How Toothpicks Are Made
Weed Woman asks:
Here’s a question my husband and I have pondered for years, How do they make toothpicks? The nice round ones? They are too small for a lathe. The idea of whittling gnomes has been batted around but seems improbable. Help Dr. Science!
Well, this isn’t really science, but hey, if I can find references telling me how about the detailed chemistry of how a shark smells, I cna find this too. Anyway, here ya go:
Toothpicks begin life a birch tree. eventually, the birch tree ends up on a loggers truck, and finds its way to a toothpick factory (surprisingly, they are almost all in Maine). Once there, the tree is cut into thin sheets of wood called veneer. This is done one of two wats: in the first method a giant saw is used to cut a thin slice of the log. This is wasterful because the saw turns a lot fo the wood into sawdust. The more efficient method is to slice a thin sheet off the log with a Realy Sharp Knife. This is done by mounting the log in a machine that turns is on its axis. A very Long, Sharp knife is pressed against the side of the log, and as the log turns, a thin sheet is sliced off.
The Very Thin Sheet of wood is then steamed. This makes it soft and easy to cut. Flat toothpicks are just stamped out of the wood, dried, boxed and sent on the consumer. Round toothpicks are stamped out of the (slightly thicker) sheet, then passed through a machine called a “rounder”, which grinds them into the nice round, double tapered sticker we all know and love.
Ain’t technology great! Imagine that someone actually invented these machines just to make toothpicks! Pretty cool, eh?