Spring in the Bamboo Forest

April 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

There’s such magic at this time of year that cannot be ignored. The days grow longer, life springs up all around us at lightning speed, and undeniably, we feel more connected to each other and everything around us. Very recently, Dan Smith, of Smith&Fong, spent a few weeks enjoying the awe-inspiring splendor of the bamboo forrest. The following account is from Dan’s experience of the sights and sounds in China:

Spring is a very special time all over the world and no less so then in a timber bamboo forest in China. Spring expresses itself most profoundly with the shooting of the bamboo in late March. Shooting is one of the most miraculous aspects of a bamboo forest. This is the period when bamboo does its most rapid growing. A shoot can come out of the grown at 6” to 7” in diameter and reach full height in 50 to 60 days. At top speed, bamboo has been clocked at an inch an hour over a 24 hour period. This is also a time when bamboo culm harvesting is limited as well as entry into the forest itself creating a temporary shortage in supply. To get through this period manufacturer’s typically stock up before the Chinese new year and this allows them to keep production flowing through this time of shortage. Here are a few shots from my recent trip to the forest.

Maozhu (moso bamboo) shooting in spring.

Bamboo forest in spring. The yellow bamboo is the new growth that shoots in the spring from late march to late June.

Freshly cut crown section remains from culm harvest. A culm can be taken down with as few as 3 to five swings of a bamboo forester’s machete. Typically the diaphragm, the inner seal of the bamboo culm is tapped with the machete or bamboo knife to create a puncture that allows the decomposition process to progress more rapidly, nourishing the bamboo rhizome system to support next years’ growth.

A year old crown section working its way to full decomposition in the bamboo forest.

A shoot just breaking the surface. This one was later harvested for our lunch. Shoot harvesting is pretty much over by mid-March and so this lunch shoot, constituted a late harvest. A week later there would be no further harvesting of shoots until the fall season.

Maozhu, or moso bamboo forest in spring. Bamboo forests in Hunan, Fujian, Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces take up vast areas of mountainous lands providing both a food source as well as a raw material source to fuel many different bamboo industries including our own, bamboo plywood and flooring.

Wear marks in the stone pathway from many years of dragging Maozhu culms down the mountain to the weigh station for sale.

Mountain path in bamboo forest in spring

Bamboo forest in spring.

Weather shelter for bamboo foresters during both monsoon summer months and cold winter days when temps can drop into the 20s (Fahrenheit).

Lao Tu, is an old friend whom I have know for more than an 15 years. He is a retired bamboo weigh man for this forest. Everyone here knows him, as he has been a fixture for more than 60 years. We have climbed these mountains, cut culms, hunting for shoots together and in previous years have done some famous drinking of the locally distilled baijiu or Chinese vodka.

There are many facets and subtleties of the bamboo forest. The seasons, harvesting techniques, working a living from the land, even the people of these mountains have their secrets shared only over time, plied with much good local food, spirit and friendship.

Dan

What do you do with Plyboo Bamboo Flooring and Plywood?

April 18, 2011 in Interview

From time to time, we receive images of projects and installations of what individuals build with Plyboo’s plywood. It’s inspiring to see so much talent and such a diverse set of applications. Bamboo is such an incredible material, and very appropriate to utilitarian and aesthetic ends. Today’s post focuses on an incredible craftsman: Miro Buzov.

Plyboo: Miro, so that you know, I’m a huge fan of yours. I saw a photo of the wine rack and the cut-outs repurposed for coasters. Wow! Was it your original intention to do that?
Buzov: Nicole, thank you it means a lot to me. Yes it was my original intention to do that. It actually serves several purposes, the cut outs can be used as coasters but also give the guest of the cafe the option to touch and look at the material used for the cabinet. Another thing about this is, I always respect the money my customers invest in a project. In case of the cabinet which the referred wine rack is a part of, Durapalm was used and at it’s price point I feel my customer should get as much of the material they paid for.

Plyboo: Are there any designers in particular that you keep in mind when designing?
Buzov:I was born, raised and educated in Germany, there are many who influence my designs but not really anyone in particular. Generally said I prefer modern European designs and bamboo gives me the option to introduce warmth to designs which by others not familiar with this style often are referred to as minimalistic and cold. I find bamboo products to be the perfect medium to break through this barrier. And yes come to think of it, there is always Michael Cheng.  Love his stuff, not to mention what he does with concrete.

Plyboo: What attracted you to Plyboo’s materials?
Buzov: Gosh, I have to think back a long time. I don’t want to give false dates but it really all started sometimes in the early to mid 90′s when Plyboo introduced (or at least I found out about the company by then) flooring in Germany. I used Plyboo back then for flooring and early on I actually made my own plywood out of the flooring boards, as sheet goods where not offered at this time. I just simply love the look and feel of it. It machines well with any equipment I have, it finishes up with as little as just some oils if needed and is super durable. For sure, sustainability was a major factor as well, even so many years ago.

Plyboo: I saw what you did with the bar/cafe with the alternating color bands. Seriously, how did you do it? I’m in awe!
Buzov: I always keep every single little bit of material, so often I consider some waste from other jobs for new projects. I have been making counter tops and cutting boards for years using left over Plyboo plywood strips. So, for the drum design I decided to go into my stash of goods. We build a tapered form and individually glued on 3/8″ thick bands alternating amber and natural Plywood. It also took a lot of sanding to get it all to look right. Here again the strength of the material itself allowed us to build it this way.

Plyboo: Do you typically work with bamboo, or do you use other materials like metals and plastics?
Buzov: I work with all media. Wood, metal, plastic, glass, acrylics and concrete as well. In a nutshell anything out there can be turned into something, new or reclaimed it does not matter. I do however prefer to use Bamboo and wood. That said, for a long time there was not a big market for bamboo plywood, for example it was hard to turn customers onto something new. That likely also has something to do with the are of North Carolina I operate in. Some things just take a little longer to get here if you know what I mean.

Plyboo: Back to repurposing, do you typically use waste or design using as little material as possible?
Buzov: I don’t particularly design projects with using as little as possible in mind, often it is just simply not possible in order to create the right look. However, since I always use everything which is possibly usable. You could say it is a little of both.

Plyboo:Do you have any other projects in mind using Plyboo?
Buzov: Currently I am in the process of designing a Sushi bar as well as a Banquet/Event hall. Plyboo like always is my first choice of materials presented to my customers. I hope to be able to use it for both projects in some way or the other.

All photos were taken by Miro Buznov

Bamboo gets Mainstream

April 13, 2011 in Admin

I was flipping through the March issue of Psychology Today a couple of weeks ago and happened upon an article about environmentalism making its way into our daily lives. It’s not only socially acceptable — it’s chic. I was absolutely beaming to see the words “bamboo floor” in print. Not as a fad, but a new direction that should be embraced. People are proudly sharing that they’ve got a bamboo floor just as they’re glad to admit participation in community supported agriculture. Bamboo isn’t the future, it’s the present. It’s happening now and it’s a part of our daily lives.


Bamboo’s significance has surpassed being merely food for pandas. A shining example: I was speaking with Dan, our company president, just yesterday. He was telling me about an episode of The Cat In the Hat Knows A Lot About That that took place in the bamboo forest. Imagine that! An episode of a popular children’s program explaining the many uses of bamboo and its role in its natural environment. The characters visited the bamboo forest and met a panda named Zhu Zhu who explained all the things bamboo could do in addition to being her favorite food. Dan’s daughter along with so many other children are learning about the versatility of bamboo beyond a sturdy grass from China. It’s very clear that people accept bamboo as a material that can be made into clothing, furniture, flooring, and homes.

You can find bamboo cutting surfaces and bowls at your local grocer, bamboo handled knives and specialty cutting boards cut into the shapes of states on Etsy. Bamboo’s popularity as a building material is growing as fast as, well, BAMBOO!

~nicole~

Wine Wave and CabArt with Plyboo Bamboo Plywood

April 1, 2011 in Admin

Last winter, student Stefan Schildge at Savanah College of Art and Design presented to his class a beautifully modern, eco-friendly “wine shrine” using Plyboo Materials. He made it in a class focused on wood bending techniques from Michael Thonet’s steam bending and laminating to the ancient and modern uses for plywood, both bent and flat. He designed his Wine Wave with famous designers such as the Eames, Gustav Reitfeld, Sori Yanagi, Marcel Breuer, and Alvar Alto and their use of plywood, wisa board, and veneer in mind. Schildge chose Plyboo because it is a natural material made with sustainable practices.

“Bamboo’s natural characteristics, especially its flexibility, lend themselves perfectly to the large curve of the Wine Wave, both in function and aesthetic, ” say Schildge. He wasn’t the only designer to be inspired by two natural beauties, wine grapes and bamboo, HandsOn Woodworking, designed a functional and highly aesthetic WineSlide, the initial wine art offering from CabArt.

“’CabArt’ has been a wine art design concept in my mind for years. The designs have a heavy Scandinavian Contemporary Art Design Influence due to my numerous visits to Norway,” says designer Liz Rui. The WineSlide is a 15″ x 30″ x 6″ wine cabinet made entirely with eco-friendly materials and finishes. HandsOn Woodworking‘s WineSlides are available and can be reserved by phone at 704-892-7720 or online at www.handsonww.com.

Schildge is still a student at Savannah College of Art and Design and expects to graduate in Furniture Design in Spring of 2012. He chooses environmentally sounds solutions whenever possible and is currently experimenting with other materials such as plastics and metal. He doesn’t presently have a website (but I’ll post it as soon as it’s available).

Both Schildge and HandsOn do a great job of exploring equally functional and beautiful uses for Plyboo’s bamboo plywood. “Upon discovering Plyboo”, says Schildge,” “I learned of all the new methods for manufacturing and using bamboo, such as plywood production, flooring and veneer. Plyboo’s use of isocynate-based 0-VOC adhesive makes it an even more ideal material.”

Update: Stefan Schildge now has a website. Please visit stefanaugustus.com!