Flatware and Flatware Maintenance
For any sales person that operates in the Cutlery/Flatware sector of the market one of the main problems is dealing with the consumer’s incomplete knowledge of flatware. Nearly all consumers have a basic understanding of porcelain, glass, and crystal, but with cutlery they intend to follow the old maxim that if it is expensive then it must be good.
The average consumer, if asked, will probably list the various categories of cutlery as follows:
With the exception of silver flatware (which we will leave out for the time being), the consumers are quite unaware that each of the above stated categories could themselves be sub-divided in various quality levels.
To begin with, let us examine stainless steel flatware, which is used in the home, for hotel/catering, and for communities.
If you look on the back of a table fork or spoon (we will discuss the knife later) you will either see 18/10, 18/C, 18-0, or in very rare instances 18/12. But what do these numbers mean?
Steel itself is made from an iron alloy. To obtain the “stainless” other metals must be added. In our case they are chrome and nickel. The first type of stainless steel contained only chrome. However although it was an improvement on steel, it was found that if subject to water for long periods of time, rust and oxidisation marks were still inclined to come to the surface. It was later found that by adding nickel the resistance to corrosion was greatly improved to the standards that we enjoy today. It is interesting to note that the steel used for our cutlery is the same as that used for surgical instruments.
The first number that you see above “18” denotes the percentage of chrome in the steel. The second number,“10”,“12” denotes the percentage of nickel. “C” or “0” means that there is no nickel present in the steel, and therefore of an inferior quality.
For clarity please see the following chart:
|Stainless steel Type||Chrome||Nickel|
*As you can see from the above chart, I have also included 13/C. This is a special steel that is used for knives. By definition a knife must be able to cut. If any of the 18/”” type steels were to be used, the blade would become blunt after a very short period of time, because these types of steel are “soft”. Instead the 13/C steel has no nickel content, but instead an additional component of carbon. This makes the steel harder and resistant to mechanical force. Once the knives have been formed they are heat treated so as to temper the blades, thus increasing the resistance and life of the cutting edge.
Important: Please note that 13/C steel is more expensive that 18/”” steels. Often Far Eastern producers use 18/”” for the knives so as to reduce the cost. Also the blades are not tempered which means that they have a very short life.
There are plastics and plastics. Unfortunately the word plastic is a word that is generally used by the consumer to underline a product that is cheap, or of poor quality. This is in fact not true as some plastics can cost more than crystal.
Plastic as a raw material can be subdivided into two categories:
1st Choice is when the raw material is produced by a manufacturer, and supplied with full quality certification to a manufacturer that will transform the material into a finished or semi-finished product.
2nd Choice is when a manufacture collects the waste material that remains after the initial production cycle, or after the transformation, and re-cycles the material. A good example is the cartons used for milk and orange juice. Between the 2 layers of card is a layer of plastic film. At the end of a production run, a block of plastic remains. This plastic is sold and recycled for the production of children’s dolls.
There is also a 3rd Choice that is usually used by Chinese producers. This plastic is a mixture of all possible types of waste plastics, with no certification that it can be used in contact with food.
Eme uses at present the following types of 1st Choice plastics:
- Moplan: A very cheap and soft plastic used for economical ranges of flatware.
- ABS: A harder plastic that is also resilient to temperature. Has an advantage that it mixes well with colorants.
- Marfran Streif: A special plastic made from ABS and rubber. Made to German standard B.G.A.: Mitteilung N.170.
- Metal acyrlic: An expensive plastic that is extremely hard and resilient. Has the advantage of being able to form special colour effects, and to be able to maintain its lucidity.
- Nylon: Normally used when printed a decor onto the handle using “sublimation” printing.
Silver plated cutlery is divided into two groups; domestic and hotel/catering.
Domestic cutlery has a base layer of 5 microns of Woods Nickel, and 5 microns of silver. Hotel/Catering cutlery has the same base of nickel but with 23 microns of silver.
- Gold Plated Flatware.
Unlike silver plated cutlery that with the exception of the knife blade covers the whole body of the cutlery piece, gold plated is used basically as a form of ornamentation, or to evidence a motif.
- Maintenance and problems.
To maintain the life and beauty of our flatware, we suggest the following:
- After washing by hand, do not leave the flatware on the side to dry. Dry immediately with a cloth and store away. Soupy water that is allowed to dry on the surface of steel can cause oxidation marks that appear to be rust. It is not rust and can be normally removed with any stainless steel cleaner.
- After the cycle of the dishwasher has terminated, remove, and if dry, store away. If you are in a hurry, leave the door of the dishwasher open so that air can circulate. The atmosphere within a dishwasher is very corrosive as it contains a high percentage of salt.
- Wherever possible, do not leave food to dry on the stainless steel. Food decays very quickly creating acids that attack the surface of the cutlery. This is even more important where lemon has been used. This is one of nature’s great little acids.
- If black marks or pit marks can be seen on the surface, and if these marks are very noticeable on the edge of the knife blade, this is a very good sign that the dishwasher of the client is not properly earthed. When a dishwasher is not earthed, during its cycle electrical discharges are created that attack the edges of steel, and especially the blade edges. Add to this a very corrosive atmosphere (100% humidity and salt), faint rust marks will appear around the pit marks.
- The stainless steel has a white chalky appearance, and the plastic stains of white. This is a very clear sign that the cutlery has been boiled. When water reaches its boiling point, it releases a certain amount of calcium that deposits onto the surface of the steel causing it to have a chalky appearance. Plastic at 100 degrees Celsius begins to suffer from thermal stress causing the white stains. If the cutlery is removed from the boiling water and immediately placed under cold water, cracks will begin to show near the joint between the handle and steel.