What Are Chopsticks Made Of? – Manufacturing Process
Around 33% of the world’s population use chopsticks daily. In China alone, around 3.8 million trees are used yearly in manufacturing disposable pairs to aid millions of people in eating their daily meals.
With this large impact, have you ever wondered what are chopsticks made of? What kinds of wood do manufacturers use? How are they made? Know the journey of a wood to becoming reusable or disposable chopsticks in this article.
Reusable chopsticks, also known as the everyday chopsticks, are durable. They are what tourists usually see on most gift shops and Asian stores. They come in varying colors and design.
What are chopsticks made of? Reusable chopsticks commonly used in most Japanese homes are made of either wood or bamboo. Bamboo chopsticks are less expensive but are a little more prone to warping. Wood chopsticks are made of different kinds of wood, most common kind is alder.
The wood will be first cut to a length 1.5x higher that the desired length of a chopstick. This will be called a wood blank. It will be milled down to create the final chopstick shape. Then, it will be sanded down to smoothen the surface and prepared it for the painting process. The same process stands on how are bamboo chopsticks made.
Chopsticks are painted multiple times. The first paint layer will act as a primer. Between each paint coat, it will be sanded smooth. The design will be painted after the last coat. They can either be hand painted or be applied using a decal-like pre-printed layer.
After the design, the chopstick will receive a final clear coat finish to finally seal the whole body.
The quality of the chopsticks will depend on the finish and packaging. As an example, Chinese chopsticks tend to have 1-3 layers of paint while Japanese ones usually have 4-5 layers. More layers of paint allow for a richer, deeper color, and more durable look.
Disposable chopsticks are made for single use. They are commonly plain, bare woods used in restaurants.
45% of disposable chopsticks are made from trees like cotton wood, birch, and spruce. The remaining fraction are made from bamboo. Willow and cedar wood can be used too. These are what are chopsticks made of if they are intended single use.
With this type, how are chopsticks?
In the factory, wood logs will be cut in shorter pieces and be steamed. After the steaming, the logs will be made into rolls of sheets using a machine that works as a peeler. The sheets will be cut into the desired length which will be called blanks. The blanks will undergo a quality control process in which undesirable pieces will be taken out. After this, all blanks that passed the quality assurance will be finally shaped into a chopstick. There will be a last round of quality check before each pair of chopsticks will be put into sleeves.
There is no painting or coating done in this process.
Wood is still the key material being used in creating reusable and disposable chopsticks. The disposable ones are made more durable and pleasant with the use of coatings and designs.
Now that you have learned what are chopsticks made of, you can have a deeper appreciation to each pair you use. Remember that each one comes from a tree and has undergone a long journey to help you in having your meal.