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Tools for Working With Bamboo

Beth Bartlett
Table of Contents

Bamboo is used for everything from scaffolding on modern high-rise construction to small concert flutes. Bamboo is tough and durable, and if handled properly with the right tools like saws, axes and splitters, it is tremendously strong.

Tools for Working With Bamboo

The hard outer shell of this grass has a definite grain that splits open or cracks easily, while the inner wood of the bamboo is durable and softer.


If you are going to use any part of the bamboo other than a whole pole, you will need to split it. Splitters come in all sizes and with different numbers of blades. These are designed much like a pie cutter with blades radiating out to an outer ring. They can split the bamboo into four, six or eight strips depending on the number of blades they have.

Japanese Saws

Japanese woodworking saws are ideal for use with bamboo because they are very thin and precise. They are designed to cut only on the draw so there is no need for a thick blade to support a pushing cut. The teeth are set straight and allow you to cut bamboo without splintering the outer skin.

Hack Saws

Hack saws with a straight blade are a decent substitute for the Japanese woodworking saw. To use these in cutting a bamboo pole, set the blade in the handle so that it cuts on the pull and rotate the bamboo so that you are always letting the teeth bite into the surface away from you. This will avoid splintering the outer skin.

Stripping Knives

Once you have the pole cut to your preferred length and split into the required number of strips, you may need to trim the inner nodes flat or even split the strips further. The tool for this job is the stripping knife. The small Japanese utility knife designed for this purpose has an exceptionally keen blade because it is only sharpened from one side like an American chisel. It's good to have a pair sharpened on opposite sides so you have right and left-handed knives.

Root Axes

If you are using the intact root stock of the bamboo for any purpose, such as in the manufacture of the Japanese flute called the shakuhachi, you will need a specialized tool to dig out the root ball without damaging it. A root axe is like a thin bladed axe with a heavy back that can be hit with a hammer. Drive it into the ground around the plant to sever the runner roots; prying on the handle then uproots the stalk and pulls the root stock out of the ground.