Building a Bamboo Table

Follow the journey of building a bamboo table from developing a model to crafting the final prototype during the Bamboo U Build and Design Course.

During the 11 Day Bamboo Build and Design Course in Bali, we dedicate the second part of the course for students to either immerse in a full-scale bamboo structure or to work with master carpenters and a resident designer to fulfill a prototype for a small-scale bamboo product or furniture piece. In so doing, it is our aim that working hands-on with bamboo will give students a deeper understanding of bamboo as a building material.

Last March 2023, Luiz joined us from Brazil to be part of the Bamboo U Student Visitor Program and assist us in developing and disseminating his knowledge in bamboo design and construction. In the second part of the 11 day course, he worked on an inspiring design for a bamboo table.

Design Idea, Concept and Inspiration

The concept revolved around creating a piece of furniture that could embrace the simplicity of a single elemental component, facilitating effortless replication on a grand scale. To accomplish this, a frame inspired by the octahedron platonic solid was crafted, resulting in a series of arches with uniform radius connecting the vertices of the original solid. These elements are then used to compose the table legs with a visually appealing structure that plays with form and balance.

BAMBOO U - Luiz Machado Table Leg Details

Crafting The Side Table

To initiate the crafting of the side table, a scaled-down model was meticulously created. This model served the purpose of comprehending not only the form and dimensions but also the mass production process that was intended to be replicated on a larger scale.

Using a stainless steel headpin template in cardboard along with extensive calculations, I successfully fabricated 12 identical arches constructed from bamboo strips in a 1/100 scale. This accurate process, simulating the production process at the actual scale, helped me understand the measures and the repetitive steps to reach the final furniture.

Once the model was assembled, the next step was to select the appropriate bamboo for the construction. To create the 12 identical arches, I opted for the laminated bamboo technique, which involves attaching thin layers of bamboo splits (without the skin) using an epoxy mix. This technique produces robust and solid bamboo beams. For each arch, a total of five layers of Dendrocalamus asper Split Laminasi (lamination split) were used internally, accompanied by an outer layer of Dendrocalamus asper Split Petung still with the skin, to achieve a smoother, more refined finish.

BAMBOO U - Luiz Machado Bamboo Split Measurement (1)

After gathering all the material needed to produce the pieces, the subsequent step involved preparing the template. To accomplish this, a pencil and a string of the exact length of the desired arch's radius were utilized to draw, on the plywood, the length of the arch 20 cm longer than the 57 cm measure referenced by the model to enable future adjustments. Along the outside part of the drawn curve, sturdy nails were evenly spaced every 10 cm, providing support for the future bamboo arch.

Once the template was prepared, the next step involved gluing the bamboo splits. Using a spatula, I applied an even layer of resin and hardener mixture to one surface of each split, excluding the outer layer with the skin and the inner layer without the skin. With assistance from carpenters, I put the splits on top of each other, aligning them according to the template's curvature. Sturdy nails were then inserted along an inner line on the plywood, allowing the splits to stay compressed and applying extra pressure using G-clamps to achieve a consistent thickness. This process was repeated 12 times, utilizing each of the four drawn templates to generate three curved beams with identical dimensions.

The carpentry station is a valuable part of the course, as it not only allows students to develop their design skills but also provides a practical understanding of the intricacies of bamboo construction.
BAMBOO U - Luiz Machado Bamboo Table Template Making Process (2)
BAMBOO U - Luiz Machado Bamboo Table Template Making Process (1)

Once the arches had dried for a minimum of 4 hours, I removed the 12 solid arches from the templates and filled any small gaps with a mixture of bamboo sawdust and super glue to achieve a smoother finish. Before assembling all the pieces, together with the carpenters I sanded them and ensured a uniform thickness using the planner, and cutting the ends to the appropriate length.

In the last step, the 12 legs were assembled, initially, by grouping them into two sets of four legs. Then, the remaining four legs were added to interconnect the groups. To facilitate the process, the tape was used for a preliminary assembly. Two holes were created where the legs met, and a bamboo pin was passed through to secure and attach all the legs together. After completing the legs, a round piece of plywood, larger in size than the leg structure, was placed on top, finalizing the assembly of the Bamboo Side Table.

BAMBOO U - Building a Bamboo Table by Luis Machado Table Leg in Detail (1)

Challenges and Learnings

Throughout the process, the most challenging aspect for me was the assembly and achieving good endings. I realized that creating furniture involves careful testing and a step-by-step approach. I discovered in the end, that the technique I chose allows an efficient mass production, making the final product ready for market.

BAMBOO U - Luis Machado Presentation Bamboo Table

As an architect, I'm used to tackling larger-scale design challenges, but participating in this carpentry project gave me the opportunity to apply my skills on a smaller scale. It made me appreciate the dedication, testing, and constant improvement required by carpenters and furniture designers.
BAMBOO U - Building a Bamboo Table by Luis Machado Table Leg in Detail (2)

The Carpentry Station offers an exceptional opportunity to develop your own bamboo product idea while learning about the challenges and opportunities presented by bamboo at a small, detailed scale. Working closely with experienced carpenters and facilitators was incredibly valuable in achieving the final result. Since many of the techniques used in the process require a great deal of skill and effort, having guidance on how to safely use the tools was essential to building our confidence.

Furthermore, being in a collaborative building environment where we could discuss our ideas, receive feedback, and find solutions to challenges was invaluable to the learning process. The Carpentry Station provides the perfect setting for turning your ideas into a reality.

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Interested in building with bamboo and designing your own bamboo product of furniture?

Consider joining an 11 Day Bamboo Building And Design Course!

BAMBOO U - Luiz Fellipe Machado
About the author
Luiz Fellipe Machado | Architect and Educator

Passionate Architect and Educator from Brazil, specializing in Bamboo Design and Permaculture. With experience managing projects in Europe and South America, Luiz integrates natural materials and original approaches whenever possible into his work. For Luiz, Education is a joyous pursuit based on collaboration, sharing, and creativity.

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