|Time-saver: The machine can split a bamboo stalk into 17 strips in one minute. — VNS Photos
Bui Van Du's machine to split bamboo not only enriched the inventor; it also raised earnings for his fellow villagers. Thuy Hang reports.
Bui Van Du stunned top Vietnamese engineers with his first machine even though he started from scratch and did not have either a university degree or engineering skills.
July 2004 was one of the most memorable periods in Du's life when the design of his machine was completed. A year later, the machine drove the people in his village crazy.
Du's childhood was closely associated with the countryside bamboo. By seven, he had mastered the art of knitting wattle.
But it was only when he and his family of four daughters and a son struggled with poverty every day that Du realised he had to do something to get out of that situation.
"My adolescence was spent near a mountainous area in the northern provinces of Tuyen Quang and Bac Kan. I was once an illegal gold digger in Na Hang District, where I suffered from malaria for a long time. I also did a lot of extra work. The work hours were long, but I still could not earn enough to feed my children," he recalls.
"Once I went to the market as usual. There I saw a woman cutting water spinach into long and thin strips with a knife. Suddenly, something occurred to me," he says.
On reaching home, Du could not eat or sleep all day. At night, something flashed through his mind and he immediately got up and made some quick sketches on a piece of paper.
The whole week, Du was in a whirl, working with iron, steel and other stuff. His first machine model had 10 knife blades, set in a circle at the centre, with an iron tube as a handle on the outside.
"It normally takes 15 to 16 attempts to completely split up a bamboo stalk into strips. Even then, they are not of equal size. With this new device, a boy can split up a piece of bamboo into 17 strips within a minute. I added an extra iron ring outside the machine's knives, which are larger than usual, to protect them from breaking when they touch the ground."
Still, things did not work out easily. Despite using the knives, Du could split only one to two bamboo stalks a day.
"The machine did not work as I had planned. At times it paused and at other times, something would get stuck in it and it would stop. The process was not right," he adds.
"Each time the machine stopped, I detached it and started all over again. In July 2004, it ran smoothly. But to be exact, it was a month later that I understood my dream had come true. The machine stood firmly in the middle of my yard, swallowing a bamboo trees. A few minutes later, when the smooth part came out from one side and the residue from the other, I was so happy that I could not utter a word," says the 43-year-old.
|Productivity boost: With just a knife and this bamboo splitter, one person can do the work of 80.
Du had made his fortune. After he priced his machine at VND7.5 million (US$330), orders poured in from across the country and people lined up outside his house. Farmers in many places from north to south did business with him.
Fully-equipped with the required material, Du opened a workshop with many workers to assist him and push up the production. With the help of just a knife set and a bamboo splitting machine, a person can do the work of 80 workers per day.
Inspired by him, many people in Hiep Dong Village bought his machine. Now every villager who splits bamboo stalks in spare time can pocket VND70,000. The whole village has earned more than VND1 billion from the enterprise.
"People thank me a lot for what I have done to make their work more convenient and comfortable. I think enriching myself is the most righteous way of enriching others and the country," adds the farmer. — VNS