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Flatware 2010/12/20

Posted by Daddy Dave in Musings, shopping.
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I was slightly conned when I bought cutlery years ago, and so we are looking for new cutlery/ flatware now and hope this is of some help to others.

What happened was about 10-15 years ago I decided to buy my first canteen of cutlery, and as it was the olden days before the Internet, I had to research the old ways — by asking around and looking in library books.  I found out that cutlery was made from something called “stainless steel”, but that there were different qualities of stainless steel.

Cutlery/ flatware is often stamped with old-style designations:

  • 18/0 has 18 % Chromium (Cr) and 0 % Nickel (Ni);
  • 18/8 has 18 % Cr and 8 % Ni;
  • 18/10 has 18  % Cr and 10 % Ni.

The new designations are:

  • 301 stainless steel has 16-18% Cr, and 6-8% Ni;
  • 302 stainless steel has 17-19% Cr, and 8-10% Ni;
  • 304 stainless steel has 18-20% Cr, and 8-10.5% Ni;
  • 316 stainless steel has 16-18% Cr and 10-14% Ni and 2-3% molybdenum.

I knew that stainless steel can corrode due to acids and salts. That is why Nickel is added to prevent the corrosion and pitting. I was told it hardens the steel, and adds whiteness to render polishing (shiny) characteristics.

So the higher the amount of Nickel, the softer and shinier is the stainless steel, as well as the price.

I looked at some famous flatware/ cutlery manufacturers, like Oneida or Yamazaki — but they only use use 18/0 and still profess high quality — this has zero Nickel! Their stuff must be really hard/ sharp, but not very shiny or corrosion-proof.

Nope, I wanted 316 L — I wanted the high amount of nickel (and also the added Molybdenum), but all I could find was a set that was stamped in the old style, 18/10.  Oh well, in the end I decided that this was near enough and bought the set at great expense.

Well, I have to say that they have always felt lovely — they are perfectly crafted, nice weight and balance, great edges, and good-looking.  Heck, I’ve even been complimented on them! Trouble is that the knives have started to show signs of age. Rust spots and pitting.

So I went on-line and found this:

“It is increasingly common to see flatware referred to as 18/8 when the the forks and spoons are actually 18/10 and the knife is 18/0.

“They just sort of average out the Nickel content and come out with 18/8 even though not a single utensil in the set, strictly speaking, is made out of 18/8.

“The reason knives are sometimes made of 18/0 is that Nickel softens the alloy and knives need to be harder to keep an edge.  The down side is that when you put your flatware in the dishwasher (particularly with certain types of detergent) is could come out with the early signs of corrosion – the iridescent, rainbow-like spots your wife sees and gets upset about.  It is especially common on knives…

“When you hold a magnet to your knife, if it is 18/0 Stainless, it will stick.

ficientdesign.com/2010/07/stainless-steel-chemistry-and-why-your-wife-cares/

At first I thought maybe my canteen had this average — but my set didn’t say 18/8; it said 18/10.  On closer inspection, however, everything is actually stamped STAINLESS STEEL 18/10 — EXCEPT the knives.

Damn!  So my knives are worse than the spoons and forks.  I checked — and yes!  ONLY MY KNIVES ARE MAGNETIC . This is a massive cheat in my opinion!

In general, the more corrosion resistant a SS grade is, the less strong it is; 300-series SS (18/10 and 18/8) are very corrosion resistant, but not very strong, while the 400-series SS (18/0) is very strong, but not very corrosion resistant.

My kitchen knives are strong — and need to be — and they are magnetic 18/0 stainless steel, and I hone them using a steel.  However, for the table, I just do not think ” strength” or even “sharpness” is the issue, everything else is much more of an issue, particularly being corrosion-proof and being dishwasher safe.

Bottom line is that we need new cutlery rusting knives is no good, even after all these years — I shall be taking a magnet along to the shops, and I want 18/10 or 316L.

And I want it on the knives too!

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Comments»

1. Gerry - 2010/12/30

I read this and took a fridge magnet along and ignored what it said on the box, and looked at each piece individually for the stamp. Never found one that had 316 or numbers like that, yet to find a knife that is stamped 18/10. Mostly they said nothing except IKEA, JAPAN or SHEFFIELD! Most of the cutlery is magnetic to varying degrees. Looks like I will just have to go on price and expect to replace the set every 10 years. Thanks for helping me make an informed choice (and saving me lots of money).
Gerry


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