Troop Meeting Idea: Bamboo Lashings

If you live in a somewhat rural area, there is a good chance that someone in your neighborhood has a crop of bamboo growing on their property.  There is also a good chance they wish they never planted it there.  While widely though common in tropical areas, bamboo is actually a hardy plant that will grow in a wide variety of settings.  In my small Connecticut town, I’m aware of 4 bamboo stands and I have an open invitation to cut poles at three of them.  (And probably the 4th too – I haven’t asked.)  The property  owners know that if isn’t thinned, it will take over their property.

Bamboo is very useful for scouts.  First, its strength to weight ratio is very high meaning that it is very good for lashing pioneer projects.  In my time in scouting, we’ve made a bamboo yurt that slept 10, several camp furniture projects, boiled water in them and more.

A great troop meeting idea is to teach scouts how to properly lash bamboo.  Its harder than you might think.  Bamboo is very smooth which means you can’t leverage the friction of the bark of a hardwood stave that you might otherwise cut.  So the lashings taught in the scout manual don’t work well.  It is better to learn specific lashing techniques for bamboo. Here is a great resource for learning them:  Bamboo Lashings.

Fortunately, bamboo has advantages that more than make up for the challenge of friction. Bamboo grows in sections called “nodes” that are hollow and separated by “joints.”  The resource above shows how to carve the joints in ways to create very strong hashing points.  With experience, scouts can create very complex structures that are incredibly strong.

A couple of warnings are in order:

  • Scouts will inevitably want to throw bamboo poles in the campfire.  This is not od because the airtight hollow sections will heat up and explode.
  • Some campsites may forbid bamboo because it is an invasive species.  Check with the proper authorities and take out what you take in.
  • Cutting bamboo takes special care because is both hard and brittle – a weird combination.  Make sure scouts follow proper knife and saw/ax safety procedures and practice first on simple projects before the more intricate cuts prescribed for bamboo.
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