Bending Bamboo

While some people marvel at curvy bamboo buildings, I feel a certain amount of pain knowing how many cuts needed to be made, and how much work went into making those bends… Only masters can make it look so effortless… In our Bamboo Apprentice Sessions, we’ve been learning about bending individual bamboo pieces and making a “mal” which is a template on the ground to guide us in making our shape. 

We’ve been doing a fair bit of bending and, at first it feels so awkward and, after the first few cracks and f#ckups, slowly it starts to become more second-nature… The secret is in making sure there is a “spine” one third of the circumference of the bamboo which will be like – when you do a backbend – the strength of the spine as the bamboo pole bends. Because we’re cutting through 2/3 of the bamboo in regular intervals, often it’s reinforced with an additional strip or two of split bamboo… just to make sure the bamboo doesn’t snap (especially if supporting a roof). Bending the bamboo makes it less structurally supportive… but hey, looks pwitty right…. That’s also why 4 or 6 bamboos are often bundled together in making these curved shapes. 

When working with petung/betung bamboo, the minimal spacing between where you make your cuts should be 20cm… as it’s fibers are more rigid as opposed to bamboo Tali (Apus)… where you can space the cuts roughly 15cm apart. Each cut is like a small wedge taken out of the bamboo… and that’s what creates the gradation of the curve (how many cuts, how wide the cuts and how far apart). I’m wondering how software could be used to work this out (the spacing and width of the cuts) as usually, the guys just do it “by feeling”… I guess because they’ve done it so many times… but you know us Westies… always trying to make things logical (lol).

So, if you’re making a repeat-series of pillars/trusses, first thing is to make your “mal” which is basically a template… drawn onto the ground directly with chalk paint or marked with bamboo stakes to define the line/curve that the bamboo should take, the height and relation to other pillars etc.

Drop me an email/message if you’re interested in learning more about this component of bamboo building. The price for our Bending Bamboo module is USD$29 (available by video class by download) and for $79 you can also have a 2.5 hour masterclass or design session with us… so hit me up if you’re interested: Email me.

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