The trick to working bamboo with a knife — as opposed to a saw — is to control the splitting. If you try to baton a bamboo pole like you do a tree branch, you will crush it, resulting in a number of undesired splits. Instead, you must score a notch gently in the pole’s circumference, and then cut through it at the weak point, or just break it over your knee.
How to Cut Bamboo Down With a Knife
If you’re batoning a standing bamboo cane, the operation is simpler. To make sure the piece you remove has no undesired splits, follow this procedure (watch the video for a demonstration):
- Work in a standing position and cut the pole about waist high. This reduces the danger of impaling yourself later on the sharp stump. If you need the entire cane, work right down at the ground, but be sure to break or cut off all the dangerous shards in the stump to avoid a serious injury.
- Place the edge of your knife about an inch or two below a joint, depending on how big around the cane is. The larger it is, the farther below the joint you can begin without splitting the upper part you intend to keep.
- (Optional: you can score the bamboo all the way around, but it’s just a guide).
- Give your knife a light tap or two with your baton to set it.
- Now strike it sharply two or three times to drive the blade in. The bamboo will split, but only in the stump.
- Remove the blade and start another cut next to the first one, repeating this process all the way around the cane until it breaks off.
Procedure for Bamboo Tent Pegs
Making bamboo tent pegs is a simple procedure and a good exercise for the kids, but here are a few tips to save you some trouble (watch the video tutorial for details):
- Find a section long enough to give you a peg at least 6 inches long (I prefer 8 inches).
- Be sure you keep at least one joint — the interior lip will make a nice stay, or notch, for the tent guy line.
- Split the piece in half, then decide how many pegs it will yield that are 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide, and split accordingly. I find this width strong enough with the type of bamboo I’m using, which is a variety of Phyllostachys.
- Scrape the edges before handling; they’re very sharp. (In fact, you can even make a knife out of one of these — video). This will prevent injuries to your hand and damage to your pack when the pegs are stored.
- Trim the peg to your chosen length, retaining a joint at one end.
- Carve a blunt point into the end opposite the joint.
Bamboo tent pegs make a suitable replacement for lost or damaged metal pegs, with less work than carving them out of wood.