Jo Scheer has been deeply involved in working with bamboo for about two decades, having lived in Rincon, Puerto Rico, where he built a home for his family with mainly bamboo components. He has been designing, building, and marketing a wide range of beautiful bamboo creations. Jo has recently authored a book, How to Build with Bamboo, that outlines some 30 bamboo projects that elegantly demonstrate the beauty and functionality of bamboo. One of the more inventive of his designs is what he calls a "hooch", which is a small elevated abode made almost entirely of bamboo. The grounded footprint of this inverted pyramidal structure is roughly one square foot, since the entire weight is born on a small pedestal, while the room above is stabilized with guy wires. This hooch has been featured on TV and at conferences. With a background in science, Jo has been a teacher, technician, inventor, builder, contractor, sailor, agriculturist and artist, and thus is eminently qualified to field your questions about building or living with bamboo.
Q: I am about to embark on a project in Indonesia, as an Australian Business Volunteer. My task is to help with improvements to the water supply to a poor village. I gather that the water supply is 8klms away up a hill and the only way they have to pipe it is through cheap Bamboo pipes...poles harvested and hollowed out on site. They have no money but plenty of free labour. I will be there for 8 weeks and I am wondering if you have any advise on an easy way to hollow out the 80/100mms X 6mts poles, joining the poles, preserving the poles.
A: Big project. I always have used a long piece of rebar. Something with heft, and durable- a long metal pipe perhaps. Connections between the lengths of bamboo is a tough one also- easiest to off-set succeeding poles, one beneath the other- if there is enough slope. Preservation is tough too, as any preservation application must also not leach into the water. I have no solution for that, other than periodic inspection and replacement of bamboo lengths. A dug out, terrestrial watercourse would be more permanent and less maintenance.
Q: I have been making bamboo pipes for a short while now. I saw somewhere that someone had used beeswax to coat the inside. But I have no experience with beeswax as of yet. My question to you is how do I go about using the beeswax to coat the inside of the bamboo? My guess is that it's just heated up and poured inside the bamboo; swished around until even and then whatever is left you discard of. But before I experiment with it, I want to know exactly how it's done so as not to waste money and or time.
A: Whoa, this is a bit outside of my experience. A woodworker friend of mine mixes 1/2 beeswax with 1/2 tung oil or other woodworking oil finish- for outside applications. Makes it a little more fluid upon application (possibly heated), coats nice and evenly, and thin. The oil will evaporate off leaving the beeswax coat. I've never tried this on inside applications, but works nicely on outside. It may be worth an experiment. Sorry I cannot give a more definitive strategy.
Q: I'm looking for split bamboo to use for guttering/creating a rainwater collection system across the back of my Houston house - over the patio. Goal is to have water I can use outdoors, and keep it from pooling at back door!
I have tried split bamboo gutters- very nice, but did not last. The reason being that the slope was not steep enough. Some water pools at the nodes, and eventually rotted. Make sure your nodes are cut out adequately, and the slope is enough. It might be a good idea to coat the inside of the bamboo with elastomeric. It stretches and bends - made to prevent leaks (roof coating). As for sources, go to the American Bamboo Society webpage, look under chapters or sources in your area (the Texas bamboo society) Plenty of bamboophiles with extra bamboo.