We are frequently asked questions about the base material used for chopsticks. While plastics are used in making durable chopsticks for restaurants or ornamental chopsticks such as samurai sword or Star Wars lightsaber chopsticks, a natural wood or bamboo is used for chopsticks with a painted finish.

When possible, we have specified the base material in the product description for each style of chopstick we sell. Many of the most commonly used woods come from southeast Asia, a short description of each wood species is outlined below.

Woods Used for Making Chopsticks:

Most common:

Malas (Homalium tomentosum), harvested in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Brazil
Malas is perhaps the most widely used wood in the making of chopsticks. This deciduous tree has a light, yellow-brown color, and a close, compact grain. It is very common throughout East Asia. Malas is used in construction, bridges, and makes good fishing poles.

Jabon (Anthocephalus cadamba), harvested in Indonesia, Malaysia
Another common chopsticks wood, Jabon has a yellow color with a fine to medium texture. It keeps a straight grain and is easy to cut and process. It is commonly used in plywood, light construction, furniture, paper and canoes. It is very common throughout East Asia.

Ironwood (Eusideroxylon zwageri), harvested in Indonesia
Ironwood was a common wood used to manufacture chopsticks because it is dense and straight grained. However it is used less frequently as it has been over harvested in some areas. Ironwood can have a yellowish-brown or reddish-brown color. It is one of the heaviest and most durable timbers in South-East Asia.

Moso Bamboo (Phyllostachys heterocycla), harvested in China
Moso bamboo is a giant timber bamboo native to China and Taiwan. This remarkable bamboo can 2-3 feet per day reaching full height of 30-90 feet in about 2 months. This important material is commonly used for flooring, textiles and building materials. Bamboo is one of the most renewable materials for chopsticks, however bamboo also tends to warp more than most woods.

Beech (Fagus sylvatica), harvested in Germany
The European Beech is an excellent wood for furniture, chopsticks, and flooring. It is a dense, heavy wood with a fine, short grain. It's easy to work, dye and varnish. The European Beech is a popular ornamental tree native throughout much of Europe.

Tinnok (Vitex pubescens), harvested in Malaysia
A common tree throughout South and East Asia, Tinnok is used both for its strong, durable timber as well as medicinal cures. The wood has a yellow to brown color.

Less frequently used:

Natak (Manilkara kauki), harvested in Brazil
Natak is most common in tropical Asia and Australia. It is a good tree used for reforestation and harvest. It also has a tasty fruit called Caqui, about the size of a plum. The wood is a brown or dark brown color and is good for making furniture and wood carvings.

Hard Maple (Acer saccharum), harvested in Canada
The Hard Maple, commonly known as the Northern Sugar Maple, is native to Eastern and Central North America with cool climates. Besides being very popular for making furniture, it is also the source of maple syrup. It has a light brown wood color.

Sapote (Sapotaceae), harvested in Indonesia
Sapote has a hard, durable, reddish wood. It is native tropical countries around the globe. It is a relative of Natak.

European Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), harvested in Belgium
This tree is from the Birch family and is native to Europe and Western Asia. The wood is very light colored, almost white. It is mostly used as an ornamental tree or for firewood, as the wood is hard and difficult to machine.

Beech (Fagus spp.), harvested in Belgium
See Beech (Fagus sylvatica) above.

Hinoki Cypress (Thujopsis dolabrata), harvested in Japan
One of the few woods harvested in Japan used for chopsticks, Hinoki Cypress is native to central Japan. It is grown for its high quality timber, used in construction in buildings and temples. It has a light pink-brown color and a straight grain.

Infrequently use specialty woods:

Japanese Persimmon (Diospyros kaki), harvested in China

Tangerine Ctirus (Rutaceae Juss.,), harvested in China

Peach (Amygdalus persica L.), harvested in China

Olive (Olea europaea), harvested in Italy

Black Cherry (Prunus serrulata), harvested in Japan

Plastics Used for Making Chopsticks:

PBT (Polyethylene terephthalate with glass fiber)
PBT is used in finer plastic-based chopsticks. It is relatively heat tolerant (220º F) and strong. PBT plastic can be molded to a higher degree than melamine, with the ability to add surface textures and complex shapes. It is excellent for reusable chopsticks in restaurants.

Melamine has been popular for dish ware and eating utensils since the 1950s. It is an organic compound high in nitrogen. It tolerates very high heat (400º F) and is very durable.

Polystyrene is used for making plastic chopstick boxes. It is easy to mold into complex shapes, but is softer than melamine or PBT, so is rarely used for chopsticks. Polystyrene has a lower heat tolerance than the other plastics and should generally not be used in a dishwasher.