Tag Archives: tools

Drill bits for bamboo, part 2

drill bits for bamboo, forstner bit, triple cutterOn a recent trip to Japan I purchased a few more tools for working bamboo. Visiting yet another large home improvement store on the outskirts of Tokyo, the Star-M triple cutter was spotted. Not by me though: one of my kind and generous Tokyo hosts drew my attention to it. (Thanks Koh). I was too focused on locating more spurred drill bits to even notice the picture of a clean hole in bamboo on the packet.

drill bits for bamboo, forstner bitsWith a little online research it was identified, in English, as the Star-M triple cutter. It is listed in the special use category of the Star-M catalogue.  The drill bit is made in the style of a Forstner bit rather than the more common auger bit.

As a Forstner bit, the triple cutter requires more pressure than an auger bit, so it’s better suited to a drill press than a portable drill. In the absence of a drill press, I did, however, manage to drill a very neat, clean 10 mm hole in a section of dry bamboo using my portable drill without too much trouble. The small diameter probably helped here. And a measure of patience. I had to stop from time to time to clear the shavings from the hole that started to smoulder slightly. Overall though, I’m very pleased with the end result.

Amazon have a selection of Forstner bits. Although I couldn’t see any from Star-M, there are some with similar tips to the triple cutter. The situation is similar on eBay au. If you have your own drill press you probably already have a selection of Forstner bits. Do you have recommendations on the best Forstner bits for bamboo? Please leave a comment.

drill bits for bamboo, Star-M, forstner bitsThe Star-M catalogue makes for fascinating browsing (if you like drill bits). It also offers some tips on sharpening the bits. On the Star-M website you will also find this:

The skilled workers grind the spur and cutting lip by hand one by one and confirm the sharpness”

Confidence inspiring.

Clamps for bamboo – Irwin Quick-Grip Clamp Review

When I started working with bamboo, rather than spend money on clamps I wasn’t sure about, I used some old C-clamps that happened to be here. They were heavy, a bit stiff, and very clumsy. Many times I found I needed three hands to hold the bamboo in place and secure the clamp. And still it slipped, or worked loose after a few saw strokes.

Then I was gifted an Irwin Quick-Grip Clamp (Thanks, Jem). I very quickly purchased a second one. Two is ideal for holding bamboo while sawing or drilling. The bamboo (I use, at least!) is never straight, or flat, or any of the nice even, symmetrical things milled timber can be. Using two clamps will secure the culm firmly without it pivoting on a high point.

Swivel jaw

The slightly soft swivel jaw of the clamp really comes in to its own when two clamps are used together on a round piece of bamboo. It’s almost impossible to get a firm grip on bamboo with just one clamp. Using two clamps together, each clamp will hold the bamboo at slightly opposing angles.

Single-handed operation

Fixing or releasing the clamp only needs one hand. The clamp fixes with a ratchet-type action by squeezing the larger handle. The smaller upper handle triggers an instant release. Simple. The clamps can also be used as spreaders, although I haven’t tried that yet.

At first blush, the clamps look light and a bit flimsy. Lightweight they are, but not flimsy. They are made out of some kind resin and feel quite strong in action. Unsurprisingly, all the reviews on Amazon are positive.

My verdict: Love ’em. Great for working bamboo.

Drill bits for bamboo

Spur and screw point

Spur and screw point

Drilling holes in bamboo is not like drilling holes in wood. With the right drill bit a clean hole can be drilled. A drill bit with a spur, or wing, pre-cuts the bamboo, while the screw point keeps the drill bit where it is needed instead of sliding around on the smooth surface.

Messy exit wound

Messy exit wound

However, drilling right through a round piece of bamboo results in an messy, splintered exit wound where the smooth outer surface outer coating is cracked and split – no matter what drill bit is used. This is a problem discussed at length in a thread on Bamboo Forums if you’re interested in following the discourse.

Star-M packet

Bamboo is NOT kind to drill bits. Of the 2 drill bits I purchased – 4 & 6mm – the 6mm bit turned out to be one I used most, so it rapidly became blunt. The silica outer coating of bamboo blunts drill bits and knifes much faster than wood does.

At my request, some drill bits just arrived from Japan (Thanks Chris!) – I couldn’t find anything similar to replace the 6mm Star-M drill bit I purchased in a VERY large home improvement store on the outskirts of Tokyo this time last year. You can read about the Star-M drill bits in English here.

6mm peg, straight through

6mm bamboo peg, straight through

The freshly arrived drill bits were of two lengths – 16 cm, and the more standard 9cm. Left to my own devices, it would not have occurred to me to buy a 16cm long drill bit, but the long one was instantly handy for drilling straight through the rather scrappy and dry large bamboo that supports the seasonal shade cloth for the vege garden. Straight through. No more need to guess where that hole on the other side of the bamboo should be. (Thanks, Chris).

Have you got a friend in Japan who can dash off to the local hardware to pick up some drill bits for you? (Thanks again, Chris).

Bamboo leads to…

While visiting Taiwan earlier in the year, I had the good fortune to spend some time with two different bamboo crafts practitioners. Following a lead from one of them, I visited a ‘tool shop’ situated in the lounge room of a small house down a narrow lane in LukangI was able to add to my small collection of bamboo tools with some hand-made ones from Taiwan.bamboo tools

From left to right: tool to make round holes; double-sided knife; twin set of blades to produce strips of bamboo for weaving. The small blades are extremely sharp. I don’t weave, but use them as trimming/shaving tools.

Longshan templeAfter the transaction (and the obligatory cup of green tea), the daughter of the house escorted me to an old Confucian temple. At the temple, I took the opportunity, under guided instruction, to bestow blessings upon a wedding that had occurred just the day before back in Australia. We did this by offering burning sticks of incense at several different alters within the temple.

bamboo paper moneyAs well as incense, paper money, made from bamboo, is available for purchase at the temple. There are special furnaces within the temple grounds for this purpose. The paper money is burned as offerings for the Gods and ancestors. Burning paper money is not confined to the temple though. Moving through just about any street in Taiwan during the week-long Chinese New Year holiday (when I was there) is to be enveloped in smoke, especially early in the mornings, as householders and business owners make their offerings in small braziers on the pavements.

You can read more about paper money in Taiwan here.