FUNCTIONS and SIZES of FLATWARE: ©

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LUNCHEON – DINNER –  PLACE –  CONTINENTAL ?

Before World War II, sterling knives and forks made by manufacturers of the American Sterling Silversmiths Guild were made in both ∗luncheon and dinner sizes: proportions were aligned to sizes of luncheon and dinner plates.  Other place setting pieces as teaspoons, soup spoons, salad forks, butter spreaders and serving pieces were usually one standard size.

Most Internet information regarding flatware sizes is incorrect.
∗Luncheon size isn’t even mentioned,
yet this was the best selling size of U.S.sterling flatware prior to WWII.  

After World War II, these manufacturers decided to make knives and forks for all new patterns in a new place size: larger than luncheon knives and forks but smaller than dinner size. 

All new sterling patterns were made only in place size —but place size was added to best selling older patterns. This solved production and inventory problems for manufacturers and retailers but price lists for all three sizes confused consumers.

At that time, flatware factories kept dies for all older patterns
so consumers requiring luncheon or dinner sizes could complete
their services by special order.

Continental knives and forks, larger than place size, originated in Europe and were standard for European made flatware; even for international sales.

Today, most knives and forks of European origin are continental size
and most knives and forks of U.S. origin are place size.  

Sadly, mass-produced flatware of any metal is no longer made in the United States.

PLACE SETTING SPOONS:

Teaspoons ·  tablespoons ·  dessert spoons · coffee spoons ·
iced tea spoons · soup spoons
These are the shapes and sizes of spoons traditionally made in sterling;

not all in every pattern—nor every metal.

SOUP SPOON VARIATIONS :

Place spoons:  bowls are elongated to use with soup plates and desserts.
Cream soup spoons:  bowls are round to use with cream soup bowls.
Consommé soup spoons:  bowls are petite to use with consommé cups.

For sterling, silver-plate and stainless steel;
the standard soup spoon is place size.

PLACE SETTING FORKS:

Place  ·  luncheon  ·  dinner  ·  salad  ·  dessert  ·  ice cream  ·  fruit  ·  cocktail
These diverse sized forks were traditionally made in sterling— but not all in every pattern—and fewer sizes in stainless steel.  Currently, place forks and salad forks seem to be the standard forks in most stainless steel patterns, but if you need sizes not made in your pattern, go ahead and MIX.

Fork tines:
For all forks in all metals, tines must be uniform in length: tips must be regular, tapered and well-finished. Edges and both side walls of each tine must be rounded and polished because bacteria clings to rough surfaces and is not guaranteed to wash away from between fork tines—not even by the hot swishing water of dish-washers. Be fussy!  

Currently, in several retail stores, I’ve held stainless steel forks
I could have used to file my nails!

 PLACE SETTING KNIVES:

Place knives · luncheon knives · dinner knives · fruit knives · steak knives · butter spreaders (some patterns are available with both flat or hollow handles).

These are some of the ‘specific-function’ knives that were always available in sterling silver—although not all in every pattern.  Fewer sizes and styles of knives are made in silver-plate and stainless steel.

As explained in the previous post: Design and Production of Flatware, one-piece knives do not hold a good cutting edge.  The solid flat handle and blade are austenitic steel which cannot be hardened by heat.

one piece knife

Two-piece knives are considered better because they’re lighter, provide a better grip and patterns can be cleanly die-struck on each half before they’re soldered together.  However, the blades do not hold a good cutting edge—even though the grade of austenitic steel of the handle is different than the grade of austenitic steel of the blade.

tang of blade in handle

Although these handles are called hollow,  they’re filled with lead to hold the tang (an extension of the stainless steel blade) inserted into the handle.  After heat sealing,  the blade is secure.

PLACE SETTINGS:

4  piece: Knife, fork, salad fork and teaspoon.
5  piece: Knife, fork, salad fork, teaspoon and soup spoon.
6  piece: Knife, fork, salad fork, teaspoon, soup spoon and butter spreader.

SERVING PIECES:

Spoons: Tablespoon, pierced tablespoon, sugar spoon, large salad spoon.
Forks:     Cold meat fork, olive fork, lemon fork, large salad fork.
Knives:  Butter knife, cheese knife, cake knife, bridal cake knife, bar knife
Other:    Gravy ladle, jelly server, pastry server, bon-bon spoon, carving set,
steak carving set.

OPEN STOCK:

All single flatware pieces (not packaged in a set) are called open stock.  This means individual flatware pieces can be purchased one-piece-at-a-time.

However, not all place sizes (e.g. iced tea spoons and cocktail forks) and serving pieces are made in today’s sterling, silver-plate or stainless patterns.

Open stock is usually a more expensive way to purchase flatware but offers the convenience of purchasing flatware by the piece and the opportunity to add pieces over time.

SERVICE SETS:

A flatware starter set is a basic ‘service for 4’.  Services for 8 or 12 are usually attractively boxed to include some serving pieces and may also include double teaspoons.  Set savings are considerable—compared to open stock prices.

BEWARE OF BRAND-BIAS ADVERTISING

 Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

MY NEXT POST:  HOW TO CHOOSE FLATWARE