View Full Version : Finishing bamboo cups

7th October 2004, 12:19 PM
My fraternity recently helped clean our campus Arboretum out and found some awesome (yet sadly damaged) bamboo sections that we cut down to drinking glass-sized pieces. We'd like to apply some sort of finish, not only to keep them from getting moldy, but also to give it a nice glossy finish. My friend Mike suggested finding a non-toxic polyurethane lacquer or varnish, but I was wondering if there are any better suggestions? It has to be non-toxic of course as we plan on using these for actual drinking glasses. Any input is greatly appreciated!

Mark Meckes
7th October 2004, 05:27 PM
Hi Tristis,
Is the bamboo you're using, some of Florida's recent `hurricane harvest' ?

If the bamboo was green/live when harvested, then there's greater chance it can develop mold on the inside surface unless you provide good air circulation (fan) during initial stages of drying.
Generally those molds don't develop after the bamboo has dried...that is, unless a `brew' has been left in the bamboo for extended periods of time, at which a different type of fermentation may take place. (yeast activation)

This reminds me of a bottle gourd that I have from Papua New Guinea that used to contain a fermented beverage. It had years of continuous use, before a family member acquired it in the early 1960's. As a result, the gourd became impregnated with the liquer, and is now jet black through and through.
Despite never having been refilled since the 60's, a sniff at the opening reveals a strongly aromatic whiff of the original fermentation!
I have also seen bamboo used as a vessel to store and transport liquid brews, and the bamboo also changes over time to various shades of brown.

Okay, I don't think that's how you intended to use your bamboo, but, oh well.

The only bamboo cups I've personally used were `disposable bamboo cups' when I lived in the land of bamboo plenty!
As far as lacquering or varnishing the outside surface, it's kinda hard to get anything to stick without peeling off, because of the waxy nature of the outside surface. Most effective adhesion requires removing this outer surface so that the varnish can absorb into and adhere to the surface, applying it in thin consecutive overlapping layers.
Waxes do a better job as they meld into the waxy surface.

Got any pics of your harvest, or the bamboo plant?
Any idea what species it is?
Variety and age at harvest affects the end result as well.


22nd March 2005, 12:14 AM
My first major project is a bamboo mug. I have done everything except the sealing or finishing. Does anyone know of anything I can safely seal the outside and inside with. I have search through so many products and written so many products. Anything input is appreciated. If I can't find anything I think I will leave the inside alone and seal the lip and outside with something. Thanks

Mark Meckes
25th March 2005, 06:15 AM
Hi BigBambooSkaggs
Here's a synopsis of what has been posted into the Bamboo Forums on this subject so far...
A thread about Non-Toxic / Food Grade Finishes (http://www.bamboocraft.net/forums/showthread.php?threadid=820 )

Bamboo Cups Mugs and Tankards (http://www.bamboocraft.net/forums/showthread.php?t=1142) - Things Bamboo

From the thread Making Sake Cups (http://www.bamboocraft.net/forums/showthread.php?t=214)
I use epoxi enamel, non toxic, used for many food industries.
Is somehow hard to prepare and apply, but is washable and sure.
Brand here in Argentina is Steel-kote

An excellent reference book:
Bamboo and Cane Crafts of Northeast India (http://www.bamboocraft.net/forums/showthread.php?t=1039) - National Institute of Design Publication (http://www.nid.edu/rp_pub_bambucanni.htm)
Chapter: Whole Culm Containers - Pg 91-97 (27 photographs/illustrations)
- Containing numerous styles, traditional uses and extensive notes on their construction, though little mention on methods of sealing the inside of the containers. Some of the whole culm bamboo containers are used to store non-liquid goods, some beverage containers are disposed of after a period of use, and some are made for decorative purposes.