Although it is harder than many wood species, bamboo belongs to the grass family, and its hollow structure and short maturation period are typical of members of that family. Over 1,000 species of bamboo exist worldwide, and it has been used as a building material and fashioned into countless useful objects through the ages, including baskets, mats, shoes and lamps. Modern hobbyists can take advantage of this versatile material to make simple, yet interesting, crafts.
A bamboo stalk is hard, but it is also fibrous, and it is possible to reduce a stalk to strands that can be woven. The process involves cleaning the outside of a stalk with a sharp knife, then using the knife to cut it into planks and subdivide the planks into strands. Traditional weavers use the strands to make place mats, rugs, tapestries, baskets, boxes and even furniture. The strands obtained from a single stalk may vary in color, and this can be used to advantage to create interesting geometric designs in the weaving pattern.
The stalks of species that grow large, such as moso bamboo, are useful for a variety of ornamental purposes in the garden. For example, you can make a multi-tiered birdhouse by selecting a length that includes several nodes and drilling a 3-inch hole near the base of each node with a hole saw. You can also use the stalks to make wind chimes or solar landscape lights. Use a single node from the stalk to make the latter. Cut off the top and attach the light module from an inexpensive solar landscape fixture, then drill or cut through the face to create an illumination pattern.
There are many ways to make bamboo screens to use as garden and living room dividers or simply as ornaments. The simplest involves cutting a bundle of thin bamboo poles to the same length, placing them side by side and weaving them together with galvanized wire. More elegant screens can be created by weaving bamboos strands onto a frame constructed either of wood or bamboo. Woven screens, stained and finished to match with your living room decor, can also serve as wall paneling to give the room a touch of tropical exotica.
Other Craft Ideas
While laminating bamboo strands to make plates and bowls may be out of the purview of the average craftsperson, other dining implements are easier. Make bamboo chopsticks by slicing them out of a stalk with a sharp knife, and a pair of cups for holding cold liquids by halving a single node of a large stalk. If you don't need cups, use the node halves as candleholders or serving bowls. You can also use bamboo to make jewelry boxes, halving a single large node lengthwise, joining the halves together with hinges, and making legs from a smaller stalk or from pieces of wood.
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