The Humble Bamboo Skewer

One of the most versatile, and cheap, tools in our shop is the humble bamboo skewer. Familiar to most of us as the disposable vehicle for grilling kebabs, bamboo skewers have several qualities which make them an unparalleled shop tool.

bamboo grove
a bamboo grove
Creative Commons photo by: Crystalline Radical

Bamboo is a tough plant, technically a grass but often presenting itself as nearly a tree, with long, fine, woody fibres. The plant itself grows phenominally quickly, its shoots reaching full height and diameter in a matter of days or weeks in the spring, and then using the balance of the growing season to thicken inside. Varieties can be as thin as your front lawn grass, or as thick as a tree. When the larger bamboos are split, they can be milled into very tough lumber, and some are split down to the size we need for restoration: about 1/8″ in diameter and anywhere from four to twelve inches long.

Skewers come in different shapes, as well as lengths, and we keep several (pictured here) in the shop at all times. They are easily trimmed with a sharp knife to whatever shape is needed, and are disposable when necessary. We often buy ours at the dollar store, but sometimes make the pilgrimage down to Chinatown, where the restaurant supply shops have the more exotic varieties. (The spatula-shaped one in the photo is one such most excellent version.)

Bamboo Skewers

The long-and-strong fibres mean that they never break off at an inconvenient time, and pounding the end with a hammer makes a quick brush for liquids.

Following is a list of some of the uses we have found for these handy tools:

  • probe,
  • mixing epoxy glue,
  • spreading glue,
  • putting finish (or stripper, or glue, or stain, or etc.) into very tight corners,
  • gentle scrapers (great for cleaning old patinated brass),
  • dropping boracic acid suspension on to delicate silver parts, as soldering preparation,
  • pinpoint application of flux, when soldering.

Make a place in your tool box for a package of bamboo skewers: you will be amazed at how often you reach for them!

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