View Full Version : Making a Bamboo Walking Stick

30th July 2005, 11:48 AM
I am just starting to do anything with bamboo culms. I figure the easiest place to start is a simple walking stick. You know, pick a straight culm of the appropriate length, trim off the side branches, let it air cure (I am doing this indoors - inside my house). So I need some suggestions. I do not like the dry washed out look that the bamboo takes on when it gets dried out. I prefer a richer, burnished or shiny look. What do I do the get a more polished look? Sample questions:
Use a wax? If so what kind ( beeswax, car wax, floor wax, etc. )
Soak in oil? If so what kind ( motor oil, gun oil, light machine oil etc.)
Yes I have tried carnuba car wax and it seems to me that it does not penetrate sufficiently to give the bamboo any richness. I have wondered if the bamboo is not sufficiently cured yet.
Yes I have some small pieces of culm soaking in two different types of oil. One batch in gun oil and one in 10/30 motor oil. If there is even one internode it seems to take forever for the oil to move through the culm and as yet I have not seen it travel to the second internode much less get it up to walking stick height. I am getting a deeper, richer color out of this process but no shine.

30th July 2005, 04:20 PM
Um...I have no idea really but would imagine a vegetable oil to be better than a chemical one?

30th July 2005, 04:24 PM
Just typed 'putting a shine on bamboo' into Google and got: A coating of clear varnish, shellac or lacquer can be applied. :)

Mark Meckes
30th July 2005, 05:50 PM
I think the temperature of the oil can affect the rate of absorption too.
Older `weather worn' bamboo appears to absorb the oil at a much faster rate.

Over the last several years part of our kitchen decor has included having small containers with bamboo and a small amount of oil added as needed - suntan oil, lemom oil...

This has been an ongoing experimental project by Carole my dearest.


We have a walking stick acquired through a fundraising raffle that had been varnished, and, maybe because the varnish was applied/brushed on quite thickly and is very glossy, it looks a bit `tacky'.

The outer surface of bamboo by nature has a waxy consistency, so polishing with wax I guess one could say, is more natural.

But there are many ways to finish a bamboo walking stick, and it often comes down to personal preferences

Heating the surface of a bamboo pole with a gas torch or heat gun can help to `clarify' the wax, ie melting the wax changes it's color from a cloudy off-white to clear. The result is a greater depth and intensity of color in the bamboo.

Oils and varnishes act in a similar way but as a solvent with a dissolving action.


30th July 2005, 05:53 PM
*taking notes*

30th July 2005, 06:28 PM
I have noticed that different types of bamboo accept waxes differently.
For example, no matter how much wax you put on a moso piece - it does not absorb the wax the same way as P aurea.

So the results could vary greatly depending on the species and the age of the piece that you are working with.

Re soaking with oil - I have only tried aurea and a few moso branch ends.

Old, dried pieces of bamboo soak up the oil well - it is interesting to observe the oil traveling up the culm.


Mark Meckes
31st July 2005, 04:17 AM
An interesting aspect about making bamboo walking sticks is that they can be `ready for use' - immediately after cutting to length, ... or can be made in elaborate ways using many varied procedures, techniques and treatments.
Possibly some of the nicest walking sticks are ones that have been used a lot - and cared for. It seems that the more bamboo is handled, a richer tone and deeper lustre develops. Takes time.

Heat is also used to harden or temper bamboo walking sticks which also adds a color tone and polished surface if aided with wax during heating.
The wax acts as a solvent, removing excess melting bamboo wax and leaving a lustrous surface. I've been using a brand called TreWax as it's not as objectionably fumey as petrolem based waxes.

A polish can be speeded up using various tools and techniques.

There's a myriad of different ways to make a walking stick, but it begins with the preparation of the stick.

Here's a thread on the subject of ... Cleaning waxy bamboo (http://www.bamboocraft.net/forums/showthread.php?t=618)


1st August 2005, 10:18 AM
Very helpful ideas. The use of vegetable oils had not crossed my mind as I 'assumed' they would turn rancid and give of an offensive odor. I will try some vegetable oils (olive, grape). Has anyone tried linseed oil?
Of the oils that I have tried, gun oil seems to be the fastest acting. The richest color is from something called 'mink oil' but it does not seem to move up the culm more than an inch or so - perhaps because it appears to contain a waxy base with a lighter 'carrier'. Motor oil (hey that is organic too!) is by far the least expensive and seems to be as effective as anything I have used so far. I plan to find the lightest weight motor oil available and see if it works better - goes faster and travels further. ;)

1st August 2005, 05:58 PM
You really want to reduce skin contact with motor oil. It is carcinogenic. It is advised that anyone coming into regular or extended contact with motor oil wear gloves. For this reason, I can't see it being a good choice for finishing a walking stick.

There are so many products for finishing wood on the market, I have a hard time believing that motor or gun oil is your best option. My first instinct would be to look for something designed to do what you want, but that was designed for a similar material.

Mark Meckes
1st August 2005, 06:16 PM
This article,Shaku Design; Oiling Bamboo (http://www.bamboocraft.net/forums/showthread.php?t=931) by Nelson Zink
...has some very interesting tidbits about different oils types, and their hardening properties ... though no mention of motor oils.


Knife Knut
2nd August 2005, 12:12 AM
How about cutting board oil; it is a very light, food grade mineral oil.
Also perhaps walnut oil (a drying oil) found in the vinegar and dressing section of the grocery.

2nd August 2005, 12:38 AM
When I first tried the soaking method, I used some coconut suntan oil that I had. I still have and ample supply of this oil - and since now I prefer to stay in the shade of the bamboo whenever possible - I am using the suntan oil to help to "recondition" the bamboo.

3rd September 2005, 05:43 PM
Interesting use of suntan oil Carole. The traditional Malay method used by my ancestors to preserve bamboo and keep the shines is soaking the newly harvested bamboo poles in running creek water for 2- 3 weeks(though I would prefer soaking the poles in boiling Diesel and coustics soda for 10 minutes these days ). The scientific explanation is that bamboo rotting is caused by micro-organisms feeding on the sugar content in the wall of the poles itself. Soaking in running creek water will melt the sugar content and the running water wash it away. Once dried, the colour will turn grey or light yellow with the shines kept well intact. Spraying a very thin clear lacquer would do the trick. The bamboo can last at least 10 years if termites does not make the poles their meal of the day.