How to: Bamboo

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For a commision piece with the theme of post-war Indonesia I had to make a bit of jungle for the background. Found some decent plants but did not find any bamboo that I liked. Several producers make scale bamboo in both resin and natural products. The resin stuff did not look like the real deal and the natural products all look like grass. Because that is what they sell under the label of bamboo. Plus I wanted several sizes to make it more attractive looking. So I set about making my own bamboo. I already thought out how to go about creating this reed. And it was nice to see that how I envisioned it actually worked as well. The bundle of bamboo trees that I made for this dio and eventually also for this article were done in 3 evenings and it is a cost effective technique. The materials used are what most modelers have around the workbench anyways. Without further ado... Letís go make us some bamboo.

1. Tools and materials For this project I used the following tools:
  • Hobbyknife (blade size not really important as long as it cuts)
  • Tamiya Extra Thin cement
  • Cyano Acrylate glue (not pictured)
  • 0,5 mm drill bit
  • Evergreen styrene rod and tube
  • Copper wire
  • Thick-ish aluminum foil
2. Scrape one side of the rod or tube flat with the hobby knife. Bamboo usually has one strip over its complete length that is flat or even concave.

3. Cut the rod in sections. I suggest looking at pics of real bamboo to get an idea of the dimensions and proportions to cut. I decided to freewheel the cutting a bit to get a more visually attractive image with all the bamboo stems next to each other.

4. Glue with Tamiya Extra Thin cement. And apply glue royally. The reasons of which will become clear in the next step.

5. One of the things we modelers usually donít like is the glue ridges that creep out between parts when too much glue is used. But the thickened rings between the sections on real bamboo is one of the well known features of the reed. And so we are going to use that to our advantage. And this is the reason why you have to be royal with the Tamiya Extra Thin cement. You might have to twist and turn the parts a bit around among each other before pressing them together hard to generate enough dissolved plastic to make the ring. If nothing forms just add a little more glue and repeat the process above.

6. Let us look at the work done so far. You see the ring between the pieces and the flat area on the stem. So letís continue. Also try to keep the flat section on the same side of the stem. They can shift a few degrees from each other but they should be more or less under each other over the length of the stem.

7. After glueing all the sections together you should end up with something that already looks like pretty decent bamboo.

8. Time to do something different. As bamboo falls in the family of reeds and grasses it is not just a bare stem. It has branches and leaves. And it has lots of leaves. So out with the aluminum foil and start cutting tiny stretched triangles. Again I freehanded these, trying to get them more or less the same shape. Cut a lot of them because you will run out quickly. I have not counted how many I made but I ran out twice.

9. Drill holes in the rings and in the rings only. This is the place where bamboo sprouts.

10. Cut short pieces of copper wire.

11. Insert the short pieces of copper wire into the holes you just drilled. You can bend them a little.

12. Time to add the leaves. Glue them one by one to the copper wire with Cyano Acrylate glue and try to glue them in a sort of palmfrond pattern. Starting on the top and work your way back along the branch.

13. It starts to look more and more like bamboo.

14. Use different thicknesses to create variation. Use hollow tube for a cut stem.

Paint and finish
15. The bamboo is now ready for primer.

16. Prime it well. Especially the leaves as paint does not stick too well to bare metal.

17. Painting the plant. Bamboo comes in a plethora of colors. From green to yellowish-brown to grey depending on the age of the plant. Again look up pics on the internet and choose colors to your liking. I went with colors from pictures I found on the web of bamboo on the Indonesian islands. The colors were airbrushed with Tamiya acrylics. Painted the bottom side of the branches and the area around the rings in darker greens. Then did a base coat with IJA green mixed with yellow. And finally I misted the middle part of the sections with some buff. The dead/cut stems were first airbrushed around the rings with a dirty dark grey/brown and did the rest with buff. The details of the rings were pinwashed with a mix of black and brown oil paints. And that was that.

I hope I showed you how easy this technique is and how it gives a good result quickly. The collection in the last picture took me three evenings to make and that included painting. It is a great way of bringing some interest to the background of Pacific and tropical themed dioramas.
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About the Author

About Robert Blokker (FAUST)

Started modelling when I was about 7 or 8 years old had a little break in between (school, girls partying) and eventually returned when finding this site in 2002. Main interest WW2 German army, wheeled vehicles and radio and communication troops or every other thing that manages to catch my interest...


@ Micheal Thanks for the compliments. @ Christophe Thanks to you as well for the kind words. And you are absolutely right about the colors. Sadly this had mostly to do with the lighting. Normally I would set up my studio. But the only place I could set it up was filled with clutter. It did not help matters much that I took the pics over the course of several days with changing lightcircumstances as well. Normally the pics I make are pretty good.
JUN 11, 2014 - 12:46 AM
Verrryyy niceeee article mateee! ^^ Soon I hope that I am able to prepare for a project that include a presentation of bamboo vegetation on it. Thanks for sharing here and good luck for you Robert ^^
JUN 13, 2014 - 06:36 PM
Very nice How to Robert
JUN 14, 2014 - 09:42 AM
Ola Guys Thanks for the kind replies and I hope it is useful to somebody in the future.
JUN 16, 2014 - 12:42 AM
Nice technique and guide, will have to add that to the collection.
AUG 01, 2014 - 08:13 AM
That's a great idea. usually we are aware of not using too much glue or sand it away, this time it's pretty useful!
AUG 11, 2014 - 12:30 AM
Looks great. simple and very effective technique. Thanks for sharing!
AUG 12, 2014 - 07:54 PM
DEC 12, 2014 - 10:22 AM
Isn't it cool that the best stuff usually comes from somewhere very simple? Nice "boo" and nice tutorial Robert!! Thanks, J
DEC 12, 2014 - 08:04 PM
Thanks everybody for the replies. I'm glad so many like it and find it useful.
DEC 17, 2014 - 06:19 PM