Odd Kitchen Gadgets. Or, What the Heck is That?

Glass Knives????

Back in the late 1920s the Dur-X Company began producing and selling glass knives for “acid fruits” because this was prior to the appearance of stainless steel knives and the carbon steel could be affected by the acid in these fruits and also the fruits were often discolored by the metals in the knives.
Almost all the earliest knives show the “Pat.Pend.” notification at the base of the blade as the patent was not granted until 1938. Another company produced them with the Vita-Glas name and they were sold by the Renwal Distributing Company.
The knives were produced in clear glass, clear with painted decoration (often lost) and in the colors popular during the depression years. They continued in production until the 1950s when they were phased out with the introduction of stainless steel knives that were impervious to acids in fruits.
I remember my grandmother buying one at Marshall Field’s in Chicago in 1946 on one of our trips to visit my mother and step-father while they still lived in Chicago. It was clear with a flower design impressed into the handle and painted red and yellow. I still have it but the paint has long since worn away. It may have been fired onto the glass but it is rare to find one with the paint intact nowadays, unless they were never used (or washed).
Obviously the ones made of colored glass and with decoration are the most desirable to collectors and as there were several companies that produced them, there is sufficient variation to make a collection interesting.
I don’t collect the knives, I have just four, all were inherited from relatives or received as gifts.

Not a lot of these knives survived because, being glass, they were fragile. It was easy to chip the edges of the blades and the points were particularly subject to breakage. Glass workers could re-grind the edge and at one time there was a mail order service that advertised in the little ads in the backs of magazines this very service. I remember seeing these ads when I was little and found the many odd little ads fascinating to read.

Oddly enough, in recent years, there has been some revival of knives with glass blades and much touting of how this “stone-age” instrument has been brought into the 21st century. Apparently these folks weren’t aware that in the 20th century there was also a revival of sorts of this interesting type of blade and it lasted for several decades.

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So here’s this gadget that looks pretty innocuous.
mt splitter
MTS w ruler
MTS w ruller open
Here’s what it looks like from the top.
MTS ruler standing

This is a “Melba Toast” splitter, a gadget that will hold a regular slice of bread so that it can be sliced in half, thus making two extra thin slices.
Now there is the accepted way of simply toasting a slice of bread, cutting off the crusts and splitting it and toasting the untoasted surfaces but apparently some inventor thought it would be a good idea to have the bread already half thickness AND to keep the crusts on the bread.
I like that!
Another advantage is that this gadget allows one to slice whole grain breads and those containing nuts and etc., which doesn’t work very well with the traditional method.

The teeth on the inside of the gadget hold the bread slice in place and when it is close there is a slot for the thin-bladed bread knife.
Here’s a slice of whole-grain, nutty bread in place;
MTS open

And here is a photo showing that slice, sliced in half.
MTS  with bread sliced in half.

The thing even has a wood piece in the bottom so the blade of the knife won’t be damaged. Pretty clever, eh?

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This gadget is very old and came from England.
It’s a “Marmalade Cutter” and is one of the gadgets that cause some people to shudder on first seeing it.
Marm cutter 1

marm cutter 2

marm cutter 3

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What the heck is a “Cream Maker” – a gadget from England These apparently appeared in England back in the 1930s and continued in production well into the 1950s. Not having lived there, I don’t know why it was considered advantageous to mix milk and butter and process them through these gadgets to emulsify them so one would end up with cream. However, they were manufactured and used and apparently produced a satisfactory result. I have taken photos of two of the three I own. The larger one in the front is the earliest, I believe, as the person who gave it to me said her mother had it before WWII. It mounts to the edge of a table with a screw clamp.

This little one stands on its own “foot” and forces the “cream” out of the little curved spout.

I was told it was manufactured in the late 1940s. That was a time when there was strict rationing in England.

This is a “Jubilee” Cream Maker with its own jar to catch the processed cream.




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This gadget is a “Wheat Krinkler” or grain flaker. This is the way cereal grains were “flaked” to make cooking faster in the days before wheat flakes and oatmeal flakes were handy for farm folks.

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Does anyone need a meat grinder? No two are exactly alike. One has its own stand.
I also have others that are “specialty” grinders – one for poppyseeds.

Here’s a few.

More photos later.

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Here are two old gadgets.
On the left is the “Shaker” apple peeler.

On the right is a cherry pitter.

The following photo is of a “cherry stoner” that does not use a gadget to push the pits out but essentially crushes the cherries so it is easier for the stones to be removed.

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Food Scale

This is a small scale that is surprisingly accurate and needs no additional weights to weigh up to 10 pounds.
The label states it is a “Royal” – a Tower Product, made in Western Germany.

One photo shows it with a 5-pound bag of cornmeal which it has weighed correctly.

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A Butter Cutter

This is actually a restaurant implement, made to cut a one-pound block of butter into “pats” for serving.

The design is very clever. First the section with the cross wires is pushed horizontally to divide the block into four “sticks” and then the 16 wire cutter slides down the shaft to cut the sticks into 18 segments. The plate is marked “72″ to indicate how many pats it will produce.

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“Food Processors” non-electric

This is from the 1950s, colored pink, a very popular color during that period.
It is both a meat grinder and a “salad” shredder.

It utilizes one base for two different tops, the meat grinder.

And the salad shredder that has three “blades’ one for slicing, one coarse grating and one fine grating.

I think it would fit nicely in a vintage pink kitchen. Unfortunately my kitchen isn’t.

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The Butter Pot

Isn’t this cute? It may look like a teapot but it is actually a butter or ghee pot. This one was made in Nepal, although I am told that they are common in India, where ghee is used a great deal.

This was given to me by someone who thought it actually was a teapot. I love it because it is so different.
It’s made of brass that has been patinated to look like bronze – and to keep it from developing verdigris that can damage the surface.

(The person who gave it to me passed away a couple of years ago so revealing this for it’s true use will not be hurtful to anyone.)

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Here’s an odd item. It has a sort of “space-age” look.

This is a hot beverage server. It has a container for under the bottom of the globe and a spigot for dispensing the hot liquids.
The person from whom I purchased it called it a “hot cider server” and I believe it would do just fine for that purpose. The ring around the server is supposed to hold cups with hook handles. I do not have the cups.

It is the shaded “flame orange” that was used on enameled cast iron cookware in the 1960s and I have several pieces of Descoware with the same color, purchased at that time.

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How about a “Lunch Box” that is really collectible.
Lunch boxes are very popular as collectibles but those are the lunch boxes for kids that had graphics of popular entertainment icons. Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Sky King and etc., plus all the Disney and other cartoon characters.

This is not one of those. I don’t collect lunch boxes but got this from an ebay seller who had sold me several early appliances. He thought I might find it interesting.

It is an electric lunch box that one could use to heat one’s lunch. It has two metal containers and one glass one, probably for foods high in acid, because the whole thing is made of aluminum. I don’t think it was ever used because there is no evidence anything was ever in the containers and this would be something very difficult to clean.

Looks pretty normal on first glance.

But there is a plug on this end.

And this end says “ElectroLunch”

Inside it looks like this.

Pretty clever, eh?

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11 Responses to Odd Kitchen Gadgets. Or, What the Heck is That?

  1. Tom Peters says:

    Do you take requests? haha
    My friend gave an unusual, and yet to be determined food device this xmas
    It looks like some kind of hexagonal wedge food cutter of some kind – its kinda like an aluminum gear press
    Made in Italy and sold by Kalian of NYC
    Can I send a picture?

    • asenjigal says:

      My blog is not set up to allow posting of pictures in comments.
      Does the device have handles or a handle? It may be a ravioli press, they come in various shapes, including hexagonal.

  2. Jennifer Yeh says:

    There is a Oregon State Heritage Site (Kam Wah Chung) that is trying to identify a Hot Point electric wand looking device that has an insulated cord and plugs into a light socket. The “wand/rod” is round. The first half is skinny and then the second half is much larger, about 1 inch diameter. It would have been purchased before 1948. It might even be part of something. I have several pictures of it I could e-mail or post on facebook. Your site is great so I thought maybe you could help.

    • asenjigal says:

      Hotpoint made an immersion heater that was in production from the 1920s through the 1940s and they had a contract with the government to provide them during WWII.
      Hotpoint immersion heater

      I believe there is an extensive description of the heater on one of the GE/Hotpoint history sites but I don’t have the link immediately at hand.

  3. MJ Kell says:

    I have a kitchen tool that has a 2 1/2 ” pointed blade, sharp on both sides, attached to a long spoonish thing that is serrated on the “top” of the spoony end, and slotted down the back/center. The spoon is wedge shaped. The blade is positioned under the slotted area. Any idea what this is?

    • asenjigal says:

      Just as a guess, without being able to see it, I think it might be something from the wild and wonderful world of garnishing tools.

      The ones pictured in the link all have handles but some companies produce ones that are double-ended with a different tool at each end.
      In the past there have been some produced that look as if they would be quite at home in a dungeon full or torturer’s instruments.

  4. Diana says:

    This is a wonderful collection, great that you have taken the time to photograph and explain items that were no doubt innovative and saved for in their day but now largely forgotten.

    The ‘cream maker’ brought back memories for me. My parents bought one new in the early 1970s, I can remember going to buy this device and then being charged with responsibility for cranking the handle over and over and over. The top was blue, with a clear glass bowl underneath. Sadly I can’t remember the cream being wonderful, I don’t think the device was a great success. Thanks for helping me bring back the kitchen of my childhood!

  5. Tony Flanagan says:

    Well!
    I am forwarding the link to this blog to my Wife. She seems to think my fascination with kitchen appliances is, umm, excessive? Over-the-top? Indecorous?
    I am quite keen on the Kenwood Chef range. In ’45 they looked a lot like the KitchenAid , but made in England. In the sixties they became icons of the Mary Quant/Beatles era. Over-engineered they last ofever. And they came with hundreds of attachments. Including, interestingly, a cream maker! Seems you put butter and milk in and got cream out. Seems ass-ways nowadays, but …. who understands the English?
    I go forward seeking Ken Wood with renewed heart! Thank you.

    • asenjigal says:

      I love the ingenuity, if not the practicality, of some of the “vintage” kitchen gadgets that have been marketed to “make kitchen tasks easier” or more recently, to encourage people to buy something new to replace something still functional, because it is shiny, colorful, “fashionable” or ??? just to make a profit for the manufacturer. I have found that in many cases, the old, tried and true, gadgets work as well, if not better, than the newer versions – as long as they are properly maintained.
      Some things just should not be made of plastic, in my opinion. I have hand-cranked meat grinders that are 100 years old and work better than the new ones, with half the effort.
      Of course, if someone, man or woman, wants a modern, neat and tidy kitchen, having a bunch of antique or vintage items sitting around (because what is the sense of having them if they are not out on display) might be annoying. The thing is that I use the things I have, and there is still NOTHING that beats my old cast iron frying pans for certain things, such as cornbread and fried chicken or “smothered” pork chops. And several of them are 100 years old, or more.
      My big copper jam pan was made in France in 1891 and other than needing a ring to keep the round bottom on a burner, it performs perfectly.
      And of course, if you ever get tired of collecting, you can be assured that there will still be a lot of collectors out there who will be more than willing to buy the items you no longer want…

  6. Janet Kaiser says:

    Hi! Thanks for such an interesting page. I just wanted to tell you why cream makers were used in Britain before and after the second World War. Unless you lived near a farm or a dairy, cream simply was not on sale. Few shops had refrigerators and fewer homes until the 1960s. Canned evaporated milk counted as “cream” in many homes and I remember many childhood tea parties with “whipped cream” which was mock cream made from “evap” (as it was called). Tinned cream made by Nestlé was the nearest many people got to “real” MacCoy. When cream was available, it was very expensive, so the devices to make milk and butter “back into cream” became extremely popular. These machines stood unused through the war and for some time following it, because the food rationing did not allow for such extravagance. 2 oz of butter and 2 pints of milk per person per week is the reason why many were still undernourished well into the 1950s. Rationing was only phased out gradually and ended in 1954. The cream makers continued to be manufactured into the 1970s to my knowledge, but were made of plastic by then. Your examples are probably pre war and look much more robust. I am currently looking for a cream maker because high fat cream is unavailable where I currently live, but many recipes call for double cream which has at least 40% fat content, compared to whipping or single cream. I therefore need to manufacture my own cream again! What goes around, comes around, eh? Best wishes from this genuine British Baby Boomer whose mother and grandmother were both professional cooks. :)

    • asenjigal says:

      You are fortunate because many more cream makers show up on ebay in the UK than here. In fact I got the “Jubilee” cream maker from England in the early days of ebay.
      I knew about the rationing. My grandpa kept in touch with family, distant cousins who lived in Wales, Cornwall and Scotland and sent “care packages” from time to time and in return got hand-woven woolens, knitted sweaters and socks and books. I was born and raised on his farm which was very self-sufficient and cured some wonderful hams and bacon and also made sorghum syrup. Those were three of the items that were crated up and shipped (by boat) to his cousins.
      When I say hams, I mean real “hams” made from mature hogs – usually weighing 30 to 40 pounds each and a slab of bacon could easily weigh 20 pounds. There was also butter that was canned and preserved for shipping and usually a gallon of the sorghum, also sealed in a can, was sent along. One of my aunts visited the cousins in 1947 and said they were “famous” for the baking of sweet things they make with the sorghum, which was virtually unknown in the UK.
      I’m fortunate that I have access to “Manufacturing cream” which is very heavy cream and is not ultra pasteurized so it fine for making butter, cheese and clotted cream.
      There is no “need” for me to do things this way but I enjoy it.

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