Test That Flatware Before You Buy It

This is why I’ll never get rich as a home design columnist. Because, a lot of times, when I go out to investigate some aspect of a better life, I stop buying it. literally.

Which brings me to my new flatware.

Upon learning that 30 years of sack lunches and summer picnics had destroyed my silverware drawer to the point where I was down to five forks from the original 16, I found myself in the flatware market. So I went to research land to find out what to look for when choosing forks. I shared the basics last week, but there’s more to know.

“Flatware is one of those purchases you usually only make twice in your life,” said Greg Owens, co-owner of Sherrill Manufacturing, which makes Liberty tabletop flatware, which is the only flatware still made in America. “You buy once when you leave the dorm for your first real apartment. You go to Walmart and get a 40-piece place setting for $29.95. You can buy again, maybe, when you Grow up and settle down.

I think I have finally grown up.

Owens’ typical clientele is a woman over 40 who cares about setting a good table. It’s not surprising, he said, that genders make decisions differently. “When men judge flatware, they pick up a knife to feel how heavy it is. Women look at the details of the dinner fork.”

After my conversation with Owens, I decide to try out his company’s sample program. My husband chooses two patterns, and I choose two. A few days later the samples arrive, and the fork-to-fork competition — a lengthy, intense analytical discussion — begins.

At one point, each pattern was in the lead, but as a close horse races, the front runner would overtake the third-placed horse. In the end, my husband liked a set that had a woven texture. I liked another one which was mirror glossy and sleek. The two contenders came face to face over dinner. These are big bets, people! In the end, he deferred.

“Well,” he said, “as long as we can get solid knife handles.”

In last week’s column (Materials, Styles, Sizes and Finishes) we covered the flatware basics, here’s what else to consider when buying this household staple:

Perception: Pick up a piece and get a sense of its balance, weight and shape. During our sample testing, the DC ruled out a fork because the sides of the handle were square, not rounded, and felt sharp against their fingers. The week is also important. You don’t want your flatware to look like the flimsy stuff found in the school cafeteria. “It should pass the ice cream test,” Owens said. “You should be able to scoop up hard ice cream without having to tilt the spoon.”

Compatibility: Your flatware should go with your dishware. We set up each sampler pattern with both our good recipes and our daily recipes to see how the combination works. Some patterns fought while others reconciled. Generally, if your dishes are simple, your silverware can be more ornate. Conversely, a patterned plate can look better with simple silverware. Mixing patterns is tricky. Trust your eye.

Wearable: Both mirror and satin finishes will show wear sooner than ornate finishes, but that’s all part of the patina. “The mirror finish ends with deep scratches, and the satin finish ends with bright scratches,” Owens said. “Ornament on the handle will almost always hide scratches and dings, so keep its newness longer.” Regardless, proper handling is important. “Don’t put your flatware in the sink with 100 other pieces tucked into it. When putting in the dishwasher, use the separator in the cutlery basket.”

Practicality: DC and I discarded our original favorite pattern because the base of the pots was too wide to fit into the slot of our dishwasher’s silverware basket.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: