Christian Martini shares the joy and beauty of Japanese bamboo brooms in this how-to article inspired by Masanori Yamakami’s workshop.

prunersA BAMBOO BROOM is the perfect tool for gently sweeping away debris from your moss garden.  The Japanese have been using these simple brooms for ages, and Japanese landscapers continue to use them for their effectiveness without the obtrusive noise of a leaf blower.  In addition to this, they are simply a joy to use and a beauty to behold.  To construct your own bamboo broom, you will need to have access to a bamboo grove where you are allowed to cut down some bamboo culms, and you will need a bit of steel rebar tie wire or thin gauge copper wire.  You will also need a drill, pliers, a fine toothed bamboo saw (a hacksaw will work), and a pair of pruners or loppers.

When you enter the grove, you will need to find the oldest bamboo culms which will have the densest branching and therefore make a better broom.  The oldest culms will likely be smaller in diameter and dirtier than the newer ones, so make use of these.  You can also look up into the canopy and shake the culm to see which ones have the densest branches.  Cut down the poles at ground level and cut off the branches with your pruners or loppers.  If you are going to use the culms for other projects, you will want to make a small cut on the underside of the branch with your saw, and then snap it off cleanly by pulling the branch down swiftly.  This will leave a smooth culm without any sharp stubs.  You will need approximately 40-50 branches to make a good, full bamboo broom.  You can probably get about 10 branches from each culm depending on the size and species.  The broom handle should be made from a culm measuring about 1″-1.5″ in diameter and should be cut to 3.5′-4′ leaving a node at the top and bottom.

Since there will be leaves on the fresh bamboo you cut, you will need to wait for them to drop off before you begin construction.  To remove the leaves quickly, wet them down and cover them with a tarp, and they will all fall off in a matter of days.

Now you are ready to begin.  Cut the bottom three branchlets extending off of the main stem of each branch, and then trim each branch to 18″-24″ long.  Now drill a hole crosswise into the large end (bottom) of your bamboo handle about one inch up and wedge a small piece (~1/4″) of bamboo branch into the hole leaving a bit sticking out of each end to hold the branches in place.  Take about half of your branches and arrange them evenly around the broom handle and overlap them about 6 inches.  Wrap the wire around the branches a few times binding them together very tightly, and twist the wire ends together with your pliers, folding the wire end down flat.  Take the rest of the branches and arrange them evenly around the first bundle and wrap them with wire 5-6 times in two places and twist the ends tightly with your pliers.  Lastly, to make a more comfortable grip, you can take a knife and cut the edges off of the nodes at the top of the handle and the middle of the handle where you grip it.  Now your ready for some action.  Go clean that moss!

-christian m.

For tips on other basic tools, go to Tool Basics