How to Make a Bamboo Raft

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Bamboo is a versatile material that can be used to create rafts, canoes and a variety of other watercraft. A raft is a stable but relatively hard to steer craft, and very heavy. Make sure to build your raft close to the water--it'll be easier to haul individual bamboo canes to the building site than to haul the finished raft down to the water. Lashing the bamboo canes securely and tightly together will be the key to making sure that your raft is safe.

Things You'll Need

  • Bamboo canes
  • Rope
  • Knife

Select mature, dried bamboo canes for your raft. If you use green bamboo, it will be so heavy with sap that it will probably sink.

Lay a couple of bamboo canes out to use as slides. You are going to build the raft on top of them but not attached to them, and when it is done you'll be able to slide the heavy raft into the water.

Place three canes across the bamboo slides, spaced where you would like the sides and middle of your raft to be. Starting at each end and working inward, lay more canes crosswise across side and middle staves, then lash them into place until you have formed an entire solid floor for your raft.

Lash a second layer of flooring in place, on top of and canes laid perpendicular to the first layer. Add a third layer of flooring on top of this, with the canes laying perpendicular to the canes in the second layer.

Double-check to make sure that the lashings are secure, and reinforce as necessary.

Tips & Warnings

  • If large bamboo canes--6-inch diameter or larger--are not available, you can lash smaller canes together in place of each large cane.
  • Dried bamboo is very hard to cut, so if it is necessary to trim canes to shape you might want to burn them into shape instead of sawing them.
  • Pierce each cell--closed space between joints--on a cane of bamboo before burning it. This keeps it from exploding.
  • Always test the flotation and handling capabilities of your raft carefully before trusting your life to it.

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