Making A Toothbrush From Scratch, Right Down To The Bristles

Most of us probably get by with a toothbrush costing a couple dollars at most, made of injection-moulded plastic for delicate, tender mouths. Maybe if you’re a real cleantooth, you have a fancy buzzy electric one. We’d wager few are machining their own bespoke toothbrushes from scratch, but if you want some inspiration, [W&M Levsha] is doing just that.

Much of the work will be familiar to die hard machining enthusiasts. There’s careful crafting of the wood handle, involving a stackup of multiple stained and varnished woods – in this case, hornbeam being the paler of the two, and amaranth providing that rich red color. The stem is a stylish stainless steel piece, elegantly bent to a tasteful curve. Finally, the assembly of the brush head alone is worth the watch. It’s custom made – with a steel backing plate and fishing wire bristles custom cut with an automated jig using stepper motors.  We’re suspect fishing wire is not rated for dental use, but the nylon strands are at least in the ballpark of what regular toothbrushes use.

While we probably wouldn’t slide this one betwixt our lips without consulting a dental professional first, it’s a great video for learning about what it takes to make beautiful bespoke objects in the workshop. We’ve seen elegant work from [W&M Levsha] before, too – in the form of a delightfully eclectic cap gun lighter. Video after the break.

31 thoughts on “Making A Toothbrush From Scratch, Right Down To The Bristles

  1. >about what it takes

    Some of the steps were simply showing off, like flattening a strip of wood with CNC instead of two strokes of a hand plane. The whole stepper motor jig was also entirely superfluous: if you want a bundle of string, wrap it a few times around a mandrel and pick up the coil you’ve just made. Pull it through a ring with a hook just like the guy did.

    1. I wonder if they own a hand plane? I don’t, but at one point I had a small CNC. If 80% of what you do is far easier with power/automated tools, buying, storing, and learning hand tools gets less appealing.

      I’m not sure how someone would precisely flatten wood with a plane, unless they had a jig, or a ton of skill that they might not have ever needed before. I’m not sure why the tech scene is so big on using the simplest tool for every task, rather than picking the more enterprise grade tool and learning all the ins and outs.

      It’s fun to try new stuff, but if you always use the minimum amount of tech, you don’t get as much opportunity to learn the complex automated stuff.

      But making a toothbrush by hand is entirely superfluous in and of itself though, so the specifics don’t matter too much, it’s just a fun hack like almost every other DIY project.

      1. 1) Take the block of wood and run the plane over it. This leaves a flat surface.
        2) Flip it over and stick it to a table with double sided tape (or painter’s tape on both surface and super glue in between).
        3) Trace your desired thickness around the sides with a pencil and some suitably thick object as a guide.
        4) Repeat step 1 until the line just about disappears on all sides

        It takes a ton of time to set up and run the CNC machine for such a simple five-minute job. I’m sure you already know how to run a CNC machine at this point, but what about handling a Stanley no. 5?

      2. Plus, there’s the aspect of woodworking that if it looks good, it is good. Wood is a material that changes size and shape over time, and it bends to just about whatever shape you put it, so the question of “Is it really flat?” doesn’t even have an answer. Yeah, it kinda is, for the next 30 minutes…

    2. Planing tiny scraps of exotic woods is not that easy. So i’m all for CNC router in this case, even if there is suitable plane available.
      As for CNC string cutter – i don’t really remember what he said in original video (half a year ago), but i think it was purely for fun.

  2. I’m not sure this will work very well. If you look at micrographs of toohbrush bristles online you’ll see that new toothbrushes have jagged/shaped tips to promote cleaning. These wear down to rounded/blunt ends over time; yay, microplastic!; which reduces efficacy and is part of why you’re encouraged to replace toothbrushes periodically. A natural bristle, perhaps sourced from paint brushes, may have been a better option?

          1. Yes, I misremembered. It seems to be about gum safety rather than cleaning efficacy. The tips are shaped into domes to avoid sharp shoulders, which is what results from wearing or possibly treatment with a belt sander. The synopsis available from this other paper in the references of your link is more informative.

  3. Beautiful. This seems like a neglected product category. You can easily buy very elegant shaving handles, either for razor blades or to fit Gillette cartridges etc, but I’m not aware of the same for toothbrushes.

    Perhaps Colgate or one of the larger producers should come out with a toothbruush head cartridge for manual toothbrushes, like their electric ones. Once someone has invested in a premium handle, they’ll keep coming back for the cartridges.

    1. That is an interesting approach, and there are already replacement head systems available from Fuchs and others; although Fuchs changed their bristles a few years ago and now the medium is stupidly stiff while the soft is like a marshmallow. Terradent and others also make replaceable heads. The everloop toothbrush system that was announced last year is another option that avoids the need to integrate a potentially ugly off the shelf head, while offering the opportunity to improve the aesthetics and ergonomics of the basic stick handle.

      1. That design should be evolved and replace every disposable power toothbrush and normal toothbrush on earth.

        When I have to tell my dentist to not give me a toothbrush, I already have a new spinbrush, and he does anyway, I wonder how much waste is created for landfills.

        1. But your a Hackaday reader! No toothbrush will go unused, you just might skip the step of using it on your teeth before coating it harsh chemicals, grease, oil, soaps of some sort to clean out that awkward spot in your projects…

  4. That’s a very well tooled shop and the skill is top-notch. I would say yes to the question posed in the title of the video. He did make a $4200 toothbrush inasmuch as any toothbrush can ever be worth that much. However you could also make one out of poop and stick the same price tag on it, so …. let’s not worry too much about the “value.”

    I would worry a bit about the neck bending over time. I usually apply a little force against the head of the brush as I clean my own teeth, and while it might not be enough to make a noticeable difference after one brushing, I think that neck will eventually bend and after being corrected enough times, snap.

    1. You would pay for the hours it cost to make the product and the fact that it’s one-off/bespoke. If you can make these for $42 i am sure there will be enough interest, just post a link here.

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