Researchers made wood knives and nails that are sharper and stronger than steel

Originally published at: Researchers made wood knives and nails that are sharper and stronger than steel | Boing Boing


that gives me wood


I really want a delicate nail I can’t whack with force. Cute taps is all that is needed, yes?


I heard about this on NPR a few days ago. While the material is technically “organic”, it’s not like this makes these products magically more environmentally friendly compared to steel or concrete due to the manufacturing process involved. With some man-made materials, the reusability/recycling factor makes them more ecological in the long run.

I recall thinking that this would be helpful in situations where the materials need to be 100% non-metallic - but couldn’t think of any immediate scenarios where that is necessary.


Interesting - I was expecting that one of the steps would have involved replacing the components of the wood they removed with some sort of resin, like they do in the production of transparent and other types of modified wood, but it’s a pleasant surprise that’s not the case. I wonder how "green"t the hemicellulose and lignin-removal process is, though. It must involve some nasty solvents, which may be still more environmentally friendly than producing steel, but potentially not all that environmentally friendly…

That may have been more about not splintering the wood they were driving it into, though…


Homeland Security are just going to love this. Time to scrap all those metal detectors at airports…


Anywhere near an MRI?
Boarding aircraft with?


I’d love to know how they measure the relative sharpness of cutlery. I think most people’s knives are blunt because they’ve never thought to sharpen them. I know that is not the point of this article though. Perhaps we could just take a pointer from China and keep a few good sharp blades in the kitchen and forego the need for knives at the table? This doesn’t mean we all need to learn to eat with chopsticks but wooden treen is very good without fancy chemicals.

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Since table knives are not normally sharpened at all, that’s not as impressive as it sounds. That wooden knife isn’t doing a great job of cutting steak.

" Fire hardening was first developed by primitive humans at least 400,000 years ago—long before flint or stone points."


According to a couple searches, lignin is removed usually by soaking it in sodium chloride (or sodium hydroxide (Lye) and sodium sulfite).
All three are not exactly good on the environment (or people)


Depends on which people, and why you’re trying to disappear them.

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Panel pins meet these criteria. I doubt they’ll make those out of wood.

When someone, years ago, told me to blunt my nails with a couple of hard taps of the hammer on the pointy end to avoid splitting wood, it was a revelation.


An old carpenter told me to rub the nail through the hair on the side of my head. The body oils will give it a coating and make it go into the wood easier. That is for a one off, fine detail nail like a brad or finish nail. I wouldn’t want to do it all day framing out a house.

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I was just watching a Stumpy Nubs video the other day about why cut nails are so much better about not splintering wood (and better overall in a lot of ways). Pretty sure it was because they’re actually compressing the fibers downward into the wood rather than spreading the forces out horizontally. Would imagine that blunting the tip of your nail is effectively doing the same thing.

EDIT: Sorry, video seems to have picked up where I left off, tried to fix but couldn’t because apparently I’m an idiot.


I bet he didn’t shampoo his hair every day. :wink:

I can see it working in principle, but in practice, if it would otherwise be hard to drive a nail in, then I’d suspect a bigger problem than would be solved by a little body oil to make it easier.

But I’m not an old carpenter so probably best to give this the benefit of the doubt.

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I’m just going to full on nerd out here.

The first thing I thought of is having a bokutō (wooden sword) akin to Gintamas’ (from an Anime).

I do believe that these may be harder than steel on some measure, and possibly can be made sharp, but the videos really don’t sell it.

The wooden knife performs about as well as a cheap disposable plastic (or even regular wood!) knife at cutting the steak.

The “nail” video is even worse. It takes two full minutes for the person to pound together those thin strips of wood, and get the nail maybe an inch in. With a regular brad that would have taken maybe 3 or 4 whacks. It looks almost like the person has never handled a hammer before, but more likely they were worried about breaking the nail.

So this may be great on some measures, but their videos aren’t selling it.


It sounds like they rayon of the cutlery world.

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So that’s how the Elves make runed daggers in NetHack (the game really considers them to be made out of wood).