by Gene Wengert
email@example.com WOOD EXPLORER
Bamboo is not wood, but a grass with no woody material in its stem. But we are seeing more and more
use of this grass in cabinets and as a
substitute or adjunct to “good old, solid
wood.” And I have seen some pretty
good-looking bamboo items.
This grass is being harvested in a
manner similar to trees. The round,
hollow stem, with closed sections every
foot or two, is sawn lengthwise into
long narrow strips that are then made
into rectangular-cross-section pieces
that take out the curvature.
The strips are then edged glued
together into veneer and glued into
“plywood” panels that look similar to
and behave much like wood. There is
a growing list of active importers who
bring bamboo products into North
There are more than 1,000 spe-
cies of bamboo. The properties and
appearance of the various bamboos
varies greatly. This is where confusion
lies as people tried one supplier’s mate-
rial and liked it, but found a second
supplier had a different product that
did not work as well.
In short, not all bamboo is the same
and, like wood, has many variations
in appearance and properties from
species to species. My advice is to know
your supplier well. ;
What you should know about this wood-like grass.
; Want more? For more on this and other species, search the Wood Explorer collection at woodworkingnetwork.com/wood-explorer
For the purposes of this article, the properties listed are for Calcutta bamboo (
Den-drocalamus strictus), a common species.
Density. At about 40 pounds per cubic
foot, it is similar to oak.
Drying. Shrinkage in drying is similar to
oak, but there is little difference between
radial and tangential shrinkage.
Gluing and Machining. Calcutta
bamboo (and many other bamboos)
The world’s source
for in-line moisture
do glue well when making a laminated
product. Surfaces must be well prepared.
It may take some experimentation to
determine the best glue spread rates. My
personal feeling is that a PUR adhesive is
an excellent choice. Machining of bam-
boo is reported to be very good.
Stability. A 3 percent MC change
results in a 1 percent size change. However, shrinkage and swelling are essentially the same in the radial and tangential
directions. Some bamboo products being
sold are very unstable with MC chang-es...know what you are working with.
Strength. The strength (MOR) ranges
from 12,000 to 22,000 psi. Stiffness is
1. 1 to 2. 9 million psi, a bit higher than