Sorted some of my bamboo when I discovered the dreaded signs of bug infestation: little holes bored into the wood and a pile of dust at the bottom of the stack. Fortunately, this was only in my practice bamboo – stuff I use for practising firing the bamboo – and then only a few sticks were affected.
The bamboo has an odd, rattling feel to it and even if you can’t see the little entry-points, tapping it against a wall will tell you if you have any unwanted visitors; I have been deceived once by an unscrupulous dealer in the past but this was a job lot a friend gave me for nothing, so I cannot complain. Once the bugs get inside the bamboo is less than worthless, as it will break with even a little strain:
My rod making teacher said that serious bamboo dealers will often listen to their stock with a stethoscope – you can hear the creatures munching away, apparently – but I am glad I discovered the infestation early. On the other hand, wood-burrowing creatures are considered a bonus when the bamboo is still alive and growing. The bamboo plant will lay down extra fibres and wood around the injured parts, naturally strengthening it. Long thin pieces used for rod tips with these scars are highly prized among rod makers for their extra durability and elasticity.
This bamboo came from a different batch, from Shikoku, which seem to have a high proportion of bug-eaten wood, and will make excellent rod tips. This one will be used for a tenkara rod in the near future. I laid down the parts for two tenkara rods in February last year and once I have sourced the cork rod handles for them will make a start on them.