Design Challenge: Chopsticks

Living in southern Minnesota, I do not have a lot of options to obtain my favorite eating utensils, chopsticks. Asian culture permeates a little easier with the west coast, compared to the upper midwest, from what I’ve gathered. And so, I thought to myself, what if I could just make my own!?

And then I thought a few other things. How would that even work? Is acrylic safe to eat from? Where did that walnut 1x1 I had go? A lathe might be the best tool for the job, but I have no access to one. How could I do it on GF? Would the image file just be a series of lines at less power towards the center (like a rainbow column) so it burned more on the sides to etch a curve?

Like @dan said once,(loosely, from memory) “once you have a laser, your thoughts change to ‘how can I cut this with a laser?’”.

So though it may be rather strange, what are your thoughts GF community? Could it be done? If so, how would you imagine it would work best?

From a bit of Google search I’ve determined that acrylic is ‘probably’ safe, but I would have access to some hardwoods too.


I’d say if you get the right hardwood cut at 1/4 inch thick in sheets, you could cut easy perfect rectangle long blanks. Engrave one end while flat with your design. Then stick them in a cordless drill and hold sandpaper in one and to round and point the tips, definitely something I’ll try with my walnut.


I have to go with @marmak3261 on this. I don’t think this is a laser project. Bandsaw or tablesaw , and a sander of some sort will get this done . then use the drill technique that was suggested.

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There are plenty of chopsticks that are square in profile. You could certainly cut them with a nice taper (actually the super cheap ones I buy in bulk at our local big box store are flat with a split)

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Laser ablating wood can be a chemically transformative process - does burning wood in that fashion create any toxic chemical compounds?

I have a wonderful set of beautiful custom handmade chopsticks. I love them. My only suggestion is to pick the correct wood. Mine are made out of a heavy wood and are therefore…heavy. I had to send them back to be redone so that they were usable.

I think @marmak3261 has got a solid technique to make a nice set. I had a set of custom crafted chopsticks many years ago but they ended up warping, I think from repeated usage with hot ramen, and the dark wood coloring had lightened (which raises health concern).

Once the chopstick is physically formed, is there anything to help it resist wear and tear from using it with ramen or other foods (thinking like, orange chicken might leave a bit of coloration from the sauce, or oil from fried rice, or ramen soup) while not being hazardous to eat from? That’s kinda why I was thinking acrylic to start with, but not sure exactly if this challenge can be overcome.


Please elaborate.

I think hickory wood would be a great choice.


I can’t use chop sticks, but if I were making them, I’d go for a closed grain wood like hard maple or birch. They are strong and durable, wood is also more sanitary than plastic* for an item that is going to be re-used.

*If properly washed & dried.

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Why would the coloring fading (assuming it is just the wood’s natural color and not a stain) cause health problems? We spend lots of money consuming the wood dyes (bourbon, scotch, etc)…


No, yeah, it was a coloring or stain that was being removed through use. If I knew then what I knew now I wouldn’t have bought them and used them like that.

So I get a dense hardwood, and fashion it to the shape, is there some type of food safe sealant to apply so that hot water wont bend them, and food oils and sauces won’t discolor?

I’ve used beeswax before to seal a project. It’s marketed as food-safe for salad bowls. I’m not sure how well it will hold up on something like chopsticks though.,190,42950

You may have to re-apply it periodically.

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I have lots of hickory bolts drying as firewood. I could use a froe and split them into nice sheets and plane them. Hickory, ash and maple does for baseball bats, so these hardwoods should do well. I’d welcome any comments from those who have actually made chopsticks from American hardwoods.


Never have used it, but I’ve heard that there’s a food safe sealant that can be used on things like butcher blocks, cutting surfaces, etc. I have a kitchen cart with a wooden top and I’ve been wanting to sand it down and reseal it…and I was told there is a product out there for such things.

Most of the food-safe finishes aren’t terribly durable. The classics are soft oils like mineral oil and shellac, which is bug poop mixed with booze. That may sound bad but don’t worry, Hershey’s uses it on Milk Duds.

Most of the scary-sounding finishes are food safe when completely cured, though. I would look at lacquers for the strength and hardness you want. But my wood finishing knowledge is pretty rusty, so please do your own research to confirm or disprove.


Yes @dan lacquer would be the best choice, the Japanese have been using it just about forever, and it is easily renewable when it does start to degrade. Most people are scared of it though because of the solvent content, and because it can be a bear to get a good looking finish sometimes. Here’s a short, but informative, article from Lee Valley Tools Finishes for Items Used for Food.


Now you know why they are called that… lol


I don’t know what I didn’t see this topic before. There is a product called General Finishes Salad Bowl Finish that is actually more durable than Lacquer or Shellac. I’ve used it on end grain cutting boards that I’ve made and the claim is to only need to be redone when the surface needs to be re-finished (cuts in the wood needing to be sanded down again). Hope this isn’t too late!