Overpriced??? I carry dozens of moulds here, starting at $1.75 a pop. We are talking industrial food-grade polymers (HDPE or Polypropylene) rated for 10-30 year durability in a commercial environment. They are accurate, predictable, always consistent and make beautiful cheese. Unlike wood, they don't grow any bacteria and molds on them (and cheese is far more susceptible to contamination in moulding time than aging), they also don't resist the good cheese bacteria and mould (another thing that wood can do). The material is durable, dishwasher safe, non-porous, neutral and non-reactive. It doesn't leach any chemicals or gas into the foods. That's a bargain anyway you look at it!
Don't get me wrong, I love old traditional methods and I am not a freak of sanitation. I age much of my cheese on exposed raw wood planks, wood shavings, straw and hay. You are talking to someone who is gradually doing away with many of the lab-manufactured cultures (because I am finding local bacteria on my own here, extremely traditional) But not all traditional is good. Over the years we humans have replaced many of the materials and methods we use with newly discovered ones that work better. For example, over the past few decades public buildings and transportation systems all over the world replaced wood and porous materials with polymers and stainless steel. It is durable, looks nice and most importantly -it doesn't pass disease and contamination amongst the public who touches it, sneezes on it, etc. Cost benefit analysis is simple. We also changed the windows in our houses and offices over the past 50 years.They are no longer traditional pure glass but rather a sophisticated polymer-based mullti-layered, shatter-resistant, UV-protecting compound (often gas-pressurized for insulation in cold areas too). Does it make our houses less charming? does it make a mockery out of traditional building practices? Of course not. It just makes more practical sense.
Purpose-built moulds really add consistency and value to the cheese, and do so at a miniscule cost. Moreover, they virtually eliminate very common contamination risk point without altering the cheese (and help eliminate other cheese defects such as uneven/fast/slow drainage, lopsided pressing, size/shape/weight consistency, etc.). In other words, it is the same exact traditional cheese, just lower failure rates. In fact, even in the EU where traditional cheesemaking is a holy grail, regulations now prohibit more and more wood and wicker moulds as part of a move to standardize production in a uniform pan-European code (ISO9002, HCAAP, A-3 material compliance, etc.) In nations where the people go out on strikes because their cheese didn't get a D.O.P Status and they feel their history will be lost -the regulators expected a big rebellion of traditional cheesemakers. What they discovered is that in reality the majority of EU cheesemakers have already moved to polymers and stainless steel over the past 5 decades anyway. It just works.
The other thing is that a purpose build mould have a form factor that considers what you want to do with the cheese and its draining or pressing characteristics. I didn't start with them going into cheesemaking and was quite good at hacking my own from tupperware, cheese boxes, colanders and what-have-you. Switching to all commercial cheese moulds a few years back was a "hallelujah" moment for me. I have never had a crooked press, an under-drained cheese, an inconsistent batch, a lopsided wheel, low yield for a given volume or anything of that kind since. It even fixed issues of slip skin because I didn't realize that slow flow trapped moisture in my cheese while a rind was building up. I kicked myself for a while for not doing it sooner and ending up with unpredictable imperfect cheese blaming the recipes etc. when in fact it was just a matter of using a good mould.
Sorry for blabbering for so long...