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I want to make bamboo bike like Craig Calfee and so many others have made, but if possible, I would rather not use epoxy, which is not biodegradable.

A bamboo bike has a frame made of bamboo, held together at joints by hemp-epoxy (or fiberglass-epoxy / carbon fiber-epoxy) composite lay up by hand. Is there any natural/diy alternative to epoxy which can be used with hemp fibers in a similar fashion to hold the joints strongly?

I want to use a truly biodegradable polymer, even if synthetic. Even better if it can be diy homemade concoction. What did woodworkers use other than hide glue before PVA and Epoxy became so prevalent?

I'm looking for a plant based or synthetic non-animal sourced biodegradable polymer. Isn't there something one can make from plant proteins similar to hide glue?

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  • "What did woodworkers use other than hide glue before PVA and Epoxy became so prevalent?" Possibly the simplest answer is they just didn't make things in the same ways that epoxy and other resin systems allow. There are some natural resins, which cooked together with oils can make polymers but strength-wise they're nowhere in the same realm as epoxy, polyester and urethane resins. The predecessor to PVAs is easy, that's protein glues of a few kinds (fish glue, hide glue and hoof glue) and casein. – Graphus Jan 12 at 19:27
  • "Isn't there something one can make from plant proteins similar to hide glue?" There may be, but nothing you can make at home using regular kitchen equipment, and for certain historical formulas it wouldn't be safe to try (fire and explosion hazard) and anyway some of the key ingredients are now unobtainium or restricted due to health concerns and no longer available for sale to the general public (mercury, lead and arsenic compounds). – Graphus Jan 12 at 19:29
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    If it is "truly biodegradable", what will keep it from degrading as soon as it's finished? – WhatRoughBeast Jan 13 at 0:58
  • @WhatRoughBeast, cardboard and paper are truly biodegradable, what stops a paperback from degrading as soon as it's published? ;-) – Graphus Jan 13 at 6:51
  • @Graphus - Cardboard and paper are indeed biodegradable, and will start deteriorating as soon as exposed to weather - even simply high humidity. How useful would a bicycle be which cannot be ridden in rain, fog, or even exposed to high humidity? – WhatRoughBeast Jan 13 at 6:57
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Is there any natural/diy alternative to epoxy which can be used with hemp fibers in a similar fashion to hold the joints strongly?

You might like to look into what I think is generically called bio-epoxy. The only one I'm familiar with (from reading about it some years ago) is EcoPoxy, but a quick Google search reveals there are now others. These are not all-natural products, but they may be the closest you can get with the strength you require.

Caveat emptor
I have no idea how seriously we can take the claims of these products being 'natural' or 'green', but I would recommend skepticism. There are already plenty of distortions, exaggerations and even outright lies in the conventional adhesives and coatings industry (because lack of regulatory control allows them) and I'd expect at least as much if not more in this sub-sector!

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