We are often asked whether we (still) supply wooden rods.
Sometimes this comes from a sense of nostalgia, because customers used to have a wooden set when they were young and they want the same for their own children. Sometimes it is related to concerns about the environment and the use of plastic in general.
We thought it would be helpful to lay out our position at the moment.
Cuisenaire® Rods were first manufactured in our factory in Reading. The wood identified as most suitable for the rods was Ramin, a tropical hardwood from southeast Asia. It held the colour applied and maintained its shape and angles. This was used for many years until manufacture stopped at the Reading site and Ramin was designated a protected hardwood under CITES Appendix II because of dangerous over-exploitation.
We started using plastic manufacturing methods in response to a demand from customers, both extrusion and injection moulding. We eventually settled on injection moulding having experienced a wide range of quality issues with other methods.
We arrived at a position where we were achieving the quality standards we expected, an accurately cut and coloured rod. The plastic used is a high quality ABS plastic. This is long-lasting and durable. This is an important characteristic because the vast bulk of our customers are schools, who require materials to be durable, and in many cases, cleanable.
We recognise the concerns regarding plastic disposability, however we haven’t produced Cuisenaire® Rods to be disposed of soon after purchase. They are designed to last a very long time. But if they need to be disposed of, they can be recycled and re-used as a raw material for further production.
We do keep our eye on developments in alternatives to this type of plastic, and regularly make enquiries regarding such alternatives, but we have yet to come across something we can use at an affordable price to us and our customers. We work very hard to keep the quality of our Cuisenaire® Rods very high, and the cost to you as low as we can.