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?

7 Responses to “How Toothpicks Are Made”

  1. Beve Michaels Says:

    The above is fine and dandy but does not address the “most important point” – how are the ends tapered and pointed? Are we back to gnomes inserting each toothpick into the equivalent of a pencil sharpener?

  2. sphyrnatude Says:

    Beve, the flat ones are punched out in the right shape (wide at one end, pointy at the other). The round ones are pointed at the same time that they are tapered. The rounder both tapers and points them.

  3. Beve Michaels Says:

    How does the rounder work? I watched a video which dumped the original rectangular pieces into a tumbling barrel which then stated the the tumbling action produced rounded tooth picks. Then I watched a Chinese video which showed the cylinders being sent through a machine with a center based wheel which, while the cylinders were lined up individually in a slots, carried the cylinders up and over the wheel, rather like a ferris wheel. The cylinders fell off the ferris wheel with pointed ends. I could imagion that that there are grinders to either side of the center based wheel which grind the point by rotating the cylinder in its slot as the ferris wheel assends.

    I really appreciate your response and hope for more elucidation.
    Thank you….

  4. R> G. Cox Says:

    I,too, have wondered how round toothpicks are made so smoothly pointed. I still can’t visualize the exact process, but thanks anyway for the interesting information.

  5. Herb Baird Says:

    Is there a video available showing the mfg. process?

  6. darryl d owens Says:

    Thank you (PCH) for showing me how to learn about different things.

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