This is a method of harvesting madake bamboo that I came up with using a shovel that I cut into a “spade shovel” shape. I then sharpened the shovel with a metal file. This method of harvesting uses body weight vs. the most common methods which involve using the upper body/arms, usually to hit a chisel with a hammer into the ground. While the shovel can be cumbersome at times in a bamboo grove it also doubles as a walking stick which I’ve found handy. The saw is a folding gardening saw which cuts on both the pull and push strokes.
I always cut a node above where I plan to make a flute and I wrap with tape, both to help keep it from fraying/splintering when I cut and to mark the culm in case I’m undecided on it or just want to keep exploring (thus the use of bright orange tape for visibility). To lash culms together for carrying out of the grove I use electrical tape. Lastly, a culm is ready to pull out of the ground when it freely moves around when pushed/pulled and, when pushed hard to one side, makes a leathery squeaking sound which are the roots on the bottom pulling through the dirt. I usually dig out a small wedge of dirt on one or two sides so that I can wiggle/pry/pull the culm further in that direction. Of course, this method is not for people with lower body pain or injury and the risk of injury is present and perhaps higher than upper body methods. I find it very efficient and less tiring than the upper body methods.
In this short video you can hear a key sound that lets you know when it should be safe to pry a root end out of the ground without splitting it. The rubbery, squeaky, leathery sound is that of the bottom roots slipping out of their sheaths. If you try to pry a root end out and don’t hear this sound it will often split because not enough roots on the sides have been severed by what ever tool(s) are being used to dig.
In this video I’m doing the initial cleaning and trimming of the roots on pieces of madake bamboo for making shakuhachi Japanese flutes. Tips – If you wait for the soil to dry around harvested roots it’s much easier to pound the end of the root to shake off the soil. Notice I said pound the “end” which is the portion which will not be used to make the flute thus damage to this area doesn’t matter.
Rather than cut this bit off of the root end leave the root intact both to keep the root end off of the ground when you set them out to dry in the sun later and also to reduce the chances of cracks at the root during curing. Tools – I’m using a grinding wheel tool and of course all the proper safety gear. A screw driver wielded carefully so as not to scratch the bamboo. A bench top vise with heavy padding and a terry cloth towel to prevent grit from scratching the surface of the bamboo. This towel is shaken off regularly to prevent the build up of grit.
In this video I’m cleaning the dirt off of the bamboo to prepare for heating over hot coals known as aburanuki.
Heating the bamboo over hot coals/fire “sweats” out moisture from the bamboo and changes the surface color to a pale green. It speeds up the drying time and gives a better finished color and sheen after drying in the sun for a month or more.
(I only use the grill and “charcoal starter” for bamboo but I see no reason why you can’t use them for cooking food and bamboo/multi-tasking)
@0:46 Method 1 “Low and slow” would be best for beginners or when you only have 1 or 2 pieces to do.
@2:30 Method 2 “High and fast” is best reserved for experienced people and is more suitable to doing higher volumes of 5 or more. Whether opting for low heat slow or high heat fast the end result is the same because heating must stop once the bamboo changes color, if you want the classic shakuhachi look for the end result.
When heating the bamboo the moisture (@2:25) must be wiped away with a rag soon after it appears on the surface, otherwise it will burn. This also allows more moisture to escape. Once the color shifts to a pale green we move up to a new area. Too much heating after an area has shifting to pale green will also burn the bamboo, which is generally not desirable for shakuhachi. When drying in the sun it’s best to protect the bamboo from moisture such as rain which may cause cracking. The pieces should be rotated each day to get sun evenly.