In any first-class cutlery store you will find knives for each special kind of carving. If your purse will permit the indulgence, it will be convenient to have a breakfast-carver, a slicer, a jointer, a game-carver, and a pair of game-scissors. But if you can afford to have only one, you will find a medium-sized meat-carver the knife best adapted to all varieties of carving. The blade should be about nine inches long and one inch and a quarter wide, slightly curved, and tapering to a point.
The fork should have two slender curving tines about three eighths of an inch apart and two and a half inches long, and should have a guard.
A breakfast or steak carver is of the same general shape, but the handle is smaller, and the blade is six or seven inches long. A slicer for roasts has a wide, straight blade, twelve inches long, and rounded instead of pointed at the end. This is especially convenient for carving thin slices from any large roasts, or other varieties of solid meat. The width of the blade helps to steady the meat, and its great length enables one to cut with a single, long, smooth stroke through the entire surface. With a knife having a short blade a sort of sawing motion would be made, and the slice would be jagged. As there are no joints to separate, a point on the blade is unnecessary.
A jointer is another form of carver, useful where the joints are so large or so difficult to separate that considerable strength is required. The handle has a crook or guard on the end to enable the carver to grasp it more securely and use all the strength necessary.
A game-carver has a small, narrow, pointed blade; but the shape and length of the handle is the distinguishing feature. The handle should be long enough to reach from the tip of the forefinger to an inch beyond the back side of the hand, so that the edge of the hand about an inch above the wrist rests against the handle of the carver. In dividing a difficult joint, the manipulation should be made, not by turning the hand, but by turning the knife with the fingers. In this way the position of the point of the blade can be more easily changed as the joint may require. The handle of the carving-knife supports the hand of the carver.
Game-scissors have handles like scissors; the two short blades are quite deeply curved, something like the blade of a pruning-knife, making the cutting power greater. This enables the person using them to cut through quite large bones in tough joints which would otherwise be quite difficult to separate.
Another form of jointer has two blades, one shorter than the other, and a round handle divided the entire length, with a spring in the end next the blade. When the handle is closed, the blades are together and the outer edge of the longer blade is used like a knife for cutting the meat. By opening the handle the curving edges of the blades are used like scissors for cutting the bones.
There are various styles of steels or knife-sharpeners.
It is a four-sided bar of steels, about three eighths of an inch wide and thick, and eight inches long, having the four sides deeply grooved, thus making the edges very prominent. These edges are so sharp that but little pressure of the knife on the steel is required. The handle has a large guard to protect the left hand from the edge of the blade.
But few people know how to use a steel properly. It is difficult to describe the process, - so easy to a natural mechanic and so awkward to others, - or to instruct one in the knack of it, by mere description. Hold the steel firmly in the left hand. Let the edge of the knife near the handle rest on the steel, the back of the knife raised slightly at an angle of about 30 deg. Draw the knife along lightly but steadily, always at the same angle, the entire length of the blade. Then pass the knife under the steel and draw the other surface along the opposite edge of the steel, from the handle to the point, at the same angle. Repeat these alternate motions the entire length of the blade, not on the point merely, until you have an edge.
Some persons prefer to turn the knife over, drawing it first from the left hand and then toward it, sharpening each surface alternately on the same edge of the steel. This is more difficult to do, as you cannot so surely keep the blade at the same angle, - and this is the most important point. If held at any other than the proper angle, either no edge is made, or it is taken off as soon as obtained.
It is bewildering, if one has any intention of buying, to examine the assortment of spoons, knives, forks, etc., displayed at the silversmith`s.
There are ladles for soups, sauces, gravy, and cream; shovels for sugar and salt, and scoops for cheese; tongs for sugar, pickles, olives, and asparagus; spoons for sugar, jelly, fruit sauces, salads, vegetables, and macaroni; slicers for ice-cream, cake, and jelly; knives for fish, pie, cake, and fruit; forks for fish, oysters, pickles, olives, salad, and asparagus; scissors for grapes and raisins; crackers and picks for nuts; and rests for the carving knife and fork. Some of these are really useful; some as little so as many of the hundred and one novelties designed particularly for wedding gifts. But in neat and careful serving it is essential to have a soup-ladle, a gravy or sauce ladle, a pair of tongs or shells for block sugar, a slender-tined silver fork for pickles, a plentiful supply of large and medium-sized spoons, a carving-rest, a crumb-scraper, and at least one broad silver knife and fork, which if occasion requires may do duty at several courses.