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Gluing Bamboo

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  • Gluing Bamboo

    I am making a knife holder from bamboo but following the design in this month's Popular Woodworking

    This is not a difficult project, in fact its more of a beginner project but my daughter saw it and commented that it would look great if it was made of bamboo to match some of her cutting board and other counter top items.

    So I looked around for a cheap source of bamboo wide enough for this project. I needed material at least 9" wide with the grain of the bamboo running the length of the boards (if that's what you call it in bamboo). All I have found is some bamboo cutting boards that are 1/2" thick and about 12" x 18" and hey were cheap enough that I figured that I would give it a try using a couple of them as my raw material.

    Never having tried to build anything out of bamboo I wondered what would work to hold the pieces together. This knife holder is basically an open topped box filled with bamboo skewers (about 1100 of them). The skewers are set into a 1/4" thick layer of epoxy in the bottom. The joints at the corners are a large scale box joint. Now remember all this except for the skewers is supposed to be oak or some other wood, not bamboo.

    While rough cutting the pieces I dropped a scrap and it shattered in two along the grain which leads me to believe this project may not work in the long run in bamboo but I am going to give it a try anyway.

    So I thought about using epoxy to secure the box joints but not sure how well this will work. To me it seems that bamboo is nothing but layers of strands of threads with a weak bond between them. A piece that is 1/2" thick can be broken in two easily by hand. If you glue it I think the glue will only attach to the outer most layer of strands and not penetrate to attach to strands below the surface. Since the strands are like small hollow tubes they are sorta like little straws loosely bound together. I tried using some Titebond II to do an edge grain to side grain test. The glue was absorbed by the end grain OK, but it did not stick much at all to the side grain. I tried one test with no prep of the bamboo and another by lightly sanding the are to be glued.

    So I came up with the idea of drilling up from the bottom through the box fingers almost to the top and inserting a bamboo skewer with a little glue in as a pin on each corner. The pin will handle any stress I figure better than glue or epoxy can.

    Found this site and have not read through it all yet but it looks like Gorilla Glue and silicone caulk are two possibilities.

    Anyone have other ideas or experience with bamboo?
    "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006

  • #2
    Re: Gluing Bamboo

    I have been researching bamboo for several weeks now for an article I am writing on sustainable materials. For what its worth:

    Bamboo 'boards' are simply crushed or shredded bamboo stalks pressed together with a binder or glue. The polyurethane glue you described should work well. The result should be very similar to gluing together OSB as both products are produced in a very similar fashion. And like OSB, the glue joint will likely be stronger than the parts themselves.

    Darker colored bamboos tend to be extremely soft as they are steamed to attain the color.

    Open Design Project


    • #3
      Re: Gluing Bamboo

      Thanks for your reply and assistance. I plan to do some experimentation on some scrap pieces soon using Gorilla Glue and what ever else I have available.

      I don't expect any glue to hold very well, the individual strands of bamboo are so loosely bound together I think they will peel apart no matter how strong a glue is used.

      I think using a finger joint and then drilling and pinning the joint will give me the strength I am looking for. Glue couldn't hurt too I guess.
      "It's a table saw, do you know where your fingers are?" Bob D. 2006