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Dece

Looking for some advice on flatware.

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I have tried searching the forums for the last few hours(with google and site:iforgeiron.com) but have not been able to find answer to the question of using mild steel for a set of flatware, using a food grade oil or wax finish(most of that time got lost in reading distractions in the bladesmithing forum). I am aware this would not be ideal, and that is most likely a large understatement, but it is what I currently have on hand and with my day job it is difficult to get to the local steel supply(Monday-Friday 9a-4p hours, I actually have to normally take a day off to make a run).

The most the knife would be cutting would mostly be cheese, fruit, and maybe vegetables. And I will admit, I have never tried to really make anything bladed, at least on purpose, and figured this would be a good learning experience.

I am looking to make some flatware for use in my kit for when I help out at a local historical park, period being 17th century.

Eventually I would be replacing them with something more appropriate. And if anyone has any advice in addition to the question I would appreciate it as well since I am a bit out of my element.

 

Apologies if I should have posted in a more specialized forum, if corrected I will try to post more correctly next time.

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9 hours ago, Dece said:

have not been able to find answer to the question of using mild steel for a set of flatware, using a food grade oil or wax finish

What exactly is your question? Whether or not this is doable?

If so, the answer is Yes. Just remember that simple carbon steels (mild, medium, and high) are prone to rusting, so you will need to make sure your kit is clean, dry, and re-oiled before you put it away. 

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Well lets see: 17th century ==1600s  so a lot of stuff like spoons would be pewter for the lower socioeconomic folks and silver for the upper. Knives would be either a plain carbon steel blade; or for the upper end silver again for non cutting ones.  There were also "fruit knives that had a silver blade as fruit acids don't react well with plain carbon steels.  Note that these steels would be real wrought iron based as not even Huntsman's cast steel would be around then and "mild steel" was still up to 200 years in the future.

If you are working with a historical group they should know the good documentation for that area/period and you can pattern off of extant examples.

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Thanks for the info on fruit blades, did not think of the acids in the foods. Mostly I was worried about visible damage from use to the flatware or the wooden plate/bowl I have/am making(initial bowl I was trying to finish up and in my haste put a gouge straight through it trying to take off too much in one go and having to remake it). 

 

Appreciate the information. Does not need to be completely accurate, as mostly it is so that while volunteering, if a visitor sees it, it does not look too out of time. I.E. need to look like it could belong. 

Heck the anvil in the smithy there is ~250#(roughly, its had a few big chunks taken out of it over the years) Fisher and use coal instead of charcoal in the forge, and of course the nice 50# swage block isn't something they'd have back then either, but on a limited time helps with demonstrating and bridging from then to now.

 

I see where I could have included more information and been clearer and will try to do better next time. 

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Well the use of coal in blacksmithing started in the High to Late Middle Ages according to Gies & Gies in "Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel".  Now charcoal continued to be used for smithing even till this day. (The Fisher is a bit out for the 1600's; but at least it has a squatter shape than some of the late 19th century/early 20th century anvils.

As a long time, (41 years), member of a historical group and past president of a Living History Group; I would like to encourage you to do it right the first time.  Also to avoid "cookie cutter" items (everyone in the group has the exact same copy of *1* extant artifact with no "manufacturing variability".  

Misleading folks as to what was used is a subtle form of misrepresentation.

What area are you trying to recreate?  Are you using a bellows powered sideblast forge? (I'd suggest you get a copy of Moxon's "Mechanicks Exercises", the section dealing with smithing,  published in 1703 but mainly written in the late 1600's. )

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Food grade mineral oil won't go rancid , or get sticky like veggie oil will.

When my Dad went on a deep sea fishing trip the cook dipped everyone's pliers into some bacon grease. My Dad tried an experiment and did not have one pair dipped. The undipped pair was getting stiff within a couple of days, and the dipped pair was fine all week.

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Thomas: I'll look around for a copy once I finish going through Gerard's Herbal(Inter library loan on some of these get kind of limited), although just found a used copy of Cathedral, forge and waterwheel and picked it up, its next on my reading list. I just volunteer when I have the time but on some of the events where I am there at a mealtime it would be nice to sit out with the meal. 

The timeframe is 1590s-1650s in Virginia/North Carolina, so any resources like iron would actually have been exported and finished goods imported. The blacksmith mostly did repairs or anything that was not really practical to ship, hence the comment on charcoal being used as opposed to coal.

 

The location has its own smithy, and it is a bellows, but air is bottom blast after the rebuild, although the location closer to me that I have also done some volunteering at(a bit narrower timeframe of 1611-1622) is a bellows sideblast forge, and the carpenter/blacksmith/surgeon there is the one that has gave me a fair bit of advice on getting started in smithing several years ago, just getting time to head out there when its open has been difficult this past month. 

 

I was mostly hoping to be able to make something close enough due to costs, but will give some more thought and take your advice on doing it right the first time into consideration. Was hoping to be able to make something that looked like it'd belong in timeframe with what I had on hand.

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It depends on how authentic you are trying to be.  In some historical re-enactment circles there is an unfortunate "more authentic than thou" ethos with people trying to out authentic their neighbors. "Oh, you have a woolen garment?  Well, mine is hand woven wool.  Oh, yours is hand woven? Well, mine is hand woven and hand spun.  Oh, yours is hand woven and hand spun?  Well, I raised the sheep and sheared them myself?  Oh, you sheared your own sheep?  Well, mine are a historically accurate breed."  Etc, bloody, etc..  In terms of authenticity for eating implements you can go with either wrought iron or mild steel in my opinion.  Just keep them lightly oiled.  And stay away from forks since they weren't introduced into England until the early to mid 17th century and probably didn't get into common use in the Americas, particularly at a level below the gentry, until into the 18th century.  Also, spoons had a bowl shape sort of like a fig, broad at the end and tapering towards the stem.  The end of the stem was often beveled with a simple angle cut which was called "slipped in the stalk" and resembled how you would cut a flower stem at an angle.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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My "early" eating set is a small knife and spoon; slightly later I add a wrought iron spike, what I call a "one tine fork" with a modified apostle end.

The funny thing about "excessive authenticity" is you get people doing things that are very inauthentic trying to be very authentic---like a blacksmith smelting their own iron from ore; or just a single person working in a smithy both extremely excessively rare in the historic record. (I've smelted my own iron before; but I tell folks that iron has been a trade item since the iron age began---just look at the distribution of iron "currency bars"!)

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