My son is really into magic right now. He is constantly trying out his tricks with me… I mean constantly. So, I came up with a “trick” of my own. I handed him a large craft stick and said,” Can you bend this without breaking it?” He laughed, and of course broke it, since he is so super strong. I told him it could be done, but we needed to boil the sticks first to make them malleable . There are a few ways (that I know of) to reshape wood : boiling, steam, or chemical softening using some form of ammonia (which I wouldn’t try with kids). We boiled and reshaped the popsicle sticks / craft sticks and made bracelets.
- Boil water
- Boil craft sticks for 5 minutes
- Turn off heat and soak sticks for 30 min
- Mold sticks in a glass (the smaller the better)
- Let dry for 24 hrs
We found that the smaller containers worked best, since they create a tighter curve to the bracelets. With the larger ones you need to hot glue ribbons to the ends to create a tie. When you are boiling the sticks do more than you think you will need, just incase some break when you are bending them.
So what is the science behind this wood bending?
Wood cells are held together by a natural material in the wood called lignin. To bend, the wood must be plasticized. Heating the wood with steam or boiling water weakens the lignin bonds in the wood. Weakening the bonds allows the fibers to bend.
So it isn’t really magic, but my son and students were amazed. I hope you try it out and have fun decorating your bracelets however you choose.
We are happy to be included in Left Brain Crafts Brain’s 28 Days of STEAM blog hop.