by Milo Clark

Doug and Martha Lingen live in Nevada City. They are both tall people. They came from Seattle by way of five years in Kyoto and Tokyo. Doug went to Kyoto to learn traditional Japanese carpentry He ended up spending some years with a bamboo fencemaker as sensei.

Martha, the sensible one, took herself to Tokyo and resumed her career in financial affairs. She kept earning money in copious quantities as her sensei. Martha also keeps Doug on track during the bambooSmithing workshops whenever he drifts off in his presentation or demonstrations.

Now, they do bambooSmithing classes. They have tools for sale from Japan. They have books with beautiful pictures of bamboo workings in Japan. They have books of pictures of their bamboo work. Awesome, as some would say. They were at the end of a tour giving classes in lots of diverse places from back east to Hawaii.

In Nevada City now, they do classic pegged post and beam construction more than bambooSmithing. The construction firm is overbooked. Wood is easy to come by in Nevada City. To get enough bamboo for a project, it has to come by the container from China or Vietnam. It is marginal bamboo for Japanese work. The curse for Americans with bamboo obsessions is getting good bamboo to work with.

Bamboo work keeps Doug sane. Post and beam construction keeps the bank account happy. They have a partner now, Reed, who works the bamboo mostly. There is probably some irony that Reed is doing the bamboo work. If not irony, then, at least, a pun.

There are many advantages to being in the right place at the right time. Doug and Martha went to Japan in the big boom years of the 80s. Their dollars bought yen at about 250 to the dollar. They left just before the boom busted. They brought yen back and bought dollars at about 100. They also brought back skills and ways to be rare to this country.

Lee and I did the bamboosmith class. We learned some skills we didn't have before. We split bamboo. We shaved bamboo. We sawed bamboo. We made things. Lee made holders for dried plants she delights in. Saw a kerf about a third of a way across a culm with long internode. Cut down at an angle toward that kerf and, voila!, a vase emerges. [wish I knew some Japanese word for Voila!--maybe a special Hai! will do]

I worked on a new spout assembly for one of the watergardens. Giving myself permission to play for a day was the best part. Even better, assuming best has a better, was bringing home a supply of bamboo for many future projects. How many classes have you gone to from which you came home with more value in materials (and upgraded skills) than you paid for the class?

My heart is warmed thanks to the bambooSmiths of Nevada City, Martha and Doug Lingen.

Published October 07, 1996
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