View Full Version : Drying bamboo

Bob S
9th March 2001, 02:54 PM
Would you professionals here care to give us amateurs some tips on drying bamboo to avoid splitting?
So far, I've heard "Stand 'em up !" and "Lay 'em down !"
And also, they're dry in a year ....all the way to "they're dry in three years"
Are there any general rules, depending on the age of the bamboo, and the width, or what else ? Any help would be appreciated.
Bob S

Mark Meckes
10th March 2001, 03:00 PM
Hi Bob,
Thanks for asking this question!
There are probably as many ways to dry, season or cure bamboo as there are bamboo crafters. Some of these methods can reduce the possibility of splitting, and even make bamboo that is prone to splitting, to rarely split.
Other methods can make bamboo susceptible to splitting.
I look forward to hearing of our different methods and experiences.
Here's some thoughts:
- If your method of drying and using the bamboo,works for your application, then thats all that matters.
It doesn't matter about the other thousand ways, or theories, or your professional status. In fact your way may turn out to be a most common sense, or unique method.
- When bamboo is growing or standing in the grove, it is susceptable to the elements of the weather. Once harvested for use, the main objective is to stabilize and prevent it from further degradation.
- Observations will lead to discoveries, and mistakes.
- The more particular, or more control one desires of these processes, the greater the `mistakes' appear.
It's a good idea to allow for improvization, or to find ways to make use of these `mistakes'.
No matter how refined a process is used to prevent splitting, some culms will inevitably split. This is because, like us, each bamboo is an individual, and has had a life of its' own that has been affected by various events and conditions during its' life. We all have flaws, most of them are tolerable, and so it is with bamboo.
- Every drying, seasoning, curing treatment(s), in addition to affecting splitting resistance, will have an effect on the colour, texture and strength of the bamboo. This may be highly desired, and be an important part of the finished product, or it may be considered a flaw.
- Some methods to prevent splitting requires working with bamboo in the green or slightly dried state.
The final stages of drying may take place after the product or part has been completed.
- I read somewhere that a traditional flute maker might store their bamboo pieces for 3 or more years before using them. The pieces that haven't split are less likely to split.
Here are some things that affect the drying rate of bamboo. Depending on a combination of these factors, and how much control you have over the process, will determine the outcome of the finished product:
- Heat
- Sunlight
- Moisture
- Humidity
- Air circulation
- Soil contact
And of course, variety of bamboo, and age of the culms plays a very big part too.

Mark Meckes

Mark Meckes
11th March 2001, 05:17 AM
--- Bob S wrote:
> So far, I've heard "Stand 'em up !" and "Lay 'em down !"

One great advantage of growing your own bamboo, is having a source of long poles handy. They can make quick work of fence making in the garden, and a situation always turns up where you need a long pole.
They would be very expensive if you had to have them
Bamboo poles dry faster if they are upright. Thing is, who has a 30+ foot tall shed to dry them in?
If the culm branches still have some leaves on them, I like to leave them stacked upright, in or near the grove for about a month, till the leaves fall off.
Preferably not in full sunlight, or at least turn them so they don't get bleached on one side.
From there-on, I cut some to lengths so that they can be stored upright, and stack others horizontally.
The main requirement is: air circulation.
Storing bamboo has always been a major problem for me,
because I've never had adequate storage sheds and space. I've ruined a lot of bamboo over the years, because of this.

... a fellow amateur, who works with bamboo primarily for the love of it

11th March 2001, 03:19 PM
When I used to dry bamboo, I used a metal coat hanger
wrapped around bamboo, formed into a hook....and hung
them from trees....might want to try.....steve

Bob S
11th March 2001, 04:22 PM
I've tried making a horizontal stack about two feet deep, off the ground about six inches. So far, about a third of them have split after about six months.
I'm hoping to start doing sculpture later....
I have no idea where this is going just now.

Mark Meckes
11th March 2001, 06:26 PM
Our house has a 27 inch overhang, with a 2 foot space
above the top of the window.
I am going to put brackets on this wall (at the top of
the window), and will be able to store 25 foot lengths
of bamboo.
A perfect `unused space' for storing bamboo.


12th March 2001, 05:57 PM
Bob wrote:
> Are there any general rules, depending on the age of the bamboo, and
the width, or what else ? Any help would be appreciated.

I don't know general rules, meaning "2 inches-2meters=6 months"
First, following my experience, is quite different the seasoning of a clumper and a runner, and among them, Phyllostachys and others.
And the conditions of the room -temperature (6 months in winter aren't the same than 6 in summer) and ventilation.
I prefer different treatments for one or another.
I noticed that clumpers lost their humidity faster than wax-coated runners like Phyllostachys.
The thing isn't how fast I can dry a bamboo, but do it well.
As Mark says, several times the process of a craft involves to work with bamboo green or not completly dry.
I read in the bamboo list and books the way to cure bamboo, but always this is the way to cure bamboo for a determinate use (houses, basketry, flutes, etc)
Also you can read in Victor Cussak's book "Bamboo Rediscovered" that only the clumpers have good material, which is almost ridiculus for crafts projects.
I was a runners lover, although now I'm becoming a clumper's friend.
But returning to the "general rules",
3 years old at least, and no more than 7
Harvest in dry season, and/or when the shoots are sprouting their branches and leaves (specially for clumpers)


14th March 2001, 08:22 PM
Hello Robert,
I think that one thing is very important on how to dry bamboo without spliting it:
-was the bamboo pole cut in the dry season?
-was the bamboo with 3 or more years?

In the dry season moisture is low, so the balance is achieved sooner.
If bamboo is 3 or more years old, it has more silica, and less moisture.


14th March 2001, 09:26 PM
Ola Raphael and Robert,
> -was the bamboo with 3 or more years?

Definitely, some bamboo like phyllostachys aurea or viridis with less than 3 years are very resistant to cracks and Buenos Aires bugs, although they are weak in other ways.
I don't know other bugs than the local ones, but I know that they are a lot of them.
Do you noticed less bugs attack to runners than clumpers?

> If bamboo is 3 or more years old, it has more silica, and less moisture.

I believe that silica is in the epidermis of bamboo (but no sure), and difference with the years is on the structure of the parenquima, Correct?

> saludos,
mas saludos


Mark Meckes
15th March 2001, 09:41 PM
--- Raphael Moras de Vasconcellos wrote:
> on how to dry bamboo without splitting it:
> - was the bamboo pole cut in the dry season?
> In the dry season moisture is low, so the balance is
> achieved sooner.

Hello Raphael, Some more thoughts;
Bamboo grows in many types of climates, with differing types of seasonal weather patterns.
- In some areas bamboo experiences many months of dry
season every year and will go dormant at this time.
Then the rains come and the shoots rise.
- In some areas a dry period occurs during the middle of the growing season, but it also might rain intermittently, unless there is a drought.
- In other areas there may not actually be a dry season, (unless there is a drought), but there may be periods of lower or higher humidity, or colder and hotter temperatures.
Most of my bamboo harvesting experiences have occurred
in temperate regions, and the ideal time to be harvesting here is in the dormant season : autumn through winter, and very early spring to remove winter damaged culms.
I like this time to do this kind of work because it's cool and there are no bugs.
Also, in freezing or cool weather, poles can can be stacked anywhere outside, and they experience little or no degradation. They may keep their color all winter. This is one benefit of winter climates - a suspension of time. In warm, humid climates, immediate care must be given to the harvested poles, or they can deteriorate rapidly if not protected.
If bamboo could voice an opinion, I think it would at least say `Don't groom me when I am shooting, and wait till my new culms have hardened sufficiently or you will scratch me (my new culms) as you pull out the older poles'.
At different times I have had to maintain an overgrown grove during shooting. It was quite a feat to tip-toe into the grove, mentally marking each step of the way, cutting and removing bristly old poles, taking the same steps to exit the grove.
Bamboo, tough tough plant,
is, when shooting, very touchy
Ouch! don't hurt me. I'm a softy


1st May 2001, 03:51 AM
I am working with split bamboo and some of it is not fully dry, so I have experimented last week curing it the heat of my parked car. It seemed to work fine, so I've got another batch in my trunk.


2nd May 2001, 03:54 AM
Hi Carole,
In regards to drying - this is a function of heat and ventilation - the heat to drive the moisture out and the ventilation to carry the moisture away. If the humidity is high the whole process slows down. You might try cracking the windows a bit - or even better use a small fan to force cross ventilation. A friend of mine made a solar drying kiln out of a 20' metal shipping container painted flat black. There are adjustable
vents at the top and bottom and racks on the inside for lumber and it seems to work pretty well.
How hot is it out there?

Regards, Cal

3rd May 2001, 03:55 AM
It was suggested by a friend to make a tepee out of black plastic for the drying of green bamboo, make sure it is in the sun and has a vent at the top, solar heating at it's best.

Mark Meckes
5th October 2004, 08:34 AM
One of the biggest challenges I've found in drying bamboo, is to prevent staining on the inside of the bamboo, caused by uneven drying. Some other threads on this topic:

Drying Bamboo: Moisture Stains (http://www.bamboocraft.net/forums/showthread.php?t=483 )

Treatment against mold/mildew (http://www.bamboocraft.net/forums/showthread.php?t=206 )

The only way I can imagine having complete control over the drying procedure is to make an enclosed drying `chamber' where the temperature, humidity, air circulation and air exhaust can be monitored.
As with drying any lumber, one has also to be careful not to remove too much moisture (keep the humidity up higher) during the initial drying stages...

Unfortunately I simply don't have enough extra space in our home and backyard for a larger drying shed. Instead, I have numerous smaller places to dry/store bamboo, each with it's own conditions, affecting the final outcome or end uses of the stored bamboo.

What I end up doing is trying to fit the quality of the bamboo to an appropriate use. The `perfect' or highest quality bamboo always seems to be the smallest percent of our stock.
Some pieces are just TOO NICE to cut up and use, except to admire!