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All About Bamboo & Caramel Bamboo: A Worktop Express® Nutshell Guide

Bamboo and caramel bamboo are not only the two most environmentally sustainable worktops we sell, but also looks completely unique alongside the timbers that make up our range of other wooden worktops. In this information guide you’ll find out everything there is to know about the material, including its history, the manufacturing process and much more.

Aesthetics

None of our other worktops look quite the same as our bamboo and caramel bamboo worktops. Whilst a bamboo work surface has a light, golden colour, the caramelised bamboo possesses a deeper hue that is produced through the caramelisation process (more on this in the ‘Source and Manufacture’ segment).

A bamboo wood kitchen worktop has a wonderfully unique look, brought about by the straight grain pattern and nodes that appear in the timber at random intervals. Generally the look of these timbers is much more consistent than the other worktops we sell, largely due to the rapid growth and more symmetrical growth of the bamboo.

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Bamboo Worktop

Type of Wood and Grain Structure

Let’s get this out of the way nice and early for all you purists out there: bamboo isn’t technically a wood – it’s a monocot grass that’s very easy to cultivate in the right climate. The upside of this is that the material regrows incredibly quickly; some bamboos can grow centimetres in an hour! Indeed, the type of giant bamboo used for our worktops takes only 5 or 6 years to fully grow. Compare this to decades for the hardwoods used in our solid wood worktops and you’ll realise just how quickly bamboo is replenished.

Because of its grassy roots, bamboo doesn’t have the same growth rings or variation in ‘wood’ type. Its texture is very uniform, and is usually very fine. The timber is characterised by the nodes that occur periodically up the stem, and create darker bands that give bamboo worktops a distinctive look.

Bamboo work surface

Bamboo has very large pores compared to most wooden timbers, which is key in creating caramel bamboo, but also means that bamboo tends to have a very distinctive endgrain pattern.

It also has a very high silica content, which means that it is naturally very water resistant, and despite the larger pores, tends to be quite resilient to rotting. The higher concentrations of silica in the outer layers of the bamboo means that when the bamboo block is cut, the dust created can be dangerous when inhaled, so appropriate protection should be worn.

Source and Manufacture

There are over 1,500 species of bamboo worldwide, but the larger species in the genus ‘Phyllostachys’ that are used for our worktops come from bamboo’s traditional home: Eastern China. It’s the exposure to a wide range of temperature, weather cycles and perfect soil chemistry that give bamboo its durable qualities.

Though bamboo is often harvested approximately every 5 years (depending on historical weather patterns), it can be harvested much sooner than this, and regular pruning actually encourages faster growth. Some types of bamboo are the fastest growing in the world, growing as much as a metre every day in tropical regions.

Bamboo forest

Bamboo’s uses are wide and varied – it’s not just a great timber. Some of its uses include: a natural scaffolding; an alternative to wooden flooring; home decorations, paper and textiles; traditional musical instruments; eating utensils and many, many more things besides. But it’s our belief that bamboo block surfaces are the most impressive creation of all!

Caramel bamboo differs from our normal bamboo purely in the processes which follows its harvest. Most bamboo is left to dry out and straighten naturally, whilst caramel bamboo is subjected to a carbonisation process not unlike the process of caramelising sugar. First, heat is applied to the bamboo either with steam or by boiling. This allows natural sugars in the timber to caramelise and alter the bamboo’s colour. In contrast to staining – which is applied to the surface of a timber and does not penetrate deeply – carbonising completely alters the colour of bamboo to make it a darker golden brown. The carbonisation process does make the bamboo slightly softer, but doesn’t negatively affect its strength or resilience – it’s still a great worktop material.

As bamboo is not sourced within the EU or America, it does not fall under any kind of certification. However, we still do ensure that the bamboo used for our worktops is sourced from sustainable areas that are not taking natural habitats away from any of the wildlife that relies upon bamboo, such as lemurs (and pandas, of course!)

Since inception, Worktop Express® have delivered well over 150,000 worktops. With the vast quantity of quality products we’ve delivered, we’ve become experts in the timber industry, and have plenty of in-house experience covering the sourcing, manufacture and fabrication of top-quality wooden worktops.

We’ll only ever deal directly with manufacturers of the worktops and suppliers of timber directly, which cuts out the need for any middlemen – thus reducing the cost of our worktops, whilst allowing our process to be much more transparent. We make regular visits to our manufacturing facilities, which allows us to ensure that our environmental standards are followed, and that we are able identify exactly where our timber has come from.

Construction

As with all of our other wooden worktops, our bamboo worktops are manufactured from individual staves; though due to the smaller diameter of bamboo trunks, the staves are only 20mm wide rather than 40mm (or even 90mm in Deluxe and full stave worktops), and between 3 and 8mm deep.

Many of these thinner staves are sandwiched together with a resin into larger horizontal timber pieces to make up the bulk of the worktop. A fascia of only the best pieces of bamboo is then applied to the top of these larger sections, to give the bamboo worktop an attractive and even finish.

Caramel Bamboo Worktop Corner

Physical Properties

  • Tree Size: 15-30m tall, .1 – .25m trunk diameter
  • Density: 750 kg/m3
  • Average Dried Weight: 850 kg/m3
  • Janka Hardness: 6270 – 7170 N
  • Modulus of Rupture (bending strength): 76 MPa
  • Elastic Modulus (‘stiffness’ of wood): 18 GPa

History

Bamboo has long been an icon in Chinese culture. They see it as a symbol of uprightness, tenacity and integrity – all traits highly sought by noble Chinese men. It’s also very important in the religion of Buddhism, as it plays a strong part in the beliefs of strict Buddhists, who are against any form of cruelty to animals. The tender bamboo shoot is nutritious and so became a choice alternative to live on. And it’s not just China that prizes bamboo: you’ll find bamboo forests in Japan that surround sacred Shinto shrines and protect them from evil.

Bamboo plays a part in many other Asian cultures, including martial arts and weaponry in Vietnam, and mythology in the Philippines and Malaysia: one popular myth tells that man first emerged from a split bamboo stem.

Bamboo parchment

In ancient China, bamboo parchments were amongst the first mediums for writing upon. The earliest examples of these bamboo strips (or ‘slips), date back to the fifth century BC, although there are references in Chinese texts that suggest it has been used as a form of paper at least as early as 1250BC.

As a construction material, bamboo is thought to have been used for thousands of years. It’s incredibly strong and versatile as the frame of a building, but can also be manufactured in to roof tiles, water ducts and a host of other architectural uses. Bamboo has also been used to construct rafts and floating houses, fishing rods, furniture, as a water filter and – perhaps most symbolically – chopsticks.

Cementing its place as a globally appreciated plant, bamboo is also the national plant of St. Lucia; is firmly rooted in the culture of the ‘Bozo’ ethnic groups from western Africa; and is used as a traditional medicine in northern India to treat infertility, impotence and menstrual pains.

Price

With over 5,000 worktops in stock at any one time throughout our UK warehouses, we’ve been able to make great progress in reducing the price of oak and other hardwood worktops.

We continue to strive to progress this through high-volume purchasing and continually improved efficiency. We also use an advanced online stock ordering system which helps us to minimise wasted stock and reduce costs further.

With our ‘direct-to-the-public’ e-retail business model, we’ve been able to become more efficient than many other high-street retailers, as well as reducing overheads, culminating in us being able to offer our up-to-date products at lower prices than any other solid wood worktop retailer.

By cutting out the middlemen in our sourcing and manufacturing stages, we’re able to not only ensure that our timber is up to the highest quality, but also save further costs through the development of our own internal support network. This expertise has led us to become the largest importers of solid wood worktops in to the UK, and having just expanded in to Germany, we plan to continue our growth into Europe throughout 2014.

If you’d like to see just how good our bamboo worktops are up-close, then why not order a bamboo kitchen worktop sample. They’re only £5 including delivery, and are cut from existing worktop stock that is oiled on one side to provide an accurate representation of the finished product. If – after receiving your sample – you decide to place an order with us, we’ll deduct the cost from your first order.

Perfect for...

Bamboo and caramel bamboo worktops are ideal for modern kitchens, or for anyone who’d like an extremely eco-friendly counter solution. The light colour of our standard bamboo worktops pairs well with high-contrast colours, whilst the deeper golden tones of caramel bamboo are accentuated beautifully by solid oak cabinetry and more traditional features.

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