Posts Tagged Handicrafts

Bamboo- For Handicrafts and Fiber

Bamboo, genetically, a grass, is proving to be a suitable green substitute to hardwood timber. Its green, because it is one of the fastest growing plants, and under a suitable regimen of agro-forestry, can substantially reduce the burden on our forests.

Needless to mention, that Indian Wooden Handicraft Industry is having to look at alternative resources for raw material, in light of Indian Rosewood (Shisham) having been classified under schedule 2 of the  CITES lists.

Bamboo seems to fit the bill perfectly. 

As a farmer, as well a stake-holder in handicraft business, we have hence commenced planting bamboo for our needs. In quest of elite planting material, I travelled to all corners of the country, as well as parts of Bhutan and Nepal. We collected some interesting genotypes- We also received some good planting material from Agro-Forestry Dept.of GBPUAT. As a result of above efforts, we have now established trial plots of 6 species of bamboo on our farm, which we shall study for suitability for handicraft applications, as well as its agronomy ( suitability as a cash crop).

Bamboo has a long and interesting history dating back more than 5,000 years. The woody stem has various applications- it is widely used in construction industry, handicrafts, paper, furniture and for fiber processing, besides some other applications. 

Bamboo textiles are textiles derived from bamboo fibers, with or without hemp/cotton/spandex blends. BAMBOO Fiber is obtained from the culms- it is lingo cellulosic, made from bamboo timber which has matured for at least 3-4 years (depending on species). The major chemical constituents of bamboo are cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin, besides minor occurrence of waxes, resins, tannins, proteins and ashes. Bamboo fibers comprise of 60–70 % holo-cellulose, pentose's (20–25 %), hemicelluloses and lignin. The α-cellulose of bamboo is comparable with that of woods. Cellulose contents in this range make bamboo a suitable raw material for the pulp and paper industry. Cellulose is made up of linear chains of β-1-4-linked glucose anhydride units.

Mature Culms are crushed and submersed in a strong solution of sodium hydroxide to dissolve the cellulose. Carbon disulfide is added to regenerate fibers, which are then drawn off, washed and bleached and dried. The resultant fluff is spun into yarn.

The higher tensile strength and longer staple results in a tough yet soft yarn – This is what gives bamboo fabrics excellent durability. The hollowness of the bamboo fiber makes it highly absorbent. Thus, it takes longer to dry on a clothesline. The hollowness of the bamboo fiber also enables it to hold color (dyes and pigments)-thus it is much more colorfast.

Main methods of producing bamboo fibers-

The culm is crushed and soaked in a solution of 18 % NaOH at 20–25 °C for 1– 3 h to form alkali cellulose, which is then pressed to remove excess NaOH solution. The mass is further crushed, left to dry for 24 h and CS2 added. This causes the bamboo alkali cellulose to sulfurise and jell out. The remaining CS2 is removed by evaporation due to decompression, resulting in sodium xanthogenate.  A diluted solution of NaOH is added to the cellulose sodium xanthogenate, to dissolve it into a viscose solution consisting of about 5 % NaOH and 7–15 % bamboo fiber cellulose.  The viscose solution is forced through spinneret nozzles into a larger container of diluted sulfuric acid (H2SO4) solution which, hardens the viscose and reconverts it to cellulose bamboo fiber which are spun into yarns (to be woven or knitted).

Lyocell process uses N-methylmorpholine-N-oxide (NMNO) to dissolve the bamboo cellulose into viscose solution. NMNO- a weak alkaline-  acts as surfactant, as well as to break down the cellulose structure. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is added as a stabilizer and the solution is forced through spinnerets into a hardening bath (usually a solution of H2O2 and a alcohol like methanol or ethanol), which causes the thin streams of viscose solution to harden into bamboo cellulose fibers. The regenerated bamboo fibers are spun into yarns.

BAMBOO CHARCOAL FIBER  The joints of bamboo are cut out and then split up into pieces of slivers of an inch in width. The shredded bamboo is pickled in a solution of clear lime-water, nitrate of soda and oxalic acid. The pickled bamboo is removed after 12–24 h in order to be boiled in a solution of soda ash. The material is crushed and then combed, carded, or heckled. It is then spun into cordage, yarn or other forms of manufacturing.
LITRAX (NATURAL) BAMBOO FIBER Mechanical extraction of natural bamboo fiber, a Bamboo culms. b Mechanical splitting of bamboo culms. c Rasping of woody parts. d Enzyme bath. e Gray and bleached natural bamboo fibers. f Woven bamboo fabric. In order to turn bamboo into a fiber, first the culm must be crushed mechanically. The crushed bamboo strands are then treated with designed enzymes to separate the fibrous material from the glue-like lignin within the plant. This includes a series of precisely timed alternate steam- washing and enzyme treatment cycles, which also act on the vertical and horizontally aligned lignin of the resulting fiber bundles. The final step is to bleach the fibers with hydrogen peroxide. The resulting natural staple length varies between 70 and 150 mm, but can be cut to shorter lengths for processing, i.e. 50 or 38 mm staple. Litrax provides the LITRAX-1 (L1) natural bamboo fibers with a special DNA coding to protect its vertical supply chain and customers. The DNA coding will guarantee that customers are buying the original, authentic bamboo fiber from Litrax. The fiber is strong and durable.

TECHNICAL DATA OF LITRAX L1 BAMBOO FIBER L1 fiber characteristics Dimensions Fineness 5.7D Fiber dimensions 38 mm from (natural 70–150 mm staple)

END USES OF BAMBOO FIBER Bamboo fabrics are made from pure bamboo fiber yarns which have excellent wet permeability, moisture vapor transmission property, soft hand, better drape, easy dying, splendid colors.

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Handcrafted Weapons for Self Defense

As a grower of bamboo, we have now launched a range of self defense products, which are delicately handcrafted, yet strategically brutal weapons.

Some of the Bamboo Species at our farm are almost solid, thereby facilitating making of walking and hiking canes.

Dendrocalamus Membranaceous and Strictus are some of the nearly solid bamboo species.


Walking or Hiking Canes, besides being a prop, are a formidable weapon too.

History of Stick Fighting

Stick-fighting, is a class of martial arts which employs blunt bamboo 'sticks' for fighting; such as a staff, cane, walking stick or a baton.

Stick-fights are an important part of the anthropological heritage of various cultures, such as the Surma and  Nyangatom tribes of Ethopia/Africa. Traditional European systems are mentioned in numerous manuscripts written by masters-at-arms, but have somehow become became extinct.  Portugal's jogo do pau, the related juego del palo of the Canary Islands, France's canne de combat or la canne, and Italy's scherma di bastone are some examples.

Giuseppe Cerri's 1854 manual Trattato teorico e pratico della scherma di bastone is influenced by masters of the Italian school of swordsmanship, Achille Marozzo and perhaps Francesco Alfieri.
The French system of la canne is still practised as a competitive sport. A self-defense adaptation of la canne developed by Swiss master-at-arms Pierre Vigny in the early 1900s has been revived as part of the curriculum of bartitsu.

Nivkh people from Sakhalin used long sticks called z'ar t'ar for sacralized ritual fighting.


Kendo is a Japanese martial art, having probably descended from swordsmanship (kenjutsu). It uses bamboo swords . The introduction of bamboo practice swords is attributed to Naganuma Shirōzaemon Kunisato during the Shotoku Era (1711–1715).

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Show-casing a few below

Bamboo Canes

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Bamboo for Handicrafts Market

Bamboo, especially if it is fully solid, is an excellent raw material for various kinds of handicrafts. Though most bamboos are hollow, there are a few rare genotypes, which are not hollow, thus, being suitable for wood working and even turning on the lathe.

In comparison to other engineering materials, bamboo fiber has a tensile strength (650MPa) similar to steel (500-1000Mpa) and much higher flexibility (~50Gpa) than steel (~200Gpa). The bending strength of bamboo increases with age, the top of the culm being more flexible than the bottom. The compressive strength of bamboo increases with age, 3-5 year bamboo being the strongest. As a biological material, mechanical properties of bamboo  is subject to variability, within and between each species (Leake et al., 2010)

India has around 24 genera and approx138 species of bamboos (Subramaniam, 1998. About 58 species belonging to 16 genera are represented in the North Eastern states.

Dendrocalamus strictus is the most widely distributed species and predominantly found in the dry deciduous forests all over India. D. sikkimensis, D. hamiltonii occur in Eastern parts of the country.

Bamboos show diversity in stature and form, some are an undershrub, while others are climbers (such as Dinochloa andamanica). However, most of them have woody stems, which is the item of commerce.

The woody stems are called culms, which arise from underground rhizomes (monopodial, as in Melocanna and Phyllostachys, or  sympodial, as in Bambusa and Dendrocalamus). Most bamboos have hollow internodes.

The fiber strength of bamboo, its straightness, light weight, combined with toughness / hardness, lustrous, shiny/waxy finish, a multitude range of available sizes, abundance, easy establishment and short-crop cycle, make them useful for numerous purposes.

Bamboo is indeed a useful, multi-purpose resource, its application largely dependent on the age of the culm. Bamboo harvested within 30 days is suitable source of food; When harvested at 6-9 months of age, it is suitable for basket weaving, when harvested at 3-6 years cycle, it is ideal for building construction and floorboards. In addition, bamboo can be used to make clothes, furniture and bicycle frames.

The World Bamboo Handicraft market was around  3000 Million Dollars in 2007, and is projected to touch 4200 Million Dollars by 2017. Comparing the figures for ALL BAMBOO APPLICATIONS (handicrafts, shoots, furniture, flooring, panels, blinds, chopsticks, charcoal and carbon) the total market in 2007 was about 6825  Million Dollars, and is projected to touch 16830 Million Dollars by 2017.

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