Picture of Bamboo storage tube
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

Picture of 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.

DeanAshby2 years ago
I love the idea of using bamboo for storage! It’s eco-friendly and simple! I can foresee this being used for paper storage or maybe even condiments like garlic. May I ask what do you put in this bamboo storage tube? Also, anyone knows where I can get good bamboo in Australia?
ehudwill (author)  DeanAshby2 years ago
I use it to store my dice. Thanks for the comment. Hope you find some good bamboo.
l8nite4 years ago
we have a lot of bamboo here in florida, Ive tried a couple of times to harvest and dry it but it always gets brittle. I'll have to try soaking it and then drying it. I always thought the chinese and other asians just harvested and used it to build scaffold and whatever, guess I should have researched it !
unlearny4 years ago
Good Job! I wish I had a bamboo garden here in chicago! I need a storage system for camera parts.

The plastic binder hinge is an efficient proof-of-concept, but it would be nice to have a closure system that is concealed. How hard would it be to cut and sand to create the illusion of a single piece? being a camera guy I keep thinking that a m42 mount and cap could be scavenged and attached for a cap.

Cool to see you using the bamboo in your yard. Pretty crazy that south carolina sees bamboo as a nuisance and America imports billions of tons from China per year... Hardy har har... You could go into business.

Check out this fact sheet for more uses and import stats.

ehudwill (author)  unlearny4 years ago
I have thought about using pvc pipe to make a cap.
ehudwill (author)  unlearny4 years ago
Thanks unlearny. I have thought about selling bamboo, but have never gotten around to it.
Wow you have river cane growing in your back yard!
You should try making a blowgun like the Cherokees or maybe a flute.
Bamboo is a very awsome and useful plant.
ehudwill (author)  TheBlackSharpie4 years ago
I like the blowgun idea. I will have to try that out.