I knew I would have to be patient, and finally after a 6 month wait my Chopstick Master has arrived from Bridge City Tool Works
And it is as beautiful as a tool can possibly be made.
At approximately $US200 (plus postage), it is not exactly a cheap way to get some eating utensils. But it is designed to do one job as perfectly as possible (as all BCTW tools are), and it does just that.
Now before you completely loose your mind over the price for making chopsticks, let me point out that it does come with the BCTW HP8 handplane as part of the kit.
If you were planning to get this plane on its own, BCTW sell it for $US250. Yes, you read it right. By buying the Chopstick Master, I actually bought the HP8 plane for $US250, and got the rest of the chopstick master kit for -$US50! That to me is a very reasonable price.
(Ok, I am sure there is some false logic in there, but that is what I am telling myself!)
So how does it work? You can certainly watch the videos from my original post, and I would really encourage you to read the story about the process that resulted in the invention of the Chopstick Master by John Economaki.
What it boils down to, is a jig that accurately holds the chopstick blank at the required angle for a block plane to shave a taper. That’s it in a nutshell. But there is more to it than that, and the devil is in the details. After shaving 2 faces, the final two won’t cut, as they need the blank held at a different, higher angle. The Chopstick Master has this second setting and away you go again.
The blank is held at an angle, so the plane makes a shearing cut, and uses the entire width of the plane which is clever in itself.
The blank is then turned 45 degrees, and the last 4″ or so is shaved again, producing the octagonal bottom end.
What really makes a chopstick though, is the pyramidal finial on the top end. The original jig needed a saw blade to cut that, but the 2nd gen (which I have) positions the chopstick so the handplane cuts each face of the finial to form the perfect pyramid, and nothing beats a planed finish.
It took me a little longer than the promised 5 minutes to make my first set of chopsticks, but that was from reading the instructions, and making sure I got it all right. Before long, I had a pile of very fine shavings, and two near perfect chopsticks. I have no doubt the next pair will be even better now I have it all worked out.
The jig comes with a red insert, which is used to make Chinese chopsticks, which is 5mm diameter at the bottom (I wonder if the colour was deliberate?) I also got the 2mm insert (green), which allows you to make a Japanese choptick.
The combination of disposable chopsticks used in China and Japan (alone) is over 69 billion pairs a year. That is 2.55 million m³ of timber, or 38 million trees. A YEAR!!!!!
Interestingly, a single pair of quality, reusable chopsticks can fetch anywhere from $1 (for an every-day chopstick), to over $100 based on the finish, material, and decoration.
I can see more chopstick making in my future!