#1 Bamboo Construction

First up on my list, a training program on bamboo construction. This is something I have always wanted to learn first hand but somehow, never found the time.

The Bamboo Centre is in Kottakarai, Auroville and handles all sorts of research and workshops in using bamboo as a sustainable medium of construction. This is a 4 day program which includes both theory and practical classes.

Having registered I was told that another student would be joining me for the course this month, but on the first day it turned out that I was the only one! Summer season is a dreadful time to visit or do any kind of activity here.

DAY 1

I waited in a round bamboo hut for about an hour while squirrels and a chameleon (eeks!) ran about on the roof and the staff figured out what was to be done in this situation. Since I didn’t mind being the only student, they let me have my own informal learning experience. Yayee! 🙂 So I will be learning the basic carpentry techniques today and assist Luke in the construction of a wall panel for the next 3 days.

The main carpenter, Shiva taught me the mechanics and joinery. Piece of cake for him, but when it was my turn, it was quite laborious indeed! Some sawing and drilling later, I learnt the 2 main joints used in bamboo: The Fish Mouth and the Ladder Joint. This is a small sketch of how they come about together:

Fish Mouth Joint

Ladder JointThe Fish Mouth is a stronger joint than the ladder, a little more difficult to make but with the right tools all is simple 🙂

The fish mouth detail finally put together, complete with thinner bamboo section inside held together with bamboo nails and sanded!

The fish mouth detail finally put together, complete with thinner bamboo section inside held together with bamboo nails and sanded!

The simpler, ladder joint.

The simpler, ladder joint.

The afternoon was involved in learning how to straighten out and bend bamboo with a kerosene fire blower. This leaves a dark black stain (which can be avoided if you use a gas fire instead, but is more expensive).

Up next, was a session in splitting bamboo. Mind you, the bamboo sections were almost as tall (or short!) as me and the knife much heavier than they think a woman could handle! Great work out! It’s very important to clean out the split sections so the bamboo is “well-dressed” when finally used on site.

Splitting bamboo canbe quite a task, but when you discover a wasp's hive with honey inside, it is hidden treasure. Small joys :)

Splitting bamboo can be quite a task, but when you discover a wasp’s hive with honey inside, it is hidden treasure. Small joys 🙂

DAY 2

This a structure that will become the new showroom for the Bamboo Centre. As seen in the image below, the wall panels have different patterns. The panel behind is seen incomplete with woven bamboo and mud plastering. I will be helping them complete this panel after I finish the infill on the vacant one beside it.

Showroom under construction

IMG_5718

The second day began with site measurements and making some more fish mouth joints for the long horizontal sections.

Weaving the split bamboo soon followed.

Effiorts of Day 2!

Effiorts of Day 2!

DAY 3
Splitting and weaving done for the day because tomorrow I will have to start mud plastering whatever has been finished!

The panel as seen from the interior of the structure.

The panel as seen from the interior of the structure.

The panel as seen from behind.

The panel as seen from behind.

DAY 4

The day that I have been eagerly waiting for! Today I learn how to make the plastering with the local soil.

The mixture is made with 2 parts sand, 1 part red soil, 1/2 part cement and water. Coconut fibre is also added to bring a little more solidity.

The mixture is made with 2 parts sand, 1 part red soil, 1/2 part cement and water. Coconut fibre is also added to bring a little more solidity.

This process involves getting your hands and feet dirty with alotta mud. Stamping around to mix it and all the squishiness later, it was applied to the panels.

Voila!

Voila!

Mud plaster

4 days of a super experience with bamboo. Tiresome, yes. There’s a reason why it’s called “MANual labour”!

An existing structure in the compound. About 2 yrs old.

An existing structure in the compound. About 2 yrs old.

Stools and lamps (unfinished) also made here

Stools and lamps (unfinished) also made here

The workshop

The workshop

If you wish to find out more or contact the centre, you can write to them at aurovillebamboocentre@auroville.org.in

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