One of the things I needed to buy, having moved back to England from the US, was some cutlery. And, ideally a dozen place settings, as I like to feed people and I now have a proper dining room – with table. And not just any table, but a 1960’s Heal’s glass and chrome beauty with matching chairs, courtesy of my parents who had it in their first home.
So obviously I wanted a set of cutlery that wasn’t just a, ahem, placeholder until I had time to source something amazing that would do my dining table justice. I wanted something perfect, and I wanted it right now. However when I started researching, everything I wanted was fearfully expensive.
And that’s before you even consider that a dozen place settings at a pound a pop equals £72 (and that’s without serving spoons etc). And for that you would get basically punched out metal rubbish. Ikea’s bearable ranges are permanently sold out, and Habitat’s quite nice stuff is around £6 per piece. That’s a dazzling £432 for a dozen place settings.
So then I had a brainwave. Over the years, my mother has given me several bundles of fabulous bone-handled butter knives that she has picked up from antiques fairs. So I started looking on eBay. And blimey: you can buy ENTIRE canteens of 1920s & 30s EPNS (that’s electro-plated nickel silver, which means it won’t tarnish) cutlery in their original canteens for less than a pound a piece.
It bears doing a bit of research into patterns – the most popular are Old English, Rattail & Kings – and knowing what you are looking for. A standard canteen has 6 each of table knives, side knives, table forks, side forks, dessert spoons, teaspoons and 2 tablespoons, making a total of 38 pieces.
I received my canteen last night. I paid £49.99 plus £8 24hr courier for six place settings in a wonderful wooden canteen, along with two serving spoons. It’s practically in mint condition, with an edge still to the knives and a point to the tines, and really beautiful. BARGAIN.
I have also bought a second canteen of 1930s stainless steel for every day in the same pattern ( Old English) for £41 which will arrive shortly. So now I have my dozen matching settings for just under £100 – six in silver plate, and six in steel. Very happy.