March 14, 2013


Well, it’s been almost a month and I haven’t made any progress on the frames I mentioned in my last blog post, but I did make the mouths for them just so I could report some progress. The mouth is actually a pretty easy part to make and only requires an hour or so. It is a fun area to work on though because it requires a little more skill and challenge than just binding bamboo together.

Splitting Bamboo
You get to feel like a lumberjack splitting wood! Well, maybe not quite, but you do start with a strip of bamboo twice the width of a standard framing strip and end up splitting each end into two legs. This makes the mouth base a unified piece while allowing the shape to be more complex than it otherwise could be. One set of legs gets turned into the main curve of the mouth shape and the other set becomes the “wings” on either side.

Using Fire to Bend the Bamboo
And you get to play with fire! Knives and fire and building lions?!? Yay! Can this project have any more of my favorite things? (Note: please use all of the aforementioned things responsibly, I am not liable for any injuries if you try this at home.) Getting the right angle for the corner of the mouth requires softening up the bamboo to make it pliable enough to bend like that. Heating it up with a small candle flame is the perfect solution to do just that. Even with the use of heat, bend it slowly and carefully being sure not to break the bamboo or else the whole piece will be ruined. Also be sure to keep the piece moving around when bringing it close to the flame to keep it from catching on fire. A little scorching is normal and won’t affect the strength of the corner too much.


Scorched Corner Mouth Base


Finished Mouth Frame

Add a few more pieces, then wrap the corners with rattan, and voila! There you have a brand new mouth, all ready for papering, painting and decorating. This probably feels like those cooking shows that show you all of the ingredients and then pull a fully-cooked dish out of the oven. I had planned on photographing each step but then I got caught up in the building process and forgot all about it. Next thing you know I’m looking at two fully completed mouths and only have pictures of the beginning steps of one of them. Sorry about that. Hopefully it’s enough for you to understand the process and gives you a good idea for how to proceed with your own project.

Thanks for tuning in, if you’re interested in more detailed instructions, including a full set of measurements and illustrated diagrams, check out the soon-to-be-released Lion Construction Manual! I’m working hard to get it done by Chinese New Year, 2014 (January 31) and building these two little lions at the same time. Wish me luck!

Are you working on a lion or dragon project of your own? I’d love to talk shop and see what others are doing, drop me an email: and let me know what you’re up to, thanks! And if you need help finding parts and supplies, be sure to visit the all new