I love the look of bamboo but hate how it cracks!  Plus getting larger diameter (3-inch) around by me (Western New York) is only by shipment and fresh bamboo weighs a lot!  In this Instructable, I'll try to show you how to make your own fake bamboo out of PVC pipe.  I know it's not "green" but it should really last!
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Step 1: Cut and Clean the PVC

If you're gonna use a whole section of PVC pipe (they typically come in 10-foot lengths) then you can clean the whole pipe before you cut it.  It really doesn't matter.  We need to remove the ugly lettering and all the left over junk (chemicals) from the production of of the PVC pipe.  For this step I use Acetone because a) it's cheap b) it works good c) I had it laying around.  Make sure you follow the directions for using whatever you choose since some cleaners can be dangerous without proper ventilation!
I applied the acetone by wetting some paper towels with it and wiped until the lettering was gone.  During this step I use Nitrile gloves (Can be found at home improvement stores in the paint and stain section), I just don't like that stuff soaking into me!  The ink can go back on the pipe from the paper towels if too much ink builds up on the paper towels so you may have to find a clean spot on the paper towels and re-wet with more acetone.

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diamondemb3 months ago
Thanks for this great idea!
I made this deer scare using some of your ideas. I used a heat gun to heat the nodes. I used a torch to "toast" the PVC to make it look like tiger bamboo. You must be very careful not to breath the fumes while toasting.
bwente2 years ago
Just made my faux bamboo today! They turned out great! Thanks for the instructable. I using them to turn my daughter's loft bed into a surf shack. The detail turned out great.

photo 1.JPGphoto 2.JPG
drose25 bwente1 year ago
Hey Bwente, what did you use to apply the shellac on your PVC? It's got great striation and looks awesome.
bwente drose251 year ago
It was a happy accident. I burnt the PVC real good, I wanted to have large bulges at the seams. But to get them to fade I had to sand off the charring a bit. I used a really coarse sandpaper and I as I was sanding it was leaving tiny grooves in the PVC. Then the burnt PVC dust got into the lines. It really looked good, so I painted over it by painting in the same direction. I used disposable rubber gloves and small pieces of a terry cloth towel.
annieym bwente5 months ago

My gosh I would pay you to make some for my bride!

That is amazing!!!!


PaganRaven1 year ago
Really like your 'Ible! I can see oh so many uses for this, in place of the real bamboo. Just a thought here - you ended up using a clear coat spray that has worked (so far) for you. I have used a matte clear coat for anything I've painted/stained for outdoor use and it's worked great for me. Wondering how that would look on your faux bamboo, since natural bamboo doesn't have such a high shine on it. Good work, petejc!!!
petejc (author)  PaganRaven1 year ago
It holds up better than nothing but still not good. I'm guessing it has to do with the wax in the shellac. We'll find something that works outdoors eventually!!
MaskMarvl2 years ago
Great idea! looks awesome... :)
oldalgebra2 years ago
Do you think spraying the pipe with a PVC primer would help the shellac adhere better - or would that be a waste of time?

I am a little fearful of the torch, but I"m going to try this.
petejc (author)  oldalgebra2 years ago
Not sure. Coating with clear spray paint protects it from chipping but I'm having an issue with UV fading of the shellac. Covering the shellac with something else like a polyurethane finish won't work to well due to the wax in the shellac. Some people say a NON polyurethane finish will work but I haven't tried that yet. All that said, if your project is inside then this is a non issue! Play safe with the flame! Or use a heat gun, but no scorch mark then!
Marfinhead2 years ago
You can get de-waxed shellac at woodworking stores but it will usually come in flake form and need to be mixed with alcohol.

The process looks great I'm going to try it out
nstur652 years ago
Thanks for the idea! I made a fountain this weekend for my patio.
tracyquilts2 years ago
Fabulous! Thanks for the instructable.
How do you compress the pipe?
Having played with heated PVC before: holing the pipe vertical, grasp the pipe above the heated ring and push down. Eyeball the process to ensure the pipe stays straight, or you can rig a metal guide, or you can have sections slightly off-straight for realism.

Short version (too late): hand pressure is plenty.
ekbruster3 years ago
When you going to post the instructable for the fountain?
petejc (author)  ekbruster3 years ago
Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures when I made the fountain. People don't like a picture-less Instructable!
Well send me the measurements, I'll build (and photograph) one in the spring (after I finish the tiki bar). :) Thanks again for the awesome bamboo!
ekbruster3 years ago
This is perfect! Just created 2 1-1/2 x 5' long pieces to cover the canvas supports for my mobile Tiki Bar! turned out better than I ever expected, can't wait to see if people can tell if they are real or not next summer!
petejc (author)  ekbruster3 years ago
One thing I found this summer is that the shellac doesn't hold too well in terms of abuse, mostly winter abuse. I live near Buffalo, NY so can have our share of winter. What I ended up doing this summer was sanding down any areas that had chipped / damaged shellac and re-applied the shellac. After it looked good I coated the entire shellac-ed surface (old and new) with about 4 coats of Rust-Oleum Crystal Clear Enamel Spray paint. It held up over the rest of the summer and early winter so far but time will tell.
Dy7lan4 years ago
It looks absolutely fantastic... does it sound realistic?
petejc (author)  Dy7lan4 years ago
It does have the hollow sound, but definitely not the same sound! Unfortunately this is just for looks...
aar0nc0le4 years ago
Looks great!
tismemimi4 years ago
Great Look, and good instructions. I'm with the others, real bamboo is hard to find in large sizes, and fairly expensive. The pvc will last forever. Ask the "green" people, no one wants pvc in a landfill ! This is a great way to recycle also. I love the look, and a headboard for a guest room with Asian influences awaits. Thanks for the trial and error being done for the rest of us. Cudos.
grd4 years ago
Perfect timing! I was looking at the gap at the ridge of my kids' almost completed grass thatched cubby house and thought that a painted PVC pipe would be the best way to cover it. I was going to paint the nodes, but heating the pipe is a wonderful solution. Thank you!
Valster4 years ago
If you're going to be doing a lot of these it may me worth the $$ to buy a PVC cutter. Obviously it will cut the PVC but you can also score it easily and uniformly for the nodes. Just ratchet it enough to make a shallow cut and rotate the pipe. I've already experimented with the nodes and am getting good at it. Next, shellac. Thanks again for sharing an amazing idea!
EmmettO4 years ago
Would a heat gun work, or do you need the flame to scorch the PVC for the darker color?
petejc (author)  EmmettO4 years ago
I'm not sure if a heat gun would get the PVC hot enough to get pliable. The scorching is optional, but I really like the way it looks in the end.
Yes a heat gun does work to heat up pvc to become flexible as I have used one to do this many times. In fact it heats pvc much more evenly without scorching than the torch will. Heat guns will not however, put on the fine dark rings on the nodes like a propane or butane torch will. You will need some kind of torch for the precision that will be required for the rings.
petejc (author)  the crowing4 years ago
This nice to know since using the torch to evenly heat the PVC can be very difficult. If you stop spinning the PVC it burns beyond a scorch. Using a heat gun to create the nods then a torch to darken it should make it easier. Thanks
spa31rky petejc4 years ago
Plumbers and Electricians use a heat gun/torch to heat PVC to bend it the way it is needed for the application. Too much heat will cause it to be so soft it will loose any strength and not be worth using.
milesduggan4 years ago
Wow I am so doing this!! Great instructable!!
capricorn4 years ago
The amount you rock is too much for words mate. Thank you for sharing. Thank you VERY much
justineo144 years ago
one word for ye sir *epic
3366carlos4 years ago
You are the man! great work.
aarone4 years ago
This is really cool, and from the pictures, it's turned out REALLY nicely. I'm going to give this a shot when I have the opportunity. I love the look of Bamboo and I've been wanting to do some theming with it. This gives me a great solution. Thanks!
Valster4 years ago
I've been wanting to experiment with 3/4" PVC for a while. The real stuff rots too quickly to suit me. Thanks for saving me a lot of trial and error. Great instructable!!
l8nite4 years ago
pretty cool, how about a jig so you could use hotglue to make the "nodes". I really do like the finished product
Or a silicone glue or caulk could work. Bondo would be another good node material. The end result looks great though.
petejc (author)  valhallas_end4 years ago
I tried using hot glue during my test run and it ended up being a lot harder (at least for me) to get something that didn't look like a bead of, well, hot glue! The torch method just seemed easiest. Bondo would probably be easier then hot glue. Silicone caulk may not work since most (?) aren't made to be stained. Thanks for the compliments.
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