Tungsten cubes are taking the bitcoin industry by storm. At the big bitcoin conference in Miami, everyone loves the booth with the heavy metallic cubes.
But what is tungsten, and is it really so magical as people say? I learned a lot and understood why many believe Tungsten is magic. Sharing my insights in this article, I never thought that tungsten would be that special in real life.
It was my first time holding tungsten in my hands. As the conference is fading out, it’s time to share my personal first hand experience. The bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami is a buzzing show. 25.000 attendees and hundreds of exhibitors and industry players gather.
On the expo floor, bitcoin mining companies, exchanges and bitcoin suppliers are meeting and presenting their products. One booth is different than all the others. Among the large camps of mining firms, exchanges and bitcoin suppliers, the little tungsten stand made people specially curious. Tungsten is an obvious reason for Bitcoiners to investigate as they are known to find value in novel ideas.
Midwest Tungsten Services is the company with a booth located on the bazaar floor right at the border to the main expo. A perfect spot to catch a mass of foot traffic. Navigating through the 6000 square foot expo hall can be quiet overwhelming but the tiny tungsten cubes are an anchor point to orientate yourself, and to learn more about tungsten products.
Sean Murray e-commerce director at Midwest Tungsten Services explains the Tungsten story not just once throughout the conference but he still has passion and energy in his voice to make it feel like it’s the first time he shares the tungsten story.
The first thing you hear on the spot is the fact that tungsten is the heaviest material that is not radio active. I didn’t know that and it’s a great way to get started.
It’s all about haptic experience at the midwest tungsten services table. Something only a few exhibitors are able to do with their products as most bitcoin tech exists only in digital form.
But tungsten spheres, cubes and engraved casascius coins want to be touched and lifted. It’s fascinating. A small block of a few inches is incredibly heavy. To lift the block that fits in your hand you really need to invest energy. I’ve never touched anything like that. It’s so compact yet unbelievable heavy. It feels like you just discovered gravity.
I ask Sean what tungsten is used for if not to make bitcoiner hearts beat faster. He answers:
“There are a lot of industrial uses for tungsten, utilizing its high temperature resistance in industrial furnaces and medical device manufacturing. In aviation it’s used as a tool for riveting material. Because tungsten is much denser than steel you can have a smaller piece of high mass. It’s much smaller which allows the tool to go into tighter spaces then you could with a steel bar of a large size.”
Makes sense to me, but there is more:
“Tungsten is also used as a consumable for welding, they use it to weld aluminium or any other type of metal but it’s more of an artistic style of welding, it’s much more challenging to use the tungsten in welding. You can put it in an engine to balance a crankshaft. You can put it in race cars to change the center of gravity it’s very useful to a lot of different things.”
I got to checkout out tungsten welding on Youtube later, i’m thinking and it made me wondering, how do you actually make tungsten?
“Tungsten comes from Wolfram which is Swedish and means ‘heavy stone’. It’s the densest material that most people will be able to hold in their hand. It’s about as dense as gold but a 2.5 in size cube of gold would be about $25.000. Everything more dense than that is either radio active or so rare that you can’t get that much in one spot.”
Wow, I like falling in love with tungsten. But I know there is no second best. Bitcoin is the hardest asset ever discovered. Since tungsten is so dense and heavy we could think it would be a good money too, right?
“Unlike some of those other precious metals, tungsten is not a good store of value for the long-term. You can produce it pretty easily. It’s mined, a lot of a lot of the supply comes from China and it’s created through powder metallurgy so it’s not melted. The reason why tungsten is still expensive comes from the high cost of transport and production.”
Last year, TungstenDAO paid a quarter million dollars for the opportunity to pay an annual visit to a 14-inch (36cm) cube of tungsten stored at Midwest Tungsten Services. Despite its relatively small size, the block weighs 1 ton (907kg) due to the density of the metal. That’s a challenge to transport, despite the fact that it would fit in your carry-on luggage you simply couldn’t move it.
I’m interested what attendees think of the tungsten cubes, so I’m asking Sean, what’s the number one response that he gets from people visiting the booth.
“Isn’t it crazy that you guys are here has been a very common question. We vent viral thanks to crypto, Nic Carter kind of kicked it of because he is a long time tungsten cube enthusiast he purchased from us in the past and he tweeted about it in October last year. From there it made it to some kind of parody bloomberg headline about ‘crypto bro’s crashing the world’s tungsten supply’ and then people started turning it into meme and jokes. This then went on the actual bloomberg site and from there to other big news shows.”
Withing the crypto industry, Midwest Tungsten Services is sort of an anomaly as Sean expands:
“For me, part of the joke is the fact that this is a company that provides a product that is exactly what it says that it is. It is a dense tungsten cube, you get this tiny tungsten cube and it has this high weight and in some ways we’re actually delivering more than what we’re promising. That is very different to some things that can happen in crypto, like shitcoins and ponzis. Tungsten cubes are a promise kept.”
So how was the experience being pulled into the bitcoin industry from one day to the other?
“We knew nothing about Bitcoin as a company until we started getting involved thanks to bitcoin twitter. But we started accepting bitcoin on our website within 2 weeks of us going viral on Twitter. Thanks to some of the companies such as OpenNode the onboarding was very easy. It’s an industry that is easy and fun to be a part of.”
Midwest Tungsten Services produces all kinds of cool collectors items but one that I found to be a must have was the engraved piece.
“We have a laser engraved bitcoin, one side it has a more basic bitcoin logo and on the flip side it has this circuit type logo and it has this silvery finishing with a darker matte part from where the laser did its job. This was made specially for the bitcoin conference and people liked it, it’s our best seller at the show.”
I’m sold. The bitcoin tungsten coin looks fantastic and I definitely want one. But why would I need a tungsten cube on my desk?
“I like it on my desk and there are two different parts of it. I like to just pick it up and hold it and it’s sort of a surprise or a feel of magic every time I do it. And if I think of a problem that is difficult to solve and I want to really focus – if I have my tungsten cube or my tungsten plate in my hand it does help me to focus my brain. I can sort of distract my body with something else that weights it down like a weighted blanket or something. That’s one part of it.
The even bigger part of it is, people come by your office and you say ‘hey, hold this thing in your hand’ and every single time you get that reaction of ‘wow, that’s cool, what is that’. If it’s in your home or office you get off on a good foot when talking to someone new, you know, they’ve got a smile on their face already, it’s very nice. People like to be surprised, that’s why people like magic.”
Tungsten cubes are definitely one of my favorite things at #Bitcoin2022. Holding tungsten in your hands for the first time is something that should be on everyone’s bucket-list. It’s a great gift, beautiful to hold, touch and look at and a great piece of technology for my desk.