Fab Factory: The cutting edge of cutlery

January 24, 2018

Who needs eating utensils when you have perfectly working hands to rip and tear at the food on your plate and stuff it into your mouth? 

Well, until around the 1500s that’s exactly the way people ate. Around that time, Italian courtier Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529) and English schoolmaster Henry Peacham (1576-1643),finally put a fork into table manners with the publication of their popular books. However, it did take approximately another century before Europeans stopped using their bare hands to eat.

After 1650, the production of tableware on a wide scale was introduced in England. This played a large role in improving the dinner-table etiquette. Over time, strict laws demanding high standards of quality in silverware were enacted. Name, date and locations were required and stamped into the pieces of a silversmith’s work. The word "sterling" came to mean "of unexcelled quality." Upper-class English homes from 1670 onward passed down their tableware to children who were born with a “silver spoon in their mouth.”

In the 1950s, mass-produced silverware began being made of stainless steel. 18/8 stainless steel with 18 percent chrome and 8 percent nickel is the finest grade of metal used in producing quality lines. Stainless steel is particularly popular because of its easy care, durability and low price.

The word "sterling" came to mean "of unexcelled quality."

Production starts with blanking of the shape. This process is a fork in the road for the large flat roll of metal, which is stamped into the outside shape of what will be a spoon, fork or knife.

Once blanked, each piece goes through a series of rolling operations to adjust the thickness of the material on the appropriate end. This gives the utensil the necessary strength and balance for finer-graded pieces. Rolling operations work harden the material. This makes the utensils brittle so between the rolling operations the pieces are annealed, softening the material back up.

After the rolling operations are complete, the roughly shaped blanks go into a cut-out press, where the dies go through the metal like a hot knife through butter. All the excess metal is recycled back into sheets to be used again on later production. The trimming ensures an accurate fit of the pieces into the decorative dies that come next.

Hardened steel dies come together with enormous pressure of over 200 tons to shape and create the finely decorative patterns onto the finished blanks. This operation also hardens the metal for use by the consumer at home.

After the utensils receive their decorative pattern each type goes through a series of special operations depending on what it’s ultimately meant to be. For instance, knives get a hollow handle that is soldered to the blade and polished so the seam is invisible. Deburring and polishing are done last to ensure smooth operation by the end user. See for yourself in this cool video about the process of making cutlery.