Apr 182014
 
A trio of wood sex toysWOOD SEX TOYS?!? But won’t I get SPLINTERS?!?

When I encounter a wood sex toy newbie, the “splinters” bit is bound to come up right away. Either in an attempt at a joke or said in seriousness, I will admit it makes me roll my eyes a bit. Do you get splinters from the wood furniture you sit on? From the wood salad bowl you use? From the wood bedpost you hump? I’ve yet to run across a wood sex toys crafter on Etsy that didn’t make use of excessive sanding and a finish, because they’re all woodworkers. It wouldn’t make very much sense to just hand over an unfinished wood carving. Right?

Why Wood?

Made from a sustainable material, well-made and cared-for wooden dildos can last a lifetime. Wood is beautiful, it makes every dildo unique, and often can be made solely from scrap wood. Hans Hardwoods, the first little company I heard about years ago, uses only salvaged scrap wood.  Depending on the type of wood used, your piece can be  featherweight, lightweight or have a bit of heft to it for its size, but it certainly won’t be as heavy as glass and definitely nothing like steel. Depending on the type of finish used, the wood dildo can glide as slickly as a glass or metal toy with only a small amount of lube.  When a high-quality finish is used, the grain of the wood stands out in a nearly-3D effect; it’s similar to how beautiful rocks and shells look when you pick them up on the beach, but they look dull and boring once they dry out at home.

Wood can also lend itself to some truly unique designs. I’ve never seen anything in the industry like the Nobessence Fling. Too often I’ve seen a small wooden dildo maker that has promise but only makes subtle designs that don’t excite me, or simply look too much like the leg of my kitchen table. With the creativity wood allows, why would you even bother with designs that look like an oversized tampon?  Looking through the massive listing of the wooden dildos that Hans Hardwoods has sold will really show you what can be done. Unlike Hans Hardwoods, whose designs are more organic and varied, Nobessence sticks to recreating tested design shapes that people love. I’ve not met many people who dislike the Seduction once they try it, and anal plug fans adore the Romp.  There is a benefit to the Nobessence way of life: the design has already been tested, refined, and so on. With the Hardwood Dildos, it’s more about what would seem to be a great shape, and no testing–some are going to work out great, some not so well. This also happens when you think you know best, and create your own.

How to Choose a Quality Wood Dildo

Most wood dildo makers keep it safe and simple; they never stain the wood. With all the various types of wood out there, combined with the beauty of what happens during the varnish coating process, who needs stains?? If you find one that is, I would stay clear of it. I would also keep away from dildos that boast a “natural finish” (see next section for the reason). Most wood sex toy makers put their design through many sessions of sanding, to smooth out any naturally-occurring rough spots and sharp edges.

The biggest sign of safety, though, is the coating used. Hardwoods uses something called “Salad bowl finish” which is food safe grade, but not an oil. Nobessence uses “Lubrosity”, which from the sounds of it, is the most superior wooden dildo coating being used currently. Both of the Hardwoods dildos I’ve own have been a more silky matte finish, and not quite as slick. The Nobessence coating clearly brings out the depth and beauty of the wood grain better. My older Seduction is a semi-matte satin finish, while my Fling is much more shiny and glossy. Both are smooth and beautiful.

Here’s what Alicia from Nobessence had to say about their process:

When wood, even ‘treated’ wood, comes into contact with moisture it will absorb some of it.  The results of that moisture can be a raised bumpy grain, warping and yes, splinters.  And add to that the harboring of bacteria, you can see why it was very important to us when we started selling our sculptures, that the coating be something more than ‘food safe wax or oil’.  Those products are great for salad bowls and chopping boards, but not for sex toys.  Even the non-toxic coatings used on children’s toys were rejected.  I don’t know of any children’s toys that are worn in the body, like a butt plug – well, at least that’s not the plan for them.  We have designed our Sculptures for use – they are in contact with moisture and delicate body tissue for extended periods of time.  So we worked for a long time to develop the process we call our ‘Lubrosity Coating’.  It involves a medical grade polymer – used on medical devices.  It’s formulated to be bacteria resistant, moisture resistant, hypoallergenic.  It meets our high standards.

We’ve been using our coating since 2007 and in that time we’ve been asked to re-coat only two of our own Sculptures.  Both of those had been damaged by the owners using abrasive body scrub type soaps on them.  In that same time, we’ve been asked to refinish and coat numerous other wooden dildos carved by other people.  We’re more than happy to do that.  There are some beautiful pieces out there and it’s a shame for people to spend a lot of money on a unique hand crafted item only to find it rough and bumpy after a couple of uses.

Something you’ll want to avoid is when the manufacturer boasts a “natural finish”. Thus far, I’ve only seen this on the smaller Etsy-based crafters. It seems that they’re mostly wood artists who make other household items, and simply finish them the same way. They think that a natural finish is safer than chemical-laden varnish, no doubt. But it won’t take long for that natural finish to wear off, leaving the wood susceptible to retaining moisture which will cause it to swell and splinter, and be porous. And, when it comes to using carnauba wax, olive oil, mineral oil, beeswax, etc., there is a greater chance for someone to have a skin reaction due to allergies and sensitivities. Between the use, the washing, and the lube I just can’t see these finishes standing the test of time.

What about if the finish is not natural, but isn’t medical grade like Nobessence’s Lubrosity? Well, we don’t know.  The non-toxic food-safe status is for the assumption that it’s being used to coat a children’s toy, a table, a utensil, etc. Most of those aren’t going to be tested for safety as a sex toy sealant. If you’re looking at a butt plug, I’d avoid it. An occasional-use dildo, I would be more tolerant, but make sure you completely inspect that dildo tip to tail before every use to make sure the finish is still perfect and intact.

As you can see from the photos below, the natural grain of wood isn’t perfect. You can see the little imperfections and pits in the wood, but when I run my hands over the dildo I don’t feel anything rough. This is because the wood has been sanded many times and there are many coats of finish on it. On the Nobessence Seduction, I don’t feel anything at all. On the Nobessence Fling I can barely detect those imperfections with my fingers; they are smoothed down and it’s not something I can feel during use. My Fling and Seduction are both the same type of wood; I imagine that on a different type of wood, you might have more or less of these little natural imperfections.

WoodDildoCloseup1 WoodDildoCloseup2

Wood Dildo Makers on Etsy

It seems that many wood carving crafters are sticking with Etsy at first to host and take care of payments. As with anything on Etsy, you can find some really great stuff or you can find items that should never be taken seriously. A few other reviewers have a wood dildo from Silvarus company, but I’m not seeing any reviews of any other Etsy-based wood sex toy makers. I continued to poke around the wood dildos on Etsy, and found some that concerned me. A number of them are using a “natural finish” and some don’t even say outright what that finish is, exactly.  I found this one company called LadyWood who is doing the pyrography that Silvarus also does, but hers are combined with color. At first, these look beautiful, but a closer glance makes me worry. I’m not sure what they are colored with, I assume wood stain; she doesn’t really say what the coating is exactly, but her description of it makes me unsure. Here’s one person who simply finishes it with “good old mineral oil”. Um, no. I don’t think that many of these crafters are really researching the coating to be absolutely certain of the safety, and longevity, of it.

If you find a design on Etsy that appeals to you, I strongly urge you to ask them about the finish they use. If they are using a natural finish, question the longevity and ability to make and keep the dildo non-porous and waterproof. I decided to ask Rickard of Silvarus what he uses, since as of this writing it wasn’t stated on the description, and he replied: “I use water based polyurethane made for applications such as kitchen areas and childrens toys. It’s diluted even further with water and applied in at least 10 coats to totally seal the surface and make it waterproof, virtually maintenance free and glass smooth.” “The surface is absolutely safe and I feel no hesitation using it, BUT there will always be someone oversensitive to ANY surface treatment used. I am 99.5% safe and secure in what I use, but because the 0.5% I have to be honest with my clients and say there is no 100% safe surface, and I doubt there ever will be.” I would argue with the last comment, because I truly believe that the coating Nobessence uses is the safest on the market and given the properties could boast a 100% safety rating.

When the Finish Goes Bad

On my original Hans Hardwood dildo,  I now have cracks and crazing in the finish. This isn’t normal, and if you ever see this after years of use, days or use or even when you first get it, you should contact the company immediately and not continue to use it. At this point the seal is compromised and the quite probably the dildo is no longer considered to be non-porous and waterproof. Another reviewer received a new dildo with a poor finish job, also shown below. After a couple uses, the finish developed some opaque spots that (to me) signifies moisture retention in the wood. The company agreed that it wasn’t normal, and sent her a new one with a much more acceptable finish on it, but it’s hard to say which version could be considered normal production quality for the company. The review on it is up, and it looks like the problems might be continuing.

ETA: K continued to use her replacement Dee Lee Do dildo, and saw damage to the finish again. She then did the water test described below, and well….the results? Very very bad. Only submerged for a minute, the dildo is now ruined and it’s a good thing, too–the finish would have continued to slowly deteriorate and flake off inside her. For now, I’d say that I don’t trust Dee Lee Do’s finish, and I’d also say that if you have any doubts about the finish on your wood sex toy, do the water test. The updated photo from K is the last one below.

WoodDildoCrackedFinish K circled the opaque spots in the finish K circled the opaque spots in the finish on her Dee Lee Do dildo Bl1Yp5RIEAAQO_L

Care and Cleaning

A wood sex toy shouldn’t be tossed around, unprotected in a drawer or overnight bag. I made that mistake years ago. I would absolutely recommend that you store your wood dildo in a pouch that is made from a slightly padded or thicker material (something made of satin, for example, wouldn’t provide enough protection in my opinion). Anything abrasive can ruin the finish. Scrubby cleansers or rough cloths shouldn’t be used. If you decide to take the risk and buy a naturally finished dildo, you should avoid using a lot of soap and you might consider re-doing the coating (especially if its oil) yourself every half a dozen uses to ensure that it remains waterproof and as non-porous as it can be. A Nobessence toy ONLY can be cleaned more thoroughly for use between partners by wiping down with anti-bacterial/microbial cleaner (alcohol, bleach, peroxide, etc.). I have seen other manufacturers/crafters caution against using anything that harsh, because the finish they are using cannot tolerate it–this means the wood sex toys from other crafters cannot be truly sanitized.

If you suspect that there’s a problem with the finish, Nobessence gives a great way to test that: “The integrity of your finish may be tested by immersing in water for a few seconds and removing to inspect. If the area in question darkens in response to water AND when wiped remains damp when the surrounding area is dry, then your toy should be retired or replaced.”

Can a wood sex toy break? Sort of. According to Nobessence: “Please protect your investment from impact with other solid surfaces (hard floors, sinks, etc.) as this may decrease the aesthetic qualities of the finish and ultimately damage the woods’ internal cell structure – weakening it and making it more prone to damage. In the event that your toy impacts another solid surface, gently but firmly test the integrity of your toy before the next use.”

If you have any other concerns, questions, whatever please ask below!

 Posted by at 12:39 pm
  • If I hear the splinters joke ONE MORE TIME… That was the very first thing out of a friend’s mouth the other day. Ugh.

  • Yeah, we’re not the only ones who hear it. Apparently the dildo makers hear it constantly, too. I just…..where is the common sense? Really?

  • The only thing I can think is that maybe they’re thinking of handmade wood that’s not always perfect? I don’t know. It’s the same people that turn away glass toys because they’re afraid they’ll break inside them.

  • Thank you for this post. I had never heard of Nobessence before, I must admit that it makes me think of the song;
    “A wizard’s staff has a knob on the end, knob on the end, knob on the
    end

    A wizard’s staff has a knob on the ennndddd!

    What he does with it is magic!”

    I certainly want to try one of these out now. :)

  • Camryn Jones

    So basically if I want a wooden dildo I should buy a Nobesence toy. <— Key info right there :)
    This is a wonderfully enlightening post. I didn't think I could break it, but I've damaged wooden things before, so I was a bit unsure. I'm sure the firmness makes it a good material for G-spotting, so I really must try it someday.
    Thank you Lilly!

  • Thanks for writing this post Lilly! I have the Romp and love it/knew that NobEssence toys are non-porous and safe to use but was curious about how to tell if others are (though honestly, I’ll probably end up sticking with NobEssence wooden toys.) Your sex toy guides are invaluable!

  • They seem to be the only wood company who is taking the coating part seriously. Too many others just say “well it’s safe for children’s toys / kitchen items so….” but unlike medical-grade that stuff hasn’t been tested for body insertion.

  • And when there are such high quality toys like the NobEssence sculptures, why risk using toys that might be harmful to use or could break down over time?

  • Sincerely Yours, N

    Thanks for this wonderful post! I love my wooden toys but have never quite had peace of mind while using them until now.

  • I’ve never wanted to try a wooden dildo until reading this. I’m still a bit skeptical though… must do more research!!

  • Well….what other questions would you have? I can get the answers. What else are you skeptical about, exactly?

  • It’s not really anything you haven’t answered already. There are a lot of precautions you have listed that you would have to take with a wooden toy. While taking care of my investments is something I try my best to do, accidents do happen and it just seems like there is too much that could happen to a wooden toy.

  • In my opinion, so long as you buy a Nobessence and keep it in a pouch? I don’t see anything happening to it. Honestly. And I can tell you I haven’t kept MY two Nobessence pieces perfectly in pouches all the time, and they’re in perfect condition.

    Now if it were another brand? I’d be more careful and watchful. I think wood is on par with good glass. Good glass dildos are thick and heavy, tempered for strength and there’s a low chance of them breaking on an accidental fall but it’s there.

  • Point taken. =) I did a lot of research on glass before I bought my first one. Maybe this will be the start of my research on wooden dildos.

  • Sincerely Yours, N

    Thank you very much for this post!

    Couldn’t the natural toxicity of some types of wood also be a problem if the finish starts to wear? A lot of types of wood can be irritants for the skin, and I imagine even moreso for the vagina. Granted, I expect that the sealant in Nobessence protects the user, but I wouldn’t trust a wax that will slowly wear away.

    I can link you to the database I use if you’d like.

  • Common sense says….yes? I think? I’m the researcher but not the expert :) I would also hope that that those using the natural finishes like oil and wax, wouldn’t use a wood with natural irritants/toxicity. I would hope.

  • Alicia

    Watch out for Cocobolo in particular – it’s very beautiful but can be a real irritant for a lot of people. We don’t use it very much anymore as it’s difficult to find it from truly reliable farms and it’s quite expensive. I can’t even go into the carving room when they work it, even with all the air filtering equipment we have, the dust still affects me instantly – hives central. It doesn’t appear to bother the Sculptors though. Having said that – when properly coated, I don’t have any problems at all with it.

  • Thank you! This means, to me, that I couldn’t get Cocobolo would from any other company but Nobessence.

  • Raynebow

    This actually half answered a question I’ve got. I’ve been trying to find a sealant/finish I can safely use on a waterproof vibrator, because I’m going to be lightly customizing one as a gift. I’ve already got a natural, body safe paint that I mixed up and have tested, but it comes off easily. The friend I’m giving it to ALWAYS puts condoms over her toys before inserting them, so do you think a finish done like the one Rickard uses would be alright?

  • I honestly can’t answer that beyond what I’ve explained here.

  • Jason

    I have made a couple dildos out of antlers and I am trying to figure out how to Seal it I was thinking about the high gloss glaze coat used on bars any suggestions