Straws to Store Your Cores
A question often asked is: "Where do I get those neat paper straws you're using?" Straws (both paper and plastic) are used to store the cores once they're extracted from the tree. They provide a sturdy "case" for transporting the fragile cores and protect them from breakage. Keep in mind that paper straws may not be best for your research, and that plastic straws may be a better choice. Paper straws are hard to find, but can be ordered in bulk from various locations. Check out these distributors of both paper and plastic straws.
This company is a newcomer to our list of straw suppliers. I have tried out their straws, and I have to say that you will find none better. These are sturdy straws, sturdier than the older paper straws. For those of us who are environmentally conscious, "Aardvark Straws are a sustainable product that is fully biodegradable, compost-friendly and 100% chlorine free."
Their straws come in various lengths, two of which would be suitable for increment cores: 7.75 inches and 10.5 inches (20 cm and ca. 27 cm). The straws with a diameter of 0.227 inches (5.8 mm) appear to be appropriate for either the 4.3 and 5.15 mm diameter cores taken with standard increment borers, but the 0.292 inch (7.4 mm) diameter straws could also work.
Western Plastics produces "Biodegradable Sleeves for Tree Core Samples" and they come in various diameters. You'll probably want the 0.28" diameter = 7 mm, which will hold cores form both the 4.3 and 5.15 mm diameter increment borers. Current prices are $US 51.50 for 500 18" straws or $US 199 for 2500 18" straws. You can send them an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your shipping address and whom to bill, and they will respond with a quote. They also can invoice over Paypal or via standard methods.
Artstraws Limited in Swansea, United Kingdom, makes paper straws that are ideal for increment cores. These paper straws come in two different diameters, so be sure to order the "jumbo" size (6 mm diameter, model number CK-9031), ideal for both the 4.3 and 5.15 mm cores. These come 900 to a box. The good thing is that they are 17 inches (43.2 cm) long! I simply cut them in half with a paper cutter and this produces lengths that are ideal for use with increment cores. Also, keep a few in their original length for those extra long cores! They can be contacted using their email address below:
Note: their web site is still (as of December 2012) under construction, and may be worth visiting from time to time to learn when they're up and running. A distributor of Artstraws in the U.S. is Teachers' School Supply and their phone number is 800-477-7745 (thank you Catharine Anderson, for the information)
Neil Pederson adds:
"Western Plastic makes straws
to order, length and diameter. They even say they could make
colored straws! When we first hooked up with them, they made
a few test straws to meet our needs. The test period only
took a couple weeks despite being on the other side of North
America. They were very efficient.
1-30991 Peardonville Rd
Abbotsford, British Columbia
Phone and FAX number: 1-800-668-1335.
They charged us $35.46/2000 for 18" straws and $40.71/2000 for 24" straws."
Rob Argent and Rob Wilson added this concerning straws:
Serviceable straws can be obtained from fast food chains such as McDonalds. Sometimes you don't even have to raid the straw dispenser - in a recent visit to a McDonalds store I explained what I was after and was given free about 200 straws (and a free serve of fries - no comment!). In any medium to large city there are often plastic straw manufacturers who can cut straws to length - they will probably charge a fee for resetting the machine and then a nominal charge for the straws, so it's best to order five or ten thousand while you are at it. Ed Cook and Paul Krusic at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University have a supply of 500 mm long clear plastic straws from such a supplier.
Andy DeVolder suggests...
"...trying the local soft drink distributor in your town for straws before buying them. They always have broken boxes of straws and may be willing to give some of them to some crazy dendrochronologist." He was able to obtain about 1000 10" plastic straws 6-7 mm in diameter, a perfect size for increment cores.
Timothy Hyatt adds...
After a lot of hunting around I
was able to get a box of 18-inch-long, white plastic "luau"
straws from a local bar supplier. The straws are just wide
enough to accept a 5 mm increment core and the extractor
spoon. A year ago they sold for about $25 for a box of 500.
I cap the ends with masking tape and put a ring of tape near
one end for labeling with a sharpie, which works pretty well
if the tape doesn't get too wet. I was also able to con them
into making me a batch of heavy-duty 34-inch plastic straws,
but this kind of overtaxed their machine and I'm not sure if
they're too keen on doing this again (but one can always
ask). The bar supplier is:
Eagle Bar & Restaurant Supply
2001 South Plum St.
Seattle, WA 98144 USA
Some people ask about the length of straws as one can not find straws 18" in length to fit a core taken with a 20" increment borer. One can do either of two things here. First, one paper straw can be pinched and inserted into another straw for long cores. This may take practice but can be done. Second, one can simply tape one straw end to another with regular transparent tape or even masking tape.
One word of caution if you do use plastic straws - cores should be removed from them soon after they have been taken back to the lab because the plastic straws trap moisture inside, which can lead to mold forming. The mold can ruin your specimen by masking the ring boundaries. Alternatively, you can slit the plastic straw down one side to allow moisture out.