Wood is probably the oldest material ever used in kitchen utensils and is still favored today by many cooks and professional chefs.
It's no wonder why vintage wooden kitchen utensils and gadgets have become favorite collector items.
No one really knows for sure when a wooden item was first used as a cooking utensil.
One can only imagine that as soon as man discovered how to use fire to cook over that some type of wooden stick soon followed in the cooking process.
Wood was plentiful and easy to carve and shape into spoons, bowls, and even complete dinnerware.
Over the years many different materials have been used for kitchen utensils.
In different time periods one certain material may have been more popular over others.
Yet, wooden utensils and gadgets can be found in almost every culture and period even up to current times.
Iron was easy to forge knives and spoons from but they were heavy and rusted.
Copper was easy to shape but reacted to acidy foods.
Precious metals such as silver and even pewter have been used in kitchen utensils, but these were mostly just used for serving dinnerware.
Other kitchen items have been made from bone and pottery.
In more current times kitchen utensils are made of plated metals, aluminum, stainless and plastics, which now fill the kitchen drawers.
Natural utensils made from gourds, sea shells and even rock have been used in many cultures and different time periods.
The original wooden utensils were used for stirring and poking.
Later on people learned how to carve and scoop out shapes that would hold liquids for ladles and spoons.
While many think of wooden kitchen utensils as spoons, many of the early food prep bowls were also crudely made out of logs.
Dough bowls which, were carved out of hollowed out logs were long and narrow.
These long primitive bowls have become popular collector items for coffee tables and home décor.
Other crude utensils including dinnerware were made from cut off ends from logs that were then scooped out into plates and bowls.
Although wood turning lathes date back to 1300 BC. They were used for table legs and spindles.
It is not believed the lathe was actually used to turn bowls and plates until the 18th and 19th century during the Industrial Revolution.
Finding a crudely made wooden bowl that is not perfectly round could indicate that it possibly predated the 18th and 19th centuries.
Touring through different antique stores you will find all types of factory and homemade wooden kitchen utensils or gadgets once used in vintage kitchens.
You can also find all shapes of small wooden spoons, spatulas and ladles to large paddles used to make large pots of apple butter and stews.
Early kitchen knives and even some high end knives of today are still made with wooden handles.
Many other hand held kitchen gadgets also used wood handles.
The wooden handle ice pick was used to chip ice off blocks of ice for cooling beverages.
In fact ice picks with a store advertisement were once popular advertising giveaway items as almost every vintage kitchen had at least one ice pick.
Kitchen gadgets and tools were homemade as well as factory made with a rich heritage of ingenuity on how to make the kitchen and food prep task the most easy.
Several reasons why these wooden utensils are still popular today;
- Wood is rather light weight and has more rounded handles to prevent fatigue.
- Wood does not transfer heat like metals.
- Wood does not alter taste into acid based foods.
- Wooden utensils can be used in non-stick cookware
Vintage wood utensils were much more than just wooden spoons, ladles, spatulas and stirrers .
Before plastics were invented most all kitchen gadgets were made of wood and metal.
Wooden kitchen gadgets and utensils were mainly made from ash, tulip popular, and maple.
Depending on the area and availability of hardwoods, other hardwoods and fruit woods such as cherry may have also been used.
Because of it’s wide open grain, oak was not commonly used in direct food contact surfaces.
Both white and red oak were commonly used in other kitchen tables, chairs, and cabinets.
Just about any size of a vintage wooden slaw and vegetable slicer can still be found in antique stores.
The basic construction techniques were all the same. A wooden board with grooved sides to accommodate a sliding shuttle to hold the vegetable.
In the middle of the board were either one or more sharp steel blades that were placed so that the shuttle holding the vegetable would slide across the blades.
On the larger board the blades would slice diagonal instead of straight across.
This made the slicing easier and the slices more uniform. The cutters could be as small as just 3” wide up to 12” wide and wider.
The wide cutters were traditionally used for cabbage and were known as slaw, kraut, or Sauerkraut cutters.
A smaller hand held version was made without a shuttle to slice vegetables.
Some of these smaller slicers had flat blades while others had Julienne slicer blades.
Wooden Rolling Pins
Just about everyone recognizes the wooden rolling pin.
While most will describe it as a long heavy wooden cylinder with a handle on each end, rolling pins were actually made in all different sizes and styles depending on the culture and use.
They are still along with wooden spoons one of the most popular kitchen tools being used today to roll out bread and pie dough's.
Others were designed to roll out pasta with pasta shell pockets carved into the wooden roller part.
Some of the rolling pins were made out of a solid wood cylinder without handles. These could be used for flat surfaces or grooved to cut noodles from pasta.
Wooden Butter Churns
Over the years butter churns were developed beginning with all wood, and then transitioned to glass and pottery with wooden dashers and blades.
Churns were either operated with a wooden handle plunger, or metal geared hand crank.
Wooden Butter Molds
When butter was hand churned from fresh cream, the butter would be poured into butter molds to form a variety of block shapes and sizes.
The basic butter mold consisted of a finger jointed wooden box open on one side equipped with a moving block of wood connected to a plunger.
As the butter hardened the plunger would be used to push the block of butter out onto a plate for further cooling before being used on the dinner table.
Well to do families would have their family crest of other family symbol hand carved into the moving block to display on the top of the block when serving to guest.
Restaurants, trains, and ships also used wooden butter molds to make individual serving patties. Their logo or name would be also hand craved to be display on the top of each butter patty.
Wooden Base Coffee Grinders
The old fashioned vintage coffee grinders were sold as complete factory made grinders or as metal hardware kits allowing people to build their own wooden base.
Most wooden box bases consisted of a finger jointed box with a small pull out drawer that caught the coffee grinds as they were hand cranked through the grinder.
Because home carpentry skills and tools varied widely these old coffee grinders can be found in antiques stores with very primitive to the most skilled hand crafted wooden bases.
The wooden hamburger patty press was very popular in the 1900s. It consisted of two hinged round wooden pieces hinged on just one side to from the press.
Inside the wooden pieces were cut out so that when they came together they would form the perfect hamburger patty for grilling or frying.
A painted rooster picture was on the top outside piece. This never made since to have a chicken picture on the outside of a gadget used to press hamburgers but I’m sure there was a logical reason the manufacture did so.
It was probably because the rooster theme was very popular in kitchens during this era.
Wax paper would be placed in the bottom side, then a ball or raw hamburger followed by another sheet of wax paper.
As each burger was pressed the wax paper was left on and stacked on a plate to take to the grill or stove side.
One of the most popular wooden presses still being used today in many cultures is used to make tortillas.
It also uses two wooden pieces hinged on one side to hold the dough ball.
A levered handle system allows the cook to apply additional pressure to flatten the ball into the tortilla.
Wooden Stompers and Plungers
These are short and long wooden cylinder devices used to pack and push food items into strainers, grinders, and food choppers and slicers.
They are mainly used to protect hands from moving grinding and slicing blades, but they are also used to grind up herbs and to smash and force fruits and berries threw a colander sieve for jellies and sauces.
Early settlers learned from the native Americans how to grind grains and herbs using a wooden stomper and a bowl shape rock.
The technique is the same except now the rock has been replaced with a pottery bowl and we call it a mortise and pedestal set.
Wooden Cutting and Bread Boards
Wooden cutting boards and wooden blocks are not as poplar today for cutting meats and vegetables because of the fear of the wooden pores harboring bacteria.
They are still popular for slicing breads and removing hot pizza directly from the ovens.
Wooden Scoops and Sifters
Wooden scoops and sifters were either made in a shop or at home. Scoops consisted of a wooden back board with a handle.
The back board bottom formed the arch in the scoop to then allow the tin or copper sheet to be tacked to it.
Wooden hoop sifters were made in different diameters. Depending on the desired texture and what was being sifted the hoops would be fitted with a coarse to fine wire screen.
Sifters were used in both the kitchen to sift out fresh ground flours and in gardening and farming to sift seeds.
Wooden measuring spoons were not commonly made and used.
However, other wooden measuring devices such as a spaghetti measure were common.
Cutting and dough boards would often have markings to measure a dough loaf or pie round
Wooden Pushers and Lifters
A wooden oven rack pusher and puller allowed the cook to reach in a hot oven to pull or push the oven rack in or out to check on the cooking progress.
Other wooden devices were used to lift hot lids off cast iron pots or to lift pots off of a wood cook stove.
Before the invention of cardboard most products were shipped in wooden boxes.
These wooden boxes were very well made from what we would consider today as premium woods using finger jointed corners.
They were re-purposed for all types of kitchen uses, including kitchen wall cupboards, storage, and attached to food processing equipment to catch grains and flours.
Pictures are courtesy of Cottage Craft Works. Com
Cottage Craft Works at http://www.cottagecraftworks.com is an online back to basics country store that carries many of the old vintage items in reproductions, or products that are still made and used in the Amish communities.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 10, 2013:
awesome wooden kitchen stuff. Besides the roller pin, i don't think we could find any of these kitchen utensils in the market. They are obsolete. Most manufacturers use stainless steel or PVC to save cost. For those who still have these wooden kitchen utensil, you can sell them at Ebay and get more money. Voted up