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Making Fake Bamboo

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Here are some tips on making fake bamboo for your backyard projects that will last for years and years:

  1. For structural members like sign posts and supports - use steel poles (the steel poles they sell at Home Depot for chain link fences are perfect). For the bamboo segment seams use good old Bondo to get the shape, smoothing it out with stiff paper. To paint use Rustoleum brushed on. I use a real piece of bamboo as a model when I paint.
    You can bolt these metal bamboo pieces together to make a lot of strong projects that you’d never be able to do with real bamboo. (Or you can weld them together if you know how to do it.) To hide the bolts wrap gardening twine around the connections and it will look like the poles are lashed together. For sign posts, sink the pole into a 2’ hole and fill with Quickcrete You can really fool your friends with this fake bamboo – they won’t know it’s not real until you tell them.

  2. This second method is pretty amazing and you can use it for decorative pieces as well as for any project you want to pipe water through like fountains or drainpipes. An artist friend told me about it years ago and it works great.
    Use pvc pipe in whatever diameter you like. For the bamboo segment seams, first score lightly around the diameter with an exacto knife. Then carefully heat the segment with a little blow torch until the pvc starts to soften – keep turning as you heat it - it will naturally start to raise. When you get it to where it looks good – take the torch away and let it cool. Repeat for the other segments. When done, paint with Rustoleum.

I tried this on one of those pvc mister kits and it turned out great!

You can make just about anything you can dream up with these two methods. If anyone has any other ideas I'd love to hear about them!

Lets see some photos.

Okay, hope these images upload okay, I'm just learning how to do it!

This is a project I did about 5 years ago in our old house - converted a 1935 garage into a tiki bar.

In the first picture you can see welded steel for the overhang supports and also for the window on the right. The steel was attached into the framework before the stucco was applied to the building. On the far right what looks like a bamboo ladder is made of welded steel and was bolted to the wall to provide access to the roof.

In the second picture you see welded steel doors made of steel tubes painted to look like bamboo. The bamboo in the center under the overhang is actually a functional drainpipe and it is made of pvc.

The third picture is a far shot of the same building about a year later. Look closely and you will see a waterfall on the right overhang falling into the pool. There is a fake water tower up on the roof and it looks like the water is being fed from the tower via bamboo (pvc) piping - but the waterfall is fed from the pool from a hidden pipe and routed up to the overhang.

You can see a lot more pictures of the finished project at:

[ Edited by: pariartspaul on 2003-12-22 15:11 ]

Kono posted on Mon, Dec 22, 2003 6:13 PM

Damn, it looks like your taking things to a new level of unattainability. In other words...awesome work! Me? I can't even hang my pictures right. :(

That is the most beautiful backyard i've ever seen! Absolutely incredible! Keep the tips coming guys. Thanks so much!


The Mai Kai sign actually had me fooled. It is of course steel, about 6 inches in diameter, but painted to look like bamboo. I felt like such a dolt when I had to touch it to be sure. So much creativity in the tiki community!

I am absolutely amazed....!

Must.... go.... spend..... countless hours.... working on East Indies Room..... to... catch.... up....... !!!

Incredible work.... I'd love the chance to see in person some time!

Hi all
I have a pic of the the bondo way,under "Creating Tiki", called "Bamboo BMX Cruiser".


Yes, that's exactly it! And a great job too, the paint looks real good. Too cool!


But we must add lots of twine wrap on that bike's joints to make it "right." ; )


Hi all
Thanks a bunch.
This method works so well that no body even mentions the recktangle Bamboo on the back part of the frame.

Bike Shack-

You ever been to Sams? Tons of square Bamboo in the bar. It was real popular a while back. Edit your post fast and no one will even notice. There is such a thing as squared bamboo.

No worries,,I woundn't hide the fact that I'm a novice Bamboo guy.

VERY nice backyard!


Hi guys!

How about paint colors? Any that work better than others? I'm a landscape design student and I'd love to be able to make some fake bamboo!

Bondo-at auto parts stores?




Yes, Bondo that you get at the auto parts place is the stuff! You have maybe 5 minutes to work with it before it get rock hard. After you can sand it.
For paint, I found Rustoleum works great and lasts for years (for outside stuff). The have an ochre kind of color that's good for a base coat. You can tint it with brown, black, white - all standard Rustoleum colors. I think they come in pint or quart cans - and you brush it on. Make sure to get paint thinner too.

Would you (or anyone) mind sharing the painting techniques used to attain the bamboo look? I can roll paint onto a wall but my expertise ends there. :)

Yes, as I said Rustoleum works really well on the metal and bondo. I use the regular glossy Rustoleum, it gives a nice finish. First a light sanding overall, then I mix an ochre type color for the base coat using Rustoleum's off the shelf yellow ochre mixed with just a little brown and white to tone it down and give a more natural look. Then let it dry all day.
Once the base color is dry, I wet blend the finish colors by starting with the ochre base color again, and then blend some brown where the segment separations are, and then some lighter areas (ochre mixed with white) on the longer sections. For variety, you can mix a little green in here and there to make it look like newer bamboo.
After this coat is dry to the touch, you can come in with some matte black and a teeny brush to paint cracks and splits in here and there, this really finishes it off well and makes it look authentic.
And really, I find the best thing to do is to have some real bamboo with you to use as a color model.

I have seen the PVC bamboo before, but it was a commercial product called "Duracane". It is PVC and already painted exactly like bamboo some one in Flordia sells it.


This PVC trick works great. I used it for a bar rail around the edge of my Tiki Bar. I used 2inch PVC and glued it together using elbows at the corners. Next I used Plumbers Putty, a epoxy product with the consistancy of clay. I just sliced off a piece of it, kneaded it until pliable, then wrappped it around the PVC and formed it into a ridge like bamboo has at the joints. I even poked it with a pointy stick to form the little holes where the branches would have been. A little sanding and paint and Voila, Instant Bamboo.

tikiboy, great tip! That plummer's putty is amazing stuff, it can get it expensive if you need to to a lot of areas, but it does sculpt wonderfully and dries rock hard.


I just tried the score with a knife and blow torch method on some old PVC I had laying around. Wow! I was amazed. Look:

This is just painted with amber shellac afterward, no paint. I'm sure with some paint it would look better. I think the shellac melts the surface of the PVC a little, so it's difficult to get a smooth coat.

It's easy to bend the PVC once it's hot. You can make it slightly crooked if you want and you can control how much the nodes bulge out by compressing or pulling the segments. The thinner PVC works better (faster).

Thanks Paul!



Those look great Don!
Now lets see that Kahiki fireplace replica
you did.


I'd really like to see a step by step photo series for that one Spaceboy..

Vinman posted on Thu, Aug 2, 2007 8:30 AM

Wow, that looks great. I'm definitely gonna have to try that for some of my backyard projects. What is the diameter of the larger piece in that picture?

On 2007-08-01 20:40, tikiskip wrote:
Those look great Don!
Now lets see that Kahiki fireplace replica
you did.




harro posted on Thu, Aug 2, 2007 6:25 PM

great thread!!!
love to see some more pics too.


On 2007-08-02 08:30, Vinman wrote:
Wow, that looks great. I'm definitely gonna have to try that for some of my backyard projects. What is the diameter of the larger piece in that picture?

Thanks. It's a piece of schedule 40 2" (inside diameter) pipe. The smaller one I believe is schedule 20 1.5"

Wow. Just wow. I'd like to second the request for the step by step (such as can be done).
I'm really amazed by how nice this looks.

Vinman posted on Sun, Sep 9, 2007 4:48 PM

Here is my attempt at PVC bamboo. I used 1 1/4 160 psi pipe from Lowes I sanded off the printing and rip sawed it into half round. Next I scored with a carpet knife and used a butane torch to create the nodes. Then they were painted with Krylon Fusion spray paint, glossy buttercream color and finally a coat of thinned amber shellac. These are gonna go on my pool shed with some Lauhala matting to create a hut facade. I'll post pics of the final product when we are through.


Pretty amazing results - wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen the pics!

Hey experienced fake bamboo makers...

I found some cheap plastic shelving at a local store for $6. My plan is to show some of my mugs on them. I was wondering if it would be easy to turn these shelves into a fake bamboo shelf? One problem I have is they are a black pvc plastic. Any ideas if it would work with black? Maybe painting white first. Too much trouble? Hey, maybe I'll find some white ones at another of the same store chain.

Here's what they look like, just so you have an idea...




Well white tubing would be better, but Krylon Fusion would probably cover well enough to hide the black. I found the buttercream color to be just about perfect as a base coat.


Are you sure that's not the real Stuff and you're not trying to pull the bamboo over our eyes?
Looks like lot of work but with Perfect results.

Hey Vinman,

Thanks for the pointers. While shopping today I found a few identical shelves in white. Woo Hoo! I'll keep ya posted on how they turn out.




Benzart- It's 100% fake I swear.

Bogielocks- If you use the torch method to create the bamboo nodes be very careful not to over do it or your shelves might wind up crooked and it could weaken them. Can't wait to see how it turns out. Good luck.

Wow, looks great. Can't wait to try these methods.


Here's where the lions share of my faux bamboo went...

Still not done, but almost there.


Hello everybody,

well it was christmas and my lovely New Caledonian wife wanted something special so i went to the nearest hardware store and bought a heap of stuff to build my first water feature as a gift.

here is the result.

let me know what you think?

I'm in the scenery business, so I know a good fake-bamboo when I see it. And I must say damn fine results all around.


Looks great! You have a much better touch with the larger stuff than I do.


This is a lamp I made in my dorm. Well, went outside for the blowtorching and spraypainting. I must say, I got plenty of odd looks from the drunks wandering by.

With Flash

Without flash

Also, I have it plugged into one of those remote controll outlets you can get during Christmas so i can operate it with the push of a button. Keeps the ladies impressed. :P


the clapper. you rock.



seriously, nice work


Nice work on sprucing up the yard. I like the lamp looks like you
captured the universe in there.

It's next to impossible to find large diameter bamboo poles in the north east part of the country. Sure I can order it online but shipping ain't cheap and I'm on a budget! Plus, I only need a few pieces. So...I think I'm gonna try my hand at the PVC bamboo. I love a good faux painting project and this just sounds too easy NOT to try!

There's just one snag in my plan. I don't have a table saw and can't quite figure out how to rip the pipe down the center so I have two pieces with a flat back. If I buy my PVC at Lowe's or Home Depot, do you think they'd be willing to cut it for me? Also, is it better to slice the PVC in half AFTER you've done the torching for the knuckles or can I do it beforehand? Thanks!

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