A table knife is an item of cutlery with a single cutting edge, part of a table setting. Table knives are typically of moderate sharpness only, designed to cut only prepared and cooked food. They are usually made of stainless steel and may be ornate, often having handles of bone, wood or (less commonly now) ivory. Before the invention of stainless steel ordinary steel was used. Prior to World War I, all table knives were sharp, but required frequent upkeep – sharpening and polishing. With the decline in domestic workers (household servants), this upkeep became less feasible. Stainless steel became widespread following WWI, which did not require polishing, but did require sharpening due to manufacturing limits. Modern table knives are commonly made of a single piece of stainless steel (example pictured below). A special type of table knife is a fish knife where the blade is pointed and made of silver plate.
The distinguishing feature of a table knife is a blunt or rounded end. The origin of this, and thus of the table knife itself, is attributed by tradition to Cardinal Richelieu around 1637, reputedly to cure dinner guests of the unsavoury habit of picking their teeth with their knife-points.
In any table setting, the knife will typically be the piece to bear the maker's stamp, on the blade. The English city of Sheffield is noted for its cutlery manufacture and many knives bear the city's name in addition to the maker's.
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