Being part of the open source documentation project regarding the natural substance:Bamboo Snow
A testimonial of observations of the substance Bamboo Snow, the natural decay product of bamboo on the island of Saipan
From: Bamboo Jim Hinds Bamboo Can Do, LLC
To: The World
Date: December 2, 2015 Spelling corrections Aug 21, 2016 – Thanks to Patrick Timlick
Date: March 17, 2018 Reformat for move to new web engine structure
Two Years Experience with Bamboo Snow
Rags to Riches, Lemons to Lemonade, Shit to Super Cleanser, Dust to Water Saver, Destruction to Continuation
Let me start off with an apology.I am late. I had given myself a drop-dead, end-of-the-plank ultimatum to have this finished by July 22, 2015. Unfortunately, I had been given my come-uppance this year by Mother Nature and Uncle Internet. On my island universe of Saipan, the entire internet was down for three weeks during July because of a broken underwater fiber-optic cable. As soon as service was restored, a major storm, Typhoon Soudelar, wiped out water, power and most communications over the entire island. A month or so later, another typhoon blew out my very nice printer. I’m sorry, Mz Stitt and Mz Eggleston and Mz Loren for not having my assignment done. I know they are tut-tutting from some celestial pedestal.
With that said, we start sometime in late June of 2013:My best recollection is that sometime in the very last week of June, let’s say June 25, 2013, I noticed some dust on the floor.
Anyone who knows me will be quite surprised that I noticed my floor or anything on it. I have a very high tolerance for clutter and chaos, much to the chagrin of sensible people, like yourself. But this dust was part of my Grand Experiment.
My Grand Experiment was to honor a Mission Statement that I posted on my wall, and read everyday. I had written it months earlier when I decided where to focus my energies: I want a better Saipan. I live here. And I wanted to do it with Bamboo. Because.
On Saipan, Bamboo grows wild, mostly. If a farmer has bamboo growing on the land, that land is unproductive, at least in western terms: Our western technologies are stumped by the utility of bamboo. We prefer big slabs of trees to do much of our building. Bamboo requires craftsmen. Craftsmen are the exact opposite of mass production, and we have masses of bamboo. Bamboo crafts depend on local supplies: There are no local supplies of bamboo in europe, and very very few in North America. So western mass production grew up without bamboo.
When I arrived in Saipan, I was unprepared for the fact that even though there were many stands of bamboo on the island, absolutely nobody gave them more than a glance. Other than minor decorative uses, bamboo was a total nusiance for the locals.
And so I decided to learn about the bamboo on Saipan: how it grows, how it can be split and worked, and how it ages and decays. How the bright green of a live culm can be prolonged in the freezer, and how the color fades when not. How fast or slow bamboo changes in strength aand durability, and what were the characteristics of age and decay. It was decay that caught my eye.
In one corner near a doorway, I noticed some tan dust on the floor around the base of an eight foot long section of bamboo. It had been there for about three months. The bamboo, that is. The dust was a bit more recent. The dust seemed to coat the outside of the shaft of bamboo and fell slowly, like snow to the floor.
I bent down, picked up a pinch of this Bamboo Snow and rubbed some on my hands. My hands instantly became dry and smooth. Extra sensitive. I felt I could crack a safe - If I knew how. Dry, Smooth, Sensitive. I was totally surprised by how effective this stuff was. In the next few days, I gave small samples to people. Nobody’s hands fell off. I sent some to an esthetician for feedback: Bamboo Snow was effective for removing excess skin oil and opening up surface acne. Bamboo Snow was a super-super absorbent.
Realizing that this stuff might have many uses, in the months that followed I did many, many strange things with Bamboo Snow — I wet it, froze it, mixed it with oils, lighter fluid, put it in containers and waited for it to smell or decay. Every experiment geve me new insight into what this stuff could do. And it does some amazing stuff.
The Four Elements: Air, Earth, Fire and Water
My range of experiments was ad-hoc, limited by available materials and done mostly under normal air pressure and temperatures, but most of all, driven by safety concerns: When I first touched a match to this stuff, I was twenty feet away. But as time progressed, I learned Bamboo Snow was predictable, effective and safe in several useful and entirely different ways. I will group these learnings with how bamboo snow responds to the ancient four elements Air, Earth, Fire and water — In modern terms, how it responds to gasses, solids, temperature, and liquids.
Liquids:Bamboo Snow is dry and thirsty. It will absorb any liquid it touches instantly. Oil on the floor? Soaked up and ready to sweep into a pan instantly. Bamboo Snow will absorb up to two times it’s weight in oil, and if that wasn’t enough, you can add another three times that original weight with water. The result is a soft ball that holds it’s shape. If left to dry, the ball remains, but the water is gone. The oil, may or may not evaporate, but will be contained in the mass.
Bamboo Snow turns household water, oils or glue into a putty that can be hand molded and can take any shape. And, no matter what the liquid is, adding more bamboo snow will break up residual putty that sticks to your hands or work. Bamboo snow makes project clean-up easier. When the glue is dry, the result can be sanded, cut, drilled, stained or painted.
Now I know that some of you good readers may remark: “no matter what the liquid is? What if the liquid is boiling hydrochloric acid? Ha!”
Let me respond that you would need to be willing to touch the liquid in question. As far as strong acids or bases are concerned, more research is needed.
When the liquid is water, any minerals will remain in the bamboo snow ball and will give it some amount of strength. The result will not shrink or swell, hot or cold, wet or dry. Blocks made with 1/2 Plaster of Paris and 1/2 Bamboo Snow do not burn, but will wick up both petroleums and water.
Gasses:Bamboo Snow is full of openings, much like activated carbon. The difference is that the organic material cellulose is still intact. This cellulose is the remains of the cell walls of the bamboo, and will provide many chemical “docking” places. Bamboo Snow, at 85F and 80% humidity will contain 10% water vapor. That is, 10 grams of bamboo show at room temperature will weigh 9 grams when the relative humidity falls near zero. Bamboo snow will buffer similar amounts of other gasses and volitile compounds. This behavior is very like a valuable class of minerals, called zeolites. Boyle’s Gas Law, (PV=NRT which relates the amount of atoms of gas in a region with the temperature and pressure) tells us that the constant R of Bamboo Snow must be very high compared to our normal air.
Temperature:Bamboo is always the right temperature. It never feels too cold or too hot. It has very little thermal inertia, or heat holding capability. Bamboo Snow is the same in this regard: when dry, you can put it in a pressure cooker and raise it’s temperature to 240F, and be able to touch it only seconds after opening the cooker. I regularly use bamboo snow as insulation: it even prevents steam burns, condensing the steam and holding back the heat.
Dry bamboo snow will stay powdery and adsorbent down to extremely low temperatures. Experiments with dry ice or liquid nitrogen have not been done, but my expectation is that the bamboo snow would hold both of these, and release them slowly back when re-exposed to normal atmosphere. Freeze drying of bamboo snow is quite easy, ice cubes of frozen bamboo snow will sublimate the water in a frost-free freezer in less than a week. The resulting cube will retain the minerals of the water, and hold the shape exactly, neither expanding, contracting or crumbling over several repeated soaking, freezing and drying cycles.
This non-expansion property of bamboo snow would be useful to mend cracks in masonry by filling the space with a non-decaying, non-hygroscopic water absorbent material. It won’t expand during freezing weather.
Higher temperatures will cause bamboo snow to char somewhere above 240F. The charring will impart a slightly nutty taste. When ignited, virgin bamboo snow burns very slowly, with no visible flame, except veins of reddish glow. The normal access to oxygen is very limited and the reaction proceeds slowly to a very fine black charcoal. The smoke is pleasant and non-acrid. Several of us have used this smoke to keep mosquitoes away after Typhoon Soudelar. The amount of silicon in the smoke is unknown, but as the bulk of silicon in bamboo snow is in the form of glass deposits called phytolyths. These would be present during any fire that burns bamboo. Bamboo is generally regarded as clean burning firestock. Production of charcoal is simple: Heating dry bamboo snow in a terra cotta pot embedded in a fire’s dying embers results in a large quantity of very fine charcoal.
Mineral:Mixing water with any mineral compound into bamboo snow, even the small amount of calcium, sodium or potassium found in tap water will change the dried behaviour radically: the resulting blocks become somewhat rigid, and will not ignite. As mentioned previously, Blocks made with 1/2 Plaster of Paris and 1/2 Bamboo Snow do not burn, but will wick up both petroleum and water. Add some butane into a block and the butane is adsorbed into the block and released slowly: The rate of combustion is prolonged and can be easily extinguished.
Mixing bamboo snow with sodium silicate will harden into a block that will char and pyrolyze, but not burn.
The Fifth Element — LifeAn amazing feature of Bamboo Snow is it’s ability to moderate bacterial, fungal or insect life. When dry, nothng can live or survive in bamboo snow. While care must be taken to assure a low moisture environment, the bamboo snow will dessicate any organic or food material and prevent bacterial decay. But, if water is added the rate of bacterial or other growth is enhanced.Death:Think of the bamboo snow as the left over apartment blocks of the bamboo cells. Each dwelling has walls and is made of good strong stuff, just right to make a bacteria sized playground. When there is little water, it mostly goes into the framework of the old walls: the cellulose. The result is that bacteria do not have enough water to thrive.
Life:However when water is added to completely wet those old cell walls, microbes have a picnic on whatever food is in those old apartments. Normally, virgin bamboo snow has absolutely NO usable food. Those cell walls are the only thing left, and the energy to digest cellulose is more than would be released. While bacteria could re-purpose the cellulose, the energy would have to come from another food source: Not the bamboo snow.
Biomass:The missing ingredient is orgnic matter — biomass. nearly anything that was alive is biomass, exceptions like seashells and bones and such, but liquids, oils, muscle, leaf and twig can be thrown into dry bamboo snow. The bamboo snow will first dehydrate these, and by mixing the snow slowly with out water, normal kitchen garbage can be turned into pre-fabricaed compost: just add water, age and mix. Simply add more dry bamboo snow if the mixture becomes too wet and attracts vermin. A layer as wide as your finger of dry bamboo snow sprinkled on top will completely eliminate the smell — even to insects, ants, cats or dogs.
Safety:Bamboo Snow is great and all, fire resistant wall panels, trash management, humidity control, and all the rest, but How Safe Is Bamboo Show?
Let me start with the obvious: do not put it in your eyes or lungs. Just don’t. If it gets in your eyes, flush with water. Wear a face mask if you need to. Occasional exposure to small quantities do not seem to have lingering effects. Virgin Bamboo Snow is dust, and behaves just as any finely divided substance. It is slightly heavier than water, and will clear from the air within a minute or so.
Just as obvious, Bamboo Snow is not a sexual lubricant. Casual contact with Bamboo Snow on these parts during showering is OK, but sex would be very uncomfortable for the man. Erection may be impossible due to the texture of bamboo snow. File this under sexual deterrent.
The historical record is important: Over 1/2 of the human population has lived in bamboo structures for the last several millenia. These people in Asia, India, Africa and Oceanea do not report any major illnesses from exposure to the natural decay of these structures. Allergies to bamboo are rare. Billions of people eat with bamboo utensils.
First hand experience with this form of bamboo is limited to my personal experiences of the last two years, when I started to use bamboo snow daily to obtain all the following facts: Bamboo Snow is tolerated by skin, mucus membranes, hair. It has no known food value, but small quantities taken orally have no ill effect. It can be used as a dentifrice. Bamboo snow has a very slightly woody taste, after heating to 240F, it develops a nuttier flavor.
Bamboo snow combines well with camphorated oils to make an effective body powder. Bamboo snow combines well with liquid soaps for cleaning skin, dishes and other smooth surfaces. Mixed with honey it makes a basis for facial treatments. Bamboo snow rinses easily with running water in all these uses.
In two years experience bamboo snow performs well for all these tasks: it cleans thoroughly, has a very slightly abrasive quality that is tolerated on the most sensitive parts and welcome on the less sensitive.
possible uses in construction: filler for interior wallboard, craft uses, adds bulk and enhances workability and surface properties for silicone and urea-formaldehyde cements.
Uses in crafts: bamboo snow enhances the characteristics of several common glues, giving these glues additional workability, adhesion, durability and the resulting surface can be sanded, painted or stained.
Uses in electronics: contact cleaner, circuit board cleaner, dehydrator. Bamboo Snow is an electrical insulator.
Uses for cleaning household items: Bamboo Snow, when used dry or with even slight amounts of solvents cleans any smooth surface. This includes soft plastics, hard plastics, glass, and metal. Dinnerware, utensils and cooking dishes can be cleaned with bamboo snow. When rinsing is indicated, the waste bamboo snow rinses away easily.
Personal care: bamboo snow when used dry will remove sweat, grime and oils from hands and skin. It rinses easily from any surface except fabric. I can report there has been no significnt reaction to the continued use of bamboo snow for two years. Coupled with the fact that untold millions of people have been continually exposed to bamboo snow for millenia, the result is rather clear: Bamboo Snow has entirely beneficial and useful properties.
Bamboo Snow can be used as a dentifrice.
Bamboo snow can be combined with camphor or other aromatic oils to make body powders. Bamboo Snow can be used on the hair and scalp to keep natural oils under control, and to hasten drying, as well as removing tangles.
Garments and pillows: A vest has been made with bamboo snow between layers of finely woven cloth: This vest provides personal “climate control” — it not only will keep the bady warm in the cold, but will absorb the sweat from your skin when you are playing Rugby in the 85F, 85% humidity of Tropical Saipan. It will be warm when you go into a cold place, and it will be pleasantly cool when you go into a warm place.
In the same way, a sweatband made of bamboo snow will keep the sweat off your brow and out of your eyes.
A small mat with bamboo snow inside makes a useful pillow for travelers: it will absorb sweat and provide comfort in waiting for take off and landing. It can be dampened and heated in a microwave to provide warmth, or placed in the freezer to make a cold pack.
In all of these uses, it is important to note that these garments, mats or pillows must breathe: Any odor or sweat that is absorbed will also leave over time. These items should never be placed in a closed container unless free of volitile material. Hang it up in the open air daily.
Emergency uses: Styptic: will stop bleeding from small cuts. Bamboo snow will remove oils from peppers or other chemicals from the mouth. Dehydrator for electronics.
How to make Bamboo Snow:
Really easy: nature does all the work.
cut fresh bamboo, split
leave out in the sun to dry for a couple of days
look for small holes or eggs, or note tiny beetles landing on the bamboo.
move inside, keep the bamboo dry and provide fresh air.
collect the tan dust that settles to the floor.
The harvest is continual. Production rises and peaks with the natural cycles of the insects (mostly the bamboo borer), when the growth spurt from juvenile to adult borer requires them to consume more bamboo. A forty foot culm, approximatly 5 inches in diameter at the base, will produce more than five gallons of bamboo snow as it decays.
Bamboo Snow is useful. It is very easy to produce, and can be done wherever bamboo grows. In some languages, the word for bamboo also means “villlage” — bamboo snow can be made by even the smallest village or cooperative. The range of finished products that can be produced from this versatile substance is very broad, and each product will take on some of bamboo snow’s unique and useful properties.
Lastly and most important: to get started with Bamboo Snow, you need no licenses, patents, encumbrances or certifications. If you have access to a dry, clean area and access to living bamboo, you have all you need.