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The family knife cleaner

19th Century

This is a mechanical knife cleaner. Sold under the name of “The Family Knife Cleaner” this contraption was manufactured by the Manchester firm of Follows and Bates in the 1890s.

An open fire or range was a constant source of soot and dust so most cooking utensils had to be cleaned daily. Knives, forks and other items of silverware quickly became tarnished in the smoky atmosphere of the Victorian kitchen. “The Family Knife Cleaner” was designed to take some of the drudgery out of day-to-day kitchen work and brought a welcome sparkle to the cutlery.

Knives were set in slots along the drum. As the handle was turned a rotary arm swept an abrasive powder across the knives and polished the blades and handles. A label on the side of the drum warns of the danger of turning the handle too quickly – an overenthusiastic use of the machine could bend knives and forks or trap them inside the machine.

Cutlery still had to be washed after it had gone through the cleaner.

Place of Production:
Follows & Bates Limited, Manchester
wood, iron
dia:360mm; base:440mm x 170mm; w:100mm
Stranraer Museum
Accession number:
WIWMS 2007.36
Digital Number:
Dumfries & Galloway Council

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