- Honey dippers are often made of wood. Is there a property of honey that drives this?
- Honey dippers are shaped like ovoids with lateral grooves. Is there something about the viscosity of honey that caused this decision? Is this design somehow superior to using a spoon?
Honey dippers work by using the viscosity of the liquid to raise a small amount of the liquid from a reservoir. Spoons work by trapping the small amount of liquid in a gravity well. Spoons therefore will work even when the liquid has low viscosity. The honey dipper method only works with appreciable amounts of liquid when that liquid has high viscosity.
Given enough time, the liquid will flow off the honey dipper. The viscosity lengthens that time, allowing you to move and turn the instrument to compensate for the slowly creeping flow before it separates and drips - until you want it to.
The material only needs to allow the thick liquid to adhere, so something hydrophobic or that resists adhesion, like teflon, would be a bad choice. In the specific case of the liquid being honey, the material of course has to be food-safe. Wood was the obvious choice long ago because it was available, cheap, and the technology for working it well established. Other materials available 100s of years ago would have worked too, like walrus tusk or ivory, but those were much more expensive. Metals are not a good choice due to corrosion and possible chemical reactions. Still, the same metals used for cutlery should have worked as well, but wood was much cheaper, and unlike the cutlery, the higher strength was not needed.
The shape is to provide a large surface area for the volume. This traps more of the liquid in the slow-flowing boundary layer.