How Do They Make Toothpicks?
By Matthew Di Paoli
Updated September 26, 2017
The Log Stage
The process of making a toothpick begins with birch logs. The logs are lifted by grippers into a de-barker, which in two passes of the blade creates a smooth, barkless cylinder. The log is then transported into the unraveling machine, which strips the log like paper (1.06 mm thick) using 12 blades.
The Billet Stage
The end result of the unraveling machine is a billet. A billet (1.8 kilos) is manually removed and carried to a puncher. The puncher cuts identical toothpick strips at the rate of 8,000 toothpicks per second. The end result, however, is a small, soft piece of wood.
The Finishing Stage
These soft toothpicks are hardened in a dryer for 12 hours and then polished using talcum powder and friction for another four hours. The hardened toothpicks then pass through a sifter that removes damaged toothpicks. The acceptable toothpicks are sorted into a blower and conveyor that counts and packages them at the rate of 747,500 per hour.
Matthew Di Paoli received his Bachelor of Arts degree at Boston College where he won the Dever Fellowship and the Cardinal Cushing Award for Creative Writing. He recently finished his Master of Fine Arts degree at Columbia University for fiction.