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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.

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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.

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