Ubiquitous, useful wooden slivers
December 31, 2007 1:48 PM   Subscribe

It took Yankee manufacturing and marketing savvy to make the humble wooden toothpick a profitable business. But once it was a common item, accessories and accoutrements necessarily followed, in capitalistic, if sometimes whimsical certainty , and continue, to this day. The small wooden slivers have even become art, toys, architecture and science projects.
posted by paulsc (12 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Not to mention the (possible) answer to a century-old literary mystery.
posted by Bezbozhnik at 2:12 PM on December 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

They are ubiquitous.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:47 PM on December 31, 2007

Man. Toothpick bridges. There are a lot of things I don't miss about the K-12 part of my life, but building testable structures out of toothpicks and glue and a moxy is not one of them.


11:00: Start experiment
11:30: Still just a potato
12:00: "
12:30: "
01:00: "

posted by cortex at 2:53 PM on December 31, 2007

I think that's why so many kids (yrs truly included) never got into science. Most teachers make it so fucking boring.

If junior high science class were more like (safer) Mythbusters, there'd be kids scrambling to get into the classes. I mean yeah, a lot of science can be dreadfully dull, and experimentation really is dreadfully dull most of the time, but if you suck 'em in with experiments like "here's some bits of wood and string and stuff, now launch this potato as far as you can--without hitting Tyler in the face, ok?--and figure out how to make it go further," I think we'd see a lot more engagement.

"I said without hitting Tyler in the face. Yeah, okay, it's the back of his head. Same difference. Go get the nurse. Rassinfrassin kids I don't know why I put up with this I mean really OW, you horrible little hobgoblins, no hitting me with the potato either! Actually, Jennifer, that was a great shot. Why don't you explain to the class how you got that accuracy?"
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:29 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

It takes real moxy to build with toothpicks.
posted by Tube at 5:02 PM on December 31, 2007

Yankee manufacturing...remember when that wasn't an oxymoron?
posted by mullingitover at 5:02 PM on December 31, 2007

Cool - I really like the toothpick bridge in the science link.

/off to round up some toothpicks

(and why aren't there reusable metal toothpicks?)
posted by porpoise at 5:32 PM on December 31, 2007

"... remember when that wasn't an oxymoron?"
posted by mullingitover at 8:02 PM on December 31

Yes, as a man who fixed seam welding machines in Tennessee manufacturing plants, and numerically controlled stitching machines in Tennessee cowboy boot factories, to say nothing of hundreds of Lehigh Valley shoe plants I visited in the 80's, where I sold adhesives and machinery for a company I eventually came to own in a leveraged buy out, I do.

I do.

And, I did, as I drove by shuttered, abandoned Bethlehem Steel mills, even then.

You'd have to ask that damn question, on this night, of all the nights in the year, wouldn't you?

Not that I mind, in the least, on account of what I see this land of mine, through the time of my life, sadly, become. Really, seriously, as one old manufacturer to anyone who is still listening, good luck with all that.
posted by paulsc at 5:49 PM on December 31, 2007

Say don't you remember? they called me paulsc. it was paulsc all the time.
dont you remember I'm your pal
brother can you spare a dime.
posted by hortense at 6:48 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

(and why aren't there reusable metal toothpicks?)

I was about to simply say that it's because metal is too hard, and the scraping would damage your teeth, but on reflection you could have a toothpick with a metal core and hard rubber ends, like the rubber thorns you used to see on the back ends of toothbrushes.

Where did I leave those patent application forms...
posted by rifflesby at 11:15 PM on December 31, 2007

porpoise: I don't know about metal. Will these do, instead?
posted by nax at 10:54 AM on January 1, 2008

oooh, sweet, nax. Maybe that was what I was thinking of.
posted by porpoise at 1:04 PM on January 1, 2008

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