Sunday, April 10, 2011

Making A Wau: Dealing with the Bamboo

The bamboo forms the main component of the frame of a Wau. A good type of bamboo will determine the quality of a Wau. Most literature about making Wau in the Malay culture would give you the following pointers to select and prepare the bamboo: Selecting the Bamboo

a. Preferably select Bambusa Blumenea - Buluh Duri, Dendrocalamus Asper - Buluh Betung or Gigantochloa Spp - Buluh Brang.
b. The bamboo clump selected must be located on high and spacy ground.

c. Select an old and seemingly dry bamboo that is located in the centre of the clump.

d. Select the bamboo pole that is leaning towards sunrise as it is belief to have high spirit.

e. Determine the length and the spot where the bamboo is to be cut to ensure that the node is in the centre, and the culm on each side of the centre node is about the same length. The length of the bamboo must cater for the longest part the Wau e.g. the lower tailpiece of a Wau Bulan.
f. Cut the bamboo on the afternoon of a dry spell so that the water contents of the bamboo is lowest.

g. Avoid cutting bamboo with sheaths or young shoots as it is still young and has high sugar contents in its sap that is prone to pest attacks.

NB: If you are making the Wau for pleasure, DO NOT get bogged down with the above pointers. ANy type of bamboo from the nursery, hardwares or DIY stores with the desired thickness, length and flex will meet the requirement.

Treating the Bamboo
a. Traditionally, newly cut bamboo pole is submerged underwater (or mud) for weeks. The aim is to bleach the sap which attracts pests.

b. The bamboo is then placed under indirect sunlight for slow drying. Sometimes, it is smoked. The aim is to dry and to eliminate the sugar content in the bamboo.

NB: Unless you intend to keep the Wau for years, there NO need for you to treat the newly cut bamboo. For normal use, the newly cut bamboo can be split and dry out in the sun so that it can be used quickly. Turn over the split bamboo while drying so that it gets dried evenly and avoids bent.
Trimming the Bamboo
a. The bamboo is cut to the desired length. A four feet Wau span may require a 54 inches long bamboo strip to allow for the arch and bend.
b. Split the bamboo from the smaller end, to near required size so that trimming job is lessened.

c. Trim the bamboo using appropriate trimming knife. Alternatively, use a paper cutter. It is not easy to trim a bamboo. On the same note, it is not difficult either. But be extra careful.

NB: The upper part of the spine of the Wau is stiff but the lower tail part is flexible. The bamboo strip for the spine is comparatively bigger than that meant for the wing. The center part of a bamboo strip for the wing of a four feet Wau is nearly pencil-like size, and the tip of the bamboo is nearly that of a matchstick. The size of the bamboo strip for the tail is much smaller than that of the wing.

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