Bamboo for Cabinets

Cabinetmakers discuss their experiences with bamboo-based materials. December 14, 2009

Does anyone have any experience working with bamboo? Is there anything I should be aware of? Does anyone have information on prices?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
Bamboo plywood is very hard and will dull tooling quickly. It is also expensive. We recently did a job that had 1/2" bamboo panels from Plyboo in the doors and it was $200 per sheet. The sheets were 3 x 6 feet. It was interesting looking though.

From contributor B:
We've run a few jobs with bamboo. My conclusions were that it is somewhat harder on tooling, it is hard and durable, and tooling needs to be sharp and scoring set right-on or you will get small fractures along the "end grain" cuts. We've run moldings with it on steel knives! I really like the look of the light natural color. The darker treated stuff tends to look dull. We've had no quality issues.

From contributor C:
Be sure to break all your edges, as it splinters worse than pecan - tiny, hard, little splinters. Because of the core, you can use the Plyboo like solid stock. For fun, try making a 5 piece RP door. It is beautiful, if you are into that kind of item.

From contributor D:
We have done some kitchens and odd work with Plyboo. I'm currently making kitchen counters out of it. Our only problem is warping. Our sheets come individually wrapped in plastic bags and once opened, they move all over. My advice is to open them and let them acclimatize and see which sheets give you problems.

From contributor E:
Warping is a real problem. This is not a great plywood product, but it can be very beautiful. Just be thoughtful about how you use it.

From contributor F:
I have worked with bamboo since I was a kid. When I was 30, back from Europe, I was teaching craftsmen how to work with bamboo and rattan, applying European production technology back in Indonesia and the Philippines. Bamboo has unique characteristics, is very strong though very flexible. It is lightweight in a sense, but if you glue together as a block board, it becomes too heavy. It is easy to torch bend and remain in form. To me, bamboo should not be used as solid panel, nor veneer. It is hard to cross cut and splinters badly. It is also hard to drill due to splinters and the holes split if you screw into it. You should see how the Chinese and Japanese can work with hand and simple tools or knives but produce high quality products, very precise and fast. They have worked with this material for thousands of years. I have learned from them using traditional tools.