52 Create – my weekly creative output for 2011! Bamboo is certainly getting more and more popular in North America as a construction material, although it has so far been relegated to flooring and cutting boards. The other day while at my favourite local wood shop, I saw a few boards of bamboo. Boards you say? But I thought bamboo was grown in shoots? Well it’s engineered bamboo, they take thin strips of bamboo and laminate them into boards that are 7/8″x6″x8′. The perfect width for a biathlon rifle stock (well almost, needed a small amount of planing). After chatting with the staff, they admitted that it was a brand new product and they unfortunately knew little about it. It was priced around the same as hard maple (which is what I would normally use for a rifle stock) so I went for it.
I got home and did some internet research on working with “carmalized bamboo”…… and found nothing. There are a few companies making bamboo rifle stocks, but the only info on working with bamboo was the odd woodworker who had some left over flooring that they had attempted to use to build some small furniture piece. So I went into the project a bit blind, but I was fortunate that the athlete wanting the rifle was quite trusting and keen to go with my idea.
This bamboo weighed about halfway between walnut and maple, but was as strong if not stronger than the bamboo, which means you could use much less of it in the stock (hence making it far lighter!). It’s fairly easy to work with as long as you’re using sharp tools, and oddly enough, it smells like shreddies when you sand/drill it out. My one caution to anyone working with bamboo is that it has a lot of splinters, and they are very sharp, and very fine (and very painful) so be careful when working with it. I used a few pieces of walnut as accent pieces, and finished it with some spar varnish (waterproof and UV resistant). The greatest accomplishment is that the stock with all the attachments was 500 grams (1 lb.) lighter than her old version, a decrease of 30% which is huge when you consider this athlete has to carry this on her back over 15km!!!
If anyone out there is looking at using this bamboo as a construction material feel free to contact me with questions, it’s great to use and I highly recommend it.
My other 52 Create projects.