Toothpicks are used for many different things, including building models and serving appetizers, but their primary use is to remove food stuck in the teeth. They are most commonly made of wood, but can also be made of bone, plastic and metal. Evidence has shown the they have been used since the earliest human habitation and they even became luxury objects in the 17th century when they were made of precious metal. Today, most people use a toothbrush and/or use dental floss to clean their teeth, but toothpicks are still widely used.
How are toothpicks made?
The humble toothpick starts out as a log of wood, usually birch wood. The first step in the manufacturing process occurs when bark is stripped from the log by a debarking machine. Once the bark has been removed the log is transported to be cut into thin slices by an unraveling machine. The long strips of wood are then placed on a machine where the ends are trimmed, which will form the pointed ends of the toothpick. The strips are then placed on a roll to be cut into toothpicks by a punching machine. Once the toothpicks have been cut they are dried for 4 hours at 120 °C (250 °F) so that they harden. They are then placed into a polishing machine for 4 hours, which uses talcum powder to smooth the toothpicks. The toothpicks then enter a sifter to remove the broken toothpicks. They are then placed on containers and packed into boxes or individual packages by a machine.
The following video shows how toothpicks are made in a large factory:
Did you know?
The toothpick punching machine cuts about 8000 toothpicks in 60 seconds.