Strange and Unusual Uses for Bamboo

Bamboo is a remarkable material. Although it is very wood-like in appearance and texture, it is actually a form of grass that grows very tall, very quickly. Bamboo is traditionally used as a structural or decorative material, such as to create rugs and flooring. But I wanted to explore some of the more unusual uses for this material. As I have discovered, bamboo can be used for just about anything.

Bamboo is a popular choice for making musical instruments, especially flutes. Bamboo flutes can be traced back to ancient Egypt, from where they migrated to India, China, and Japan. But flutes are not the only kind of musical instrument that can be made from bamboo. Bamboo can also be used to make xylophones, drums, and chimes, among other things. Bamboo has a very pleasant resonant quality that makes it a fine material for musical instruments.

Bamboo is a popular material for fishing fly rods. Although it might seem intuitively that a single bamboo cane would become the rod of the pole, for professionally made fly rods this is not the case. In fact, the cane is split into strips, worked into specific angles, and then reassembled together, bound with a rod binding machine. The finished product looks smooth and professional, far removed from what the original bamboo cane looked like.

A company in China called HaPe International has released a line of toys made from bamboo, which the company claims is the world’s first collection of bamboo toys. The line consists mostly of traditional style toys and games, such as Dominos, Castella, and a board game version of Sudoku.

Just like wood, bamboo can be used to make paper. This has been going on for hundreds of years. Paper can be made from bamboo cane pulp, which is what a commercial process would use, or from the sheaths from new bamboo canes. This second technique is a more informal technique that a person making his own paper might use. Commercial bamboo paper is not made in great quantities because of the economic and ecological expense. There are better uses for bamboo.

Possibly the most strange use for bamboo is in the construction of bicycles. If you think about it, it makes sense. Bamboo is strong, straight, rigid, and light – exactly what you need for the frame of a bicycle. There is a company in California called Calfee Design that makes a line of bamboo bikes. They are truly things to behold. The company claims that the bamboo provides amazing vibration damping – even better than carbon fiber. As would be expected, custom-crafted bikes like this are not cheap. Expect to pay $2 to $4 thousand for one.

Don’t think for a minute that bicyclists have all the bamboo fun. There are a number of companies that make skate boards and surf boards out of bamboo. The bamboo in surf boards replaces fiberglass, resulting in a board that is lighter and stronger.

Finally, bamboo can be used to make fiber. This fiber can then be used to make any kind of clothing. You can literally wear bamboo, play bamboo, ride bamboo, eat bamboo, and live in a house made of bamboo. Given that bamboo grows very rapidly, it seems certain that in years to come this environmentally friendly material is only going to increase in popularity.

— Jerry Work

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