When I moved into my current home there was some bamboo growing in the backyard. After a little while the yard was nearly overrun with it. Most people in my area consider it a nuisance. I saw it as an opportunity to work with a material that few in my area have experience with.
In this insturctable I will explain how to harvest, dry, preserve, and work with bamboo. I will take you from the ground to the finish product. I have tried to break this instructable up with summary information for those with little time, and detailed information for those who want to know more.
Step 1: Harvesting
I live in the southeastern United States in the Upstate of South Caroline. The bamboo that grows on my property varies in size. The largest being about 40 feet to the smallest over ten feet. The largest diameter I have seen in about three inches to the smallest a quarter of an inch.
The Dos and Don'ts of bamboo harvesting
Know what you want to use it for.
Know how old the stalk is.
Use the proper tools
Harvest too young or old for your purposes
Harvest when it is wet
Know what you want to use it for...
Harvesting bamboo depends on what you want to use it for. I allow my bamboo to grow for at least two years before harvesting it. You can allow it to grow for longer.
The further down the stalk you cut the more dense the bamboo. The part near the bottom will be thicker than that at the top. The base of the stalk has to support the rest of the plant.
Know how old the stalk is...
You will need some method of knowing which stalks of bamboo are ready and which ones are not. Newly grown bamboo in my area has a white film on it that can be brushed off with your fingers. Also older bamboo is a darker green that the rest.
I unfortunately have a problem with a black mold the grows on the bamboo. I also use mold growth on the bamboo to tell how old it is. If there is very little mold then the piece must be young.
Use the proper tools...
Once you have selected a piece of the appropriate age you can harvest it. I like to use a serrated hand saw. For smaller pieces you can use loping shears. I have also seen a reciprocating saw used effectively. Be careful when cutting. It is easy to injure yourself or others.
Don't harvest too young or old for your purposes...
If you harvest the bamboo too soon,1year old or younger, it will collapse on itself and only be good for basket making. After two to three years it should be good for making vases or small items. After four or five years you can use it for furniture. Longer than that and it starts to lose strength.
Don't harvest when it is wet...
Moisture will rot your bamboo. Try to harvest it during a dry season.