6 Unexpected Products Made From Hemp
Once upon a time, hemp was one of America’s most vital cash crops, a hardy, low-maintenance and incredibly versatile plant, the fiber of which was used to produce everything from rope to paper. Heck, even George Washington — and a smattering of other early United States presidents including Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson — were proponents of industrial hemp cultivation and grew cannabis on their plantations (presumably not to craft chunky beaded chokers and macramé plant hangers).
Through the years, the status of hemp as a viable crop in the U.S. entered a dormant state, with commercial production ceasing in the late 1950s. Although individual states including Colorado, Kentucky and North Dakota are working to reintroduce small-scale industrial hemp production, the plant continues to be classified by the federal government as a controlled substance even though you’d have to try really, really hard to get high from the stuff because the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in industrial hemp is negligible.
Because it is illegal to grow the plant in the U.S., hemp products and the raw materials used to make them must be imported from a country — like China, Canada, France, Romania, or Turkey, just to name a few — where its production is not verboten. In fact, the U.S. is one of only a few, if not the only, industrialized nation that does not produce hemp for commercial purposes.
Although there are several theories about why industrial hemp has struggled to enjoy the renaissance it deserves, and why it went away in the first place, it generally boils down to the “pot factor.” Industrial hemp, an adaptable and sustainable plant with serious planet-improving potential, and marijuana, a plant that goes best with a large bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, are one and the same — both cannabis plants grown for very different purposes.
Legality issues aside, the number of diverse products made with hemp seeds, oil and fiber is eye-opening. This is one seriously multitasking plant used to make consumer products ranging from shower curtains to dog toys. Below, you’ll find just a few rather uncommon instances.
Although we’ve left the vast array of nutritious, cannabis-based comestibles off this list, the next time you’re cruising the aisles of Whole Foods, be sure to grab a bag of hemp seed granola and a carton of hemp milk (or frozen waffles). You’ll be making G.W. proud.
If you’re the type who prefers to don a helmet and propel yourself around town instead of sitting slouched behind the wheel of a car, you’ll probably dig the work of Erba Cycles, a Boston-based purveyor of truly gorgeous bicycles expertly handcrafted from bamboo and hemp.
The frames, available in a range of styles from country cruisers to city commuters, are made with lightweight, stronger-than-steel bamboo with joints held together by resilient hemp fiber.
If you’re not on the market for a sweet new bike, you can always start small while keeping with the “bike” theme . with a deck of classic Bicycle Playing Cards made from hemp.
Although the phrase “hemp underpants” might conjure images of scratchy, ill-fitting and completely unfashionable knickers or some sort of epic Cheech and Chong gag, this is not the case with undergarments and other clothing items made with hemp-based textiles. They’re ultra-soft, stylish and even, yes, sexy.
Unlike bamboo, organic cotton and other sustainable natural fibers, hemp — grown free of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals — has long experienced an identity crisis on the apparel front, unable to fully shed those hoary, flower power associations still kicking around from the 1960s.
Honestly, we all have our preconceived notions of what someone who wears hemp clothing looks like. But the times have indeed changed as Patagonia, H&M;, Calvin Klein and other clothing brands that don’t exactly scream “sacred moonchild” are now using eco-friendly hemp fibers.
If you’ve ever doubted that Cannabis sativa could improve your beauty regimen, think again. For centuries, hemp oil has served as a skin-improving miracle worker used as an emollient in everything from lip balm to hand salve.
Beyond its everyday moisturizing properties, natural hemp oil is used to combat even more serious skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Also found in shampoo and sunscreens, hemp-based bath and beauty products are relatively easy to come by if you’re already big on natural products. Not at all shockingly, hemp is Dr. Bronner’s approved.
For the uninitiated who prefer chain stores to natural markets, the Body Shop’s hemp range of products — foot creams, body butters, heavy-duty hand protectors, etc. — is a great place to start. Gardeners and those who are frequently exposed to the elements will particularly reap the hydrating benefits of hemp oil.
Two communities that you normally don’t find coming together, auto geeks and industrial hemp proponents, went gaga in 2010 when Canadian company Motive Industries unveiled the Kestrel EV, a prototype electric car with a body made almost completely from a hemp-based biocomposite material.
Speaking to Popular Science, Motive Industries president Nathan Armstrong explained that the three-door hatchback hemp mobile’s strong “yet incredibly lightweight” body could be a “sweet spot for electric vehicles.” Compared with the similarly sized Ford Fusion, which weighs nearly 4,000 pounds, the Kestrel rings in at just 2,5000 including its battery. The vehicle’s low tonnage is capable of boosting fuel efficiency by 25 to 30 percent.
Although the Kestrel EV has yet to hit roads, hemp enthusiast Henry Ford must be smiling down from automotive heaven. In 1941, Ford unveiled a car body made from a lightweight agricultural bio-plastic (reportedly mostly soybeans, but also hemp, flax and other crops) that ran on a hemp-based fuel.
This hemp-based home in Asheville, North Carolina, was completed in 2010. (Screencapture: MNN)
Perhaps the most promising use of industrial hemp is within the home construction industry. Yessir, you can build houses with cannabis.
But really, hempcrete — a bio-composite composed of the shives, or inner woody cores, of the plant mixed with water and a lime-based binding agent — is the perfect bio-based building material. It boasts excellent insulating properties to help homeowners save on energy bills, it’s completely nontoxic and ideal for those with chemical sensitivities, and it stands up strong when the ground begins to shake, making it a viable materials for rebuilding in areas that have been devastated by earthquakes.
Added bonus: Hempcrete is impervious to mold, termites, fire — basically whatever you throw at it. Plus, this highly sustainable alternative to traditional concrete actually absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
A handful of hemp-based homes have been completed, with the first in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2010. The home’s proud owners, Russ Martin and Karon Korp, have an excellent sense of humor about living in a home primarily built from nonpsychoactive cannabis. “We heard that we could have a really great neighborhood party if it ever caught on fire,” Korp joked.
Targeting cool kids concerned about the state of our forests, companies such as Habitat have started to offer pretty sweet skateboards that swap out traditional Canadian maple with hemp decks.
And because skateboarding is a sport where your kicks are just as scrutinized as your tricks, snagging hemp skate shoes and streetwear from classic brands such as Vans, Element, Adidas and others is easier than ever.
This versatile fiber can keep you looking good or speed you down the highway.
Bamboo and Hemp Road Bike
Introduction: Bamboo and Hemp Road Bike
This is my second broken carbon bike I turned into a Bamboo and Hemp bike. This bike looks amazing in person, and rides really well too. The stiffness of this bike is unbelievable. I highly recommend making one. You can view the entire process, plus the build of another bamboo bike at the AdventureSeed Blog.
If you want the reasons I made some of these decisions, read the build for Bamboo Bike number 1. It explains a lot about why some decisions were made and gives more details on the jig
I have only a few tools available to me, so I hope this is useful to the rest of you garage builders who don’t have extensive shops.
This is bamboo bike version two. It was built in a weekend. It is meant to correct the problems of version 1- cracking tubes and poor ride quality. The seat mast idea on version 1 was inspired by the LOOK 595 we demoed, but the bamboo didn’t work well because of the length of the mast and bamboo’s tendency to split if you put anything inside of it.
Materials changed, as we decided to go cheaper and more accessible on this one. Also, we went to Jungle Supply for the bamboo, and the selection was bigger.
If you do like this instructable, check out the blog at AdventureSeed.com for similar DIY projects and awesome stuff.
Step 1: Assemble Materials
Bamboo – Jungle Supply – $7.50 per 10′ 2-3″ speckled bamboo pole
Epoxy – Tap Plastics – $40/qt, but don’t buy this. Any low VOC (less toxic) laminating epoxy will work. I recommend System Three, West Marine MAS Epoxy or Resin Research Get a quart
Hemp – Craft store – $10 A full large roll of hemp was used.
Tools – Dremel diamond cutting bit – $15, wood cutting bit $15. Available at Home Depot too
Gorilla Glue – Home Depot – $10
Frame Jig – Ours is build from Aluminum Extrusions. Plywood or MDF can work if you have the capacity to make it. I don’t have enough tools for that.
Step 2: The Jig
The same picture frame jig from bike 1 was used. Picture frame style made of 8020 ebay garage sale aluminum extrusions, with various bits and pieces, and centering cones from ebay
We agreed that the Specialized S-Works Tarmac was an excellent frame, so we put one in the jig and got everything tight. Having a bike to use as a template helps a lot in our setup, because there is slop in a lot of the screws, plates, and moving pieces. If I were to build another jig, it would be with Misumi Extrusions. They are cheaper, all metric (standard caused problems), and have an enormous selection. They also have no minimum order. Their catalog is a garage engineer’s dream.
Step 3: Cutting Out Old Carbon
With this in mind, we took out the tubes to be replaced by bamboo. Again, we didn’t have the technical resources up the rear dropouts well, (if we’d used Misumi Extrusions we would) so we spared the rear triangle. We also spared the seat tube clamp area, so the seat tube would have a nice interface.
The dremel diamond wheel cuts carbon like butter. The other bits won’t, so this piece is necessary if you want to do this without a headache. Get goggles and a mask. Cutting is dusty and particulate carbon causes a whole pile of health problems later in your life.
Step 4: Miter the Bamboo
Choose sections of bamboo with NO cracks. Even hairline cracks. Cracks will grow and never go away. Cracked bamboo is worthless, so make sure you have enough without the cracked sections.
Using the vice, dremel wood cutting tool, and sanding bit was a nice combination. Compared to a file, this is light speed construction. Don’t push too hard on the bamboo ends, as you don’t want to crack the bamboo. This is more likely with a file and saw than a dremel. Our miters were pretty sloppy and it ended up ok. Less sloppy is better, but don’t ruin your day over it. It just has to fit nicely.
Step 5: Glue It Together
The last bike convinced me that the hemp lugs are the most structural element in bike, and the joints matter much less. Instead of ordering another tube of T-88 structural epoxy (awesome shear strength) we just used Gorilla Glue. Once the miters were right, the bamboo was glued to the old carbon and metal bits (still in the jig) and left overnight with a little tape to hold it in place.
My suspicions were confirmed, by the way. The finished bike has no problems structurally, and is very stiff
Step 6: Prepare for Lug Layup
The shiny, outer layer of bamboo doesn’t stick to epoxy well. Use this to your advantage. Remove the outer layer with something abrasive and expose the woody under layer wherever you’re going to build the lug. We planned for about 4 inches of lug on each tube. This is more than version 1, but we’re not trying to win a weight contest.
Step 7: Layup the Lugs
Meanwhile, the hemp was unwound, soaked in hot water, and thrown in the dryer to make it more open and ready to soak up epoxy. This worked well. We found having several foot long strings of hemp were the best, because they were the easiest to wrap on themselves in the next step.
Many brands brag about their layup schedule- the direction the carbon fibers are laid down. We just try to wrap the hemp from tube to tube, as that looks the most structurally sound.
We found mixing small amounts of epoxy, soaking a hemp string with it, and wrapping the joints one by one was the best technique. Using the hemp string instead of the raw fibers made the structure much heavier, and used a lot more epoxy,
but was so much easier that the raw fibers aren’t worth the trouble. Then we wrap the joints with electrical tape sticky side up to squeeze out the extra epoxy from the layup
There is a tricky part to this, and that is figuring out the best time to pull the tape off. Wait too long and the epoxy will attach the tape to the bike. Try too soon and the expoxy will be too wet and sticky to get the tape off. There is no magic formula, you just have to figure this part out.
Step 8: Add Components!
Bike number 1 was noodley, no doubt. It was the flexiest bike ever made. This one is stiff as hell. It rides amazing as well. The larger diameter bamboo, hemp rope lugs, and now that the bike is finished, I must say that this is worth the weight. The quality and look are both amazing.
Now just add some sweet components that are worthy of your amazing new frame. I personally love singlespeeds for zooming between bars, but the options are infinite, and up to you.
Again, I didn’t document very well WHY i made the decisions I did in this instructable. Refer to the bamboo bike number 1 if you want to understand better why the decisions were made the way they were. There are more details about the jig at that page too.
Bamboo and Hemp Road Bike: This is my second broken carbon bike I turned into a Bamboo and Hemp bike. This bike looks amazing in person, and rides really well too. The stiffness of this bike is unbelievable. I highly recommend making one. You can view the entire process,…