back would be my passive path to more free stakes.
Since then, I did some research. Turns out, winter is the ideal time to trim back the bamboo if you want to make something with it. And those baby pieces I was cutting back are less than ideal. You want three to five years of growth.
I also learned there are multiple ways to cure bamboo. Those dead brown pieces that were standing in place in the picture behind me are technically cured. You can cut it down and leave it horizontally or vertically in a cool, dry place to cure. There’s another method where you leave it underwater for weeks. And then there’s fire curing.
I went with fire curing because it speeds the process up quite a bit, seemed like the strongest method, and seemed easy enough to do.
Here’s a look at the basic setup:
It looks like exactly what it sounds like it is. In blog posts I read some people used grills as their heat source, but I went with an open flame in a small portable fire place.
All you have to do is get a fire going, and start slowly running the bamboo through it. The heat will cause the resins in the bamboo to sizzle to the surface making it look shiny. You rub those resins back into the bamboo and that seals it off kind of like a polyurethane coat would.
It’s a heat, rub with rag, repeat, process until the color fades from bright green to a more mat soft green. I ran each rod through the fire twice. They were about 9ft tall each, and I spent about 30 minutes on each one, and started doing two at a time.
They’re currently sitting off the floor in my basement until I need them for a project I have planned for the spring. I compared them to a few I have that I’m just drying out, and the fire cured ones definitely weighed a bit more and seemed a bit less brittle.
This project was definitely easier than some of the other blog posts talking about heat sources made it seem and really just involved a bit of patience. Also, most of the posts seemed to come from off -the-grid, survivalist types which I definitely am not.
I suppose the true test will be when I use them for the project in the spring. For that, I’ll need to be able to get a screw in the top without them splitting. I’ll keep you posted.