July 2009


President's corner

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This 'n That


President's Corner

Fellow Members ---

I purchased porridge in Starbucks the other day. Buying porridge in a coffee shop may be a bit unusual but what was a complete surprise is that it came, not with the normal plastic spoon, but a bamboo spoon. The spoon had been pressed out of a sheet of bamboo about 3/32 inch thick and had great rigidity due to the indent pressed into the handle and the shape of the bowl. Under the bowl you could see the stress lines where the bamboo had almost fractured during manufacture. My assumption is that a bamboo spoon is "greener" and possibly cheaper than a plastic spoon made from some petroleum derivative.

So I wondered if we as woodworkers can use Bamboo? How common is bamboo as a replacement for wood?

First thing I learned is that bamboo is not really a wood but a "woody perennial evergreen plant from a grass family". As we are often not even sure what kind of wood we are using on our projects due to all of the confusing and inconsistent names I see no reason why we cannot consider this overgrown grass as a woodworking material. It is a very eco-friendly plant growing at a rate of up to 24 inches per day and harvestable every 3-5 years, unlike the growing period of more than 25 years for most wood.

I had seen bamboo flooring advertised in my local timber merchants recently so I checked Youtube and found an interesting video of bamboo flooring planks being made in India. Primitive, low tech, labor intensive; but still producing good looking, "hardwood" flooring.

Traditional bamboo furniture in the form of patio chairs etc. has been around for a long time. It's the kind of furniture that looks like bamboo ie: 1 to 2 inch dia. legs with lashed together joints.

But I found a factory in Thailand making some very modern looking furniture from bamboo. Another video was instructions on how to assemble a very solid looking, totally sustainable, bamboo desk. These are no longer just cheap utility looking designs. I also found enough information to build your own modern looking bamboo house {if you can get it through our local planning departments} and there are even people who build bamboo bicycles! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIWWtHBNWeU or just search for "bamboo furniture") I continue to be amazed when I see how versatile wood/grass is and what great feats can be achieved with it. Maybe it is time to start thinking how to incorporate bamboo into your next project?

Our next meeting on July 16th will be in our usual Foster City location. We know that some of you have problems commuting to the various East Bay locations we have been visiting lately even though there are many great woodworking related places to visit over there. But the good news is that for the remainder of this year we will be in Foster City so I look forward seeing you there.

We are also still working on the logistics for the fall dovetail class we announced last month so keep tuned.

Frank Ramsay

Frankramsay8@aol.com or 408-823-2382