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Ceramic is a word that applies to the process of making clay vessels and to the finished products, including china and porcelain.

Certain signs indicate inferior china- major trouble signs are:

  • Thick areas called puddles in plates and saucers. They show up when piece is held up to light.
  • Blisters, pitting, bumps or waviness in glaze. It should reflect light evenly.
  • Rough edges on bottom of plate or rim of cup.
  • Crack in glaze indicating weakness where handles are joined to body.
  • Black or brown speck, gray sheen or dull color.
  • Breaks in decoration.

Two other forms of pottery are earthenware and stoneware. Stoneware is harder than earthenware and both are heavier and harder than porcelain-the harder the pottery, the less readily will it break.

Glass dinnerware may be made of pressed or more durable laminated glass. Pressed-glass dinnerware is usually transparent and may be clear or tinted. Laminated glass provides considerably more rugged dinnerware in white or tinted body colors and a range of decorations.


Melamine is a thermosetting plastic that is heat resistant, rigid and virtually indestructible. It produces lightweight, colorful dinnerware that stands up under relatively hard use. An independent testing agency has discovered certain quality defects that may show up in melamine dinnerware, regardless of price. Before you purchase a set, check it for the following problems:

  • Scuffs, scratches, cracks, dents, pinholes, pits, blisters, wrinkles, chips, chalking, dull spots, “orange-peel” surfaces.
  • Patterns off-center or wrinkles at edges because underlay is too large for plate.
  • Cup handles badly attached or mold marks not burnished properly.
  • Bases of dinner plates or serving platters warped so they don’t stand solidly.


As with any product, glassware comes in varying qualities.

Lime glass is used for machine-made glassware. It resists scratches but does not have the sparkle or tone of crystal.

Crystal is made from lead or flint glass that produces a brilliant jewel-like glass and produces a clear, musical note when gently tapped.

Most better-quality glass is made by blowing or pressing.

Blown glass is fed into molds and shaped by compressed air. Pressed glass is manufactured by pouring molten glass into pre-cast forms and pressing it into shape. If a block mold is used, the item will have no seam; with a hinge mold, the finished piece will have a seam.

Among characteristics common to all glasswares are strength, durability and resistance to heat and acids. Heat treating increases resistance to breaking. To avoid breakage, glassware should not be subjected to extreme temperature changes.

In most stemware, the bowl is made separately and later attached to stem and foot. Pitcher handles are usually applied after the body is but while the glass is still hot.

Better-quality glassware is free of mold marks. Lower-quality tumblers frequently have two or three mold marks along upper portions, a thick rim or lip at the top and tiny air bubbles trapped in the walls.

Medium-priced lines include colored and textured items.


Insulated thermal items include tumblers, pitchers and casserole serving dishes. Although they cannot be categorized accurately as glassware, these pieces serve the same purpose. In addition to being lightweight and almost unbreakable, thermal ware offers an insulating characteristic that glass does not. Food or liquid put in these containers will stay hot or cold for long periods.

Better thermal ware has double-walled construction with a glass or plastic inner lining, an insulating space between the linings and an unbreakable plastic outer jacket sealed to the inner lining at the top. The outer jacket gives the ware its decorative value.


Stainless-steel flatware patterns are diverse and attractive.

Lower-quality stainless steel flatware is lightweight, may break under stress and has a dull finish. It may be made of an alloy instead of pure stainless steel, and handles may not be fastened on securely.

Better stainless steel is heavier, has a uniform high-glass mirror finish which retains without polishing, has no rough spots (especially on fork tines) and is pure stainless steel. Forks and spoons are one piece and knife blades are attached to handles so securely there is little danger of their coming apart. Most knife handles are hollow and many blades are tempered steel.


Most pieces of chrome-plated ware are serving dishes and accessories that look like silver but won’t tarnish. The chrome may pick up fingerprints, but they come off with soap and water. Under no circumstances should chrome plating be scoured-the surface will scratch.

Lower-cost items frequently have only a thin coating of chrome which may scratch or chip, leaving the base metal exposed to rust.

Better pieces are stamped from sheet brass or steel, engraved or embossed (if a pattern is desired), formed and smoothed into finished shape. Then they’re plated, first with nickel, then with chrome. This process eliminates rough spots or imperfections.


Surveys have indicated that American consumers use kitchen knives an average of 10,000 times a year.

Types of Knives
Bread knife-long, wide blade with serrated edge for ripping food apart rather than cutting. Used for cutting light density foods such as bread. Frozen food slicer-special serrated edge cuts through frozen vegetables and meats (including large cuts).
Butcher knife (6″-12″, sharp broad blade, straight edge)-cuts, separates, dices and trims raw meats, fish and poultry; can be used as cleaver to open lobsters or chop through bones and joints. Large slicer (9″, scalloped edge)-slices ham, sausages, cold roasts, rolls, angel food cake, bread.
Classic ground paring knife (3″)-dices, slices, peels fruits and vegetables; finely slices or slivers olives, etc., for fancy salads. Roast carver (8″, scalloped edge)-carves round and boneless roasts, raw roasts, cheeses, melons.
Cleaver-splits, chops, pounds, dices or slices. Back of cleaver can be used to pound meat. Roast carver (9″, straight or scalloped edge)-carves and slices roasts, steaks, whole hams, leg-of-lamb, turkey, raw chicken, melons.
Clip-point paring knife (3″)-general kitchen use for peeling, paring, skinning, seeding and pitting fruits and vegetables. Spreader-broad, rounded, paddle-like blade for spreading soft sandwich fillings.
Cheese slicer-split-tip blade slices easily through cheeses. Steak knife-pointed tip, scalloped edge; can also have rounded tip and/or carving edge.
Cook’s utility knife (5″, scalloped edge)-cuts sandwich fillings; trims and cuts large vegetables; removes kernels from corn-on-the-cob. Steak and poultry slicer (7 1/2″, scalloped edge)-cuts ham, cold roasts, fowl, steaks, bread and cakes.
Curved citrus knife (double serrated blade)-cuts and loosens citrus fruit sections. Trimming knife-long, narrow blade. Used for “boning” or “trimming” ham bone, leg-of-lamb, roasts, etc.
Fish filleting knife (8″)-flexible blade skins, bones, fillets fish. Utility knife (5″)-slices, cuts or cores fruits and vegetables; trims meats.
French cook knife (8″)-chops, dices, cleans onions, celery, peppers, etc.; carves hot roasts; slices sandwich loaves; sections corn-on-the-cob; cuts noodles; disjoints raw chicken. Utility slicer (6″, scalloped edge)-slices steaks, roasts, hams, leg-of-lamb, cold meat, fruits, peppers; fillets fish; dissects poultry.
(Note: Generally recommend a wide blade for roasts and a narrow blade for cold meat or fowl.)


Knives are sold singly or in sets, but it is best and usually more economical to purchase a set. Also suggest a storage case or rack for the knives, as jostling in drawers increases the chance for chips in the blade and shortens the life of the knife.

Knives are made from steel, and generally, the more carbon in the steel, the better the blade will hold its edge.

Steels containing relatively high amounts of both chromium and carbon will hold an edge and resist stains, and are usually the most expensive. Carbon steel is a term commonly used to denote non-stainless knives.

Carbon steel is easier to re-sharpen than stainless steel, but it will rust and discolor more easily.

Quality of stainless-steel knives depends on the amount of carbon steel they contain. Cheaper ones are low carbon and can’t be hardened or tempered, which means they won’t hold a cutting edge and can’t be sharpened satisfactorily.

More expensive high-carbon stainless-steel knives have a polished finish, a hardened and tempered cutting edge (some with tungsten coating), which retains its sharpness for a long time and can be sharpened when necessary.

No matter how good the knife, it will become dull with time, when the edge “turns” as a result of coming into contact with hard surfaces.

To stand up to heavy use, better-quality knives should have properly fitting handles and high-quality, stain-resistant blades. Better-quality knife blades are manufactured through a process that can be broken down into four basic steps:

  1. Hardening-heating blades at high temperature.
  2. Quenching-rapid cooling of red-hot blade in oil, water or salts.
  3. Tempering-reducing the brittleness quenching causes by reheating slowly at a lower temperature. Tempered steel produces an edge that stays sharp longer and is less likely to break under strain. 4. Grinding-forming the cutting edge.


Knives are flat, hollow or taper ground, beginning at the back of the blade and working toward the edge. The blade may retain visible grinding marks and this can have an effect on service or blade life of stainless-steel blades. The smoother the finish on non-stainless blades, the more resistant they are to corrosion.

flat-ground knife resembles a thin wedge, thickest part at the back slanting in a smooth V shape to cutting edge. These knives are usually heavier than hollow ground and may have a broader cutting edge.

Hollow-ground knives have a concave area (or indentation) on each side gradually reducing thickness of blade to a razor-sharp cutting edge. The slant (or grinding) begins about midway on the blade. Another version is concave grinding which begins closer to the back and grinds the blade thinner.

Flat ground edges become thicker with sharpening; hollow-ground edges remain thinner as they are ground back toward the back of the blade.

Taper-ground knives have an additional grind which eliminates a shoulder, giving an even, more uniform and smooth taper. This minimizes the blade’s resistance as it cuts, making it seem sharper.

Thickness of a knife blade also helps determine a quality product. Better small knives, such as parers, will be .062 gauge steel; utility and light slicing knives will be .085; and heavy slicing knives, butcher knives and cook’s knives are generally .100 gauge steel or heavier.


V edging produces a straight carving edge. It is so-called because a cross-section of the blade shows a perfect V shape with the wide part at the back and point at the edge.

Cannell or rolled edging is modified V edging. The blade is ground like a V edge to within 1/32″ of the edge, and then rolled. This produces a broader cutting edge like that used for butcher knives.

Two other kinds of edges – scalloped and serrated – are used for sawing or cutting hard-to-cut foods. The scalloped edge is a wavy edge with broad valleys between points. A serrated edge is similar to scalloped, but the teeth are much finer and closer together.

Scalloped edge requires a sweeping cutting motion and produces a clean cut necessary for meat. The advantage of the scalloped edge is that the points prevent the insides of the arcs from being dulled on the cutting surface. Serrated edges take short strokes and are inclined to tear the food; they are best for hot bread.

The two last types of edges are honed and polished Honed, found on a majority of household cutlery, is accomplished by grinding steel down to a cutting edge on a honing wheel. The polished edge is applied by “polishing” on a felt wheel after honing; it is extremely sharp and delicate.


Most handles are wood, with higher-priced knives having rosewood handles. Other better knives have walnut, beech, maple or high-quality plastic handles.

Handle construction is important. The knife must be balanced properly, the handle must be attractive and it must be made from a material that won’t split, crack or chip. Right and left-handled contour-grip handles are also available.

A properly balanced knife has its greatest weight in the handle end. When the knife is held loosely in the hand, the blade should hang comfortably. This is especially important with long-bladed knives.

The tang-the portion of the blade extending into the handle-is attached by riveting, friction or cementing. Whichever method is used, the handle should be attached so it won’t come under strain.

Tangs are full, half, round or flat. Full and half tangs are riveted in the handle; round tangs are cemented; flat tangs are friction held, sometimes with a pin driven through the end. A handle with a half tang has two rivets only and isn’t as strong as one with a full, three-rivet tang. Better knives are constructed with no crevices to gather food where blade attaches to handle.

Cemented and friction-held handles are common among the less-expensive knives, although a round tang with a bolster may be found on fine carving knives, and professional carbon steel knives may have friction-held handles.

The biggest problem with friction-held handles is that they may loosen and come off if they get wet. Dishwashers are especially hard on them.


For a knife to perform its best, here are a few pointers:

  1. Use the knife for what it was intended. Don’t try cutting wire with a carving knife.
  2. Store knives individually. Keep them in a cutlery rack, partitioned box or in the cardboard sleeves the manufacturer puts on them. Knocking or scraping together in a drawer can dull or chip the edge.
  3. Cut on a slicing board. It protects kitchen work surfaces and may retard edge dulling.
  4. Wash and dry after each use, by hand unless manufacturer tag indicates it can be washed in an automatic dishwasher.
  5. Keep blade away from direct heat.
How To Sharpen Knives
Types of knife sharpeners include: sharpening stone with fine and coarse sides; diamond sharpeners; “hard Arkansas stone,” a ceramic hone abrasive resembling marble, and magnetized sharpening steel (rounded steel pole) with etched, lined or hard surface.
Small knives-hold sharpening stone firmly on table with left hand. Place knife blade against stone at 10 degree or 15 degree angle and draw blade against stone in diagonal direction, beginning at heel and ending at tip. Flip blade and repeat; continue process until blade is sharp enough.
Home cutlery-Hold knife along edge of flat surface, cutting edge up. Place stone against cutting edge about 10 degrees or 15 degrees from vertical position of blade. Stroke stone against knife edge as though to cut a thin slice of the sharpener. Reverse blade and sharpen on other side.
Hints: Knife blades-sharpen against edge.
Scissors-sharpen on bevel, not on side of blade.
Serrated edges-require special equipment; ordinary sharpening will destroy edge. May have to be returned to manufacturer.


Shears and scissors may look alike, but they differ in length, construction and use. They are made in both right and left-handed models, and since 10 percent of all humans are left-handed, it’s worthwhile stocking a few left-handed models.

Shears measure 6″ to 14″, have one round handle for thumb and one oblong handle for two or more fingers and are used for heavy cutting tasks.

Scissors measure 3″ to 6″, have two small matching ring handles and are used for light cutting jobs.

Shears and scissors are made from one of four methods:

Cast-made from molten metal cast in a form. Cannot be tempered, set or satisfactorily re-sharpened. Are brittle and will break easily. Often fitted with rivet instead of screw.

Cold-pressed steel-make from pressed steel and are relatively soft. Do not hold sharp edge.

Hot-forged steel-made of one-piece hardened and tempered steel. Superior to cast and cold-pressed shears. Useful for barbering and light household work. Heavy-duty forged shears will cut carpet and leather for shoes.

Inlaid-blade section made of high carbon crucible steel welded to malleable steel frame and fitted with screw. Blades are hard enough for most household jobs. Present little danger of breaking and can be re-sharpened, if necessary.

Types of Shears and Scissors
Buttonhole scissors-small scissors with adjustable screw and notched blade for cutting buttonholes of different lengths.
Kitchen shears-long shank gives added leverage for heavy cutting. Top blade is serrated. Can be used to cut light wire, linoleum or rope as well as for food preparation. Some have notched grip for unscrewing jar caps and hook for opening beverage bottles. Some have decorator-colored handles.
Embroidery scissors-blades have sharp points. Used for fine needlework.
Paper shears-also called desk, stationer’s, blueprint, editor’s, advertising, banker’s or paper hanger’s shears. Have long, swinging blades (up to 16″ long) that cut straight edges in large sheets of paper. Paper hanger’s shears usually have wider blades and larger finger holes.
General use scissor-one rounded and one pointed blade. Length varies from 3″ to 6″.
Pinking shears-meshing teeth cut regular zig-zag edge. Important in dressmaking because they leave non-raveling edge. Can be used on plastics and synthetics. Some have ball-bearing pivot to cut with less effort.
Manicure scissors-cuticle scissors (right) have two sharp-pointed curved blades; nail scissors (left) have two short heavy blades.
Poultry shears-wide, long, curved blades. Some have ordinary shear handles; others have long-straight handles (shown). Specifically designed for preparation of chicken, turkey or other fowl.
Pocket or school scissors-two blunt points for safe carrying.
Scalloping shears-similar to pinking shears. Used for finishing seams in dress-making; also for cutting decorative edges on felt, suede, chamois, leatherette, oil cloth, plastic.
Sewing scissors-also called light trimmers; for lighter work like darning, ripping and millinery projects.
Straight trimmers-general purpose household or dressmaking shears.
Thread snips-unique shape, different from other scissors or shears. Are light-weight and designed to fit into palm of hand. Can be used on thread, fabric, ribbon, fish nets, string, light wire, harness ties, electronic filament, film, etc.
Tailor’s shears-long blades that cut from point to point. Handles are bowed and shaped to fit the hand.
Barber’s shears-used for cutting hair. Unlike other shears, have equal-size handles.
Bent trimmers-handles are bent slightly upward to cut dressmaking or other materials that must lie flat.


The best shears have blades of equal hardness and are set so that one blade cannot cut into the other, which impairs smooth operation and eventually damages one or both blades. They are fitted with a screw that can be adjusted and repaired if it gets loose or worn. Some can be snapped apart for cleaning of individual blades.

Lower quality shears are made of cast iron or steel and may break. Blades will not hold an edge for long and require frequent although unsatisfactory re-sharpening. They may be of unequal hardness so that the harder blade will damage the softer one.

Some have a rivet assembly which cannot be repaired if rivet gets loose, and when this happens, there is no way to maintain proper blade stress. Handle rings may be rough and cause scratches or blisters.


Taking proper care of shears and scissors keeps them in better working condition longer. Keep them dry, oil them occasionally around the screw and frequently remove lint and dirt from cutting edges. If they are kitchen tools (used with food), wash and dry them thoroughly. Follow manufacturer’s instructions and file them for future reference.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.