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Making a bamboo steamer? - labradors - 12-29-2008

For years, I have seen bamboo steamers advertised on TV and sold in stores, but I have never had one. Recently, there was a TV commercial on one of the American channels, selling something that steams in the microwave. I'm not sure what it was, but I think it may have been a food product prepackaged to allow it to steam in the microwave. All I know is that I was in the other room and happen to hear them say, "Not everyone has a bamboo steamer..."

That got me wondering: Now that I live in an area where bamboo grows plentifully (there's even a small patch of it just down the street from me), how may I make a bamboo steamer for use in a wok or over a saucepan? So far, I've only found (via Google) one web page that gave such instructions, but they were for a steamer that was intended for use over a campfire, not in a wok or over a saucepan.

Jean, would Roy have any suggestions or advice on this?


Re: Making a bamboo steamer? - cjs - 12-29-2008

Hmmmmm, his highness is still abed, but when he gets up I'll show him this question, labs. Interesting.

Re: Making a bamboo steamer? - farnfam - 12-29-2008

Rob, could it be woven like a basket bottom?

Re: Making a bamboo steamer? - labradors - 12-29-2008


Rob, could it be woven like a basket bottom?

Could be. Not sure of the options. That's why I'm asking. Here's a photo (from the web) of a typical one:

I am NOT experienced in woodworking, but one of a friend's helpers seems to be able to make just about ANYTHING out of bamboo, so I was hoping to get enough instructions and specifications to see what he could do. Of course, I could try with just the photo, but the more information the better.

Re: Making a bamboo steamer? - cjs - 12-29-2008

Good morning, if you like rain, better then snow I guess.

Give me a couple of days annd I will work up some concepts on the building of steamers. I have played with bamboo years ago when young, real young. Jeannie has one and would give me oppertunity to stdy the details.


Me - he's does his best designing when he's driving, so this is the perfect time.

Re: Making a bamboo steamer? - labradors - 12-29-2008

Cool! Thanks, Jean.

Re: Making a bamboo steamer? - luvnit - 12-30-2008

I found this at a bamboo website called


Some Bamboo Do-It-Yourself Stuff

A word of caution: Please do not assume that all the bamboo you see growing will serve you well as construction material. Several details can make the difference between a completely successful bamboo construction and a very short lived disappointment. Five key elements to remember:

The culm must be at least three years old

The species should match the application

The pole should be properly cured

Design does make a difference

Fasteners can make or break the product

Properly managed groves are marked the year they shoot and are not harvested until they are of age. Culms cut too soon are full of sugars, water, and quickly become soft and food for bugs.

Some bamboos are thick-walled and ideal for structures and posts, others are thin-walled and are outstanding for covering frames and pipes. Some bamboos have very hard wood and make excellent tools, others are tough and nailable with resistance to splitting, but will not take a finish. Some are waxy and some are nearly waxless. Check out species before you commit to the effort. A good reference book is The Book of Bamboo by David Farrelly. It is published by Sierra Club Books. Check out the American Bamboo Society source list for distributors of bamboo books.

There are several effective curing regimens for bamboo. The process sometimes includes soaking out the sugars and treatment with boron salts. The minimum treatment skips these steps and moves immediately to drying. Drying normally must be done in a controlled manner with lots of air circulation, a method to avoid having the culm take a curved set, and protection from cracking resulting from overexposure to direct sunlight on one side only.

Designs using bamboo can successfully work the material in compression on tension. Torsion is difficult. Successful applications usually treat the poles as if they were stiff members of a pinned structure. They are not like timbers capable of accepting a few nails to produce an acceptable cantilever.

Finally the fasteners are very important. Bamboo is round, usually hollow, slick-skinned, and splits longitudinally with ease. It is normally necessary to pre-drill all holes for screws. Nails will only work on a few species (though some green bamboo will take careful nailing). Bamboo will shrink as it dries. Take care that the drying does not produce a crack through the fastener or the joint will fail. I recommend that a relief cut be placed from end to end on each pole and the cut be oriented where it is not seen or where it becomes a part of the design. As the bamboo absorbs and rejects moisture, the relief split will open and close without cracking where you do not desire it to. There are several books on the subject of bamboo joining including The Book of Bamboo mentioned above.

Many of the books on Japanese gardening include drawings and photos of Japanese bamboo fences. If you are handy and pay attention to the caveats above you probably can put together the simpler attractive bamboo fences shown. One feature these fences usually have is a pattern of decorative knots. The material used is Coir line which is dyed black. A good long lasting substitute is black polypropylene line. However the latter line must be cut with a soldering gun or hot plastic line cutter and the knot must be fused with heat or it will spring apart.. I like to use a paint-stripping heat gun to fuse the knots. The knot itself has the bitter ends protruding in a close "V". A square knot looks quite bad in this application.

Re: Making a bamboo steamer? - labradors - 12-30-2008

Thanks, Laura.

Re: Making a bamboo steamer? - cjs - 01-01-2009

Labs, Roy wants to know if you have or have access to a table saw?

Re: Making a bamboo steamer? - labradors - 01-01-2009

It MAY be possible, somewhere, but it would be better to assume that I don't.

I have read that a cleaner cut may be achieved by rolling the bamboo as it passes through a table saw (versus just pushing it through), but I'm more interested in good functionality than perfect looks.

The guy whom I may try to get to make these DOES have a circular saw, though. Even so, since he IS Honduran, most of his work is done with a machete, anyway.