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19th century Kent’s knife cleaner

19th century Kent’s knife cleaner


This amazing historical piece is from the late 19th century, around 1870-1890. It was most likely manufactured and sold in 1878 when the production for this model was high. It was invented and patented by an Englishman, George Kent.

He was born in 1806 and apprenticed to the wire work trade in Chelsea ( a borough of London known for its upper class citizens and high end shops).He worked as a window blind maker for a time while he worked on inventing his knife cleaner. He was given a patent on June 12, 1844 for the knife cleaning machine. He set up shop at 329 Strand, 218 Regent St and 101 Holborn to 1854, and at 199 High Holborn from 1854 to his death. While the knife cleaner was his claim to fame and his most prominent piece of inventory, he also manufactured other domestic time-saving machines, including whisks, strainers, sifters, and washing machines. He died on May 23, 1890.

The knife cleaner he became so famous for is a wooden drum set vertically on cast iron base with four feet (each with a hole for a nail for mounting to tabletop,) a hand crank and four slots in top of drum for inserting knives for cleaning. In order to use the machine, a person would insert knives into slots on the top of the wooden drum, pour Kent’s emery powder into the drum’s chute, and crank the winch handle to start the cleaning process. Inside the machine, wooden discs covered with alternate rows of bristles and strips of leather would turn and rub against both sides of the knives. The emery powder sold with the machine polished the steel cutlery as it passed through the wooden discs. By the end of the nineteenth century, Kent’s patented rotary knife-cleaning machines were used in British colonies, the Americas, had been won international exhibition prize medals, and had sold over 100,000 machines. The cleaners came in eight different sizes, ranging in price from £3 and 18 shillings to £14 and 14 shillings. The largest size could clean nine table or dessert knives and the smallest versions cleaned 3-5 knives. Once Kent patented major improvements to his machine, he sold his original knife cleaners for far less: from £1 and 12 shillings to £10 and 10 shillings.

This specific piece is extremely rare in the condition it’s in.

Great decorative piece for posh restaurants with vintage / antique interior.

Overall: 20 x 21 x 16 1/2 in. ( 50.8 x 53.3 x 41.9 cm )

Additional information

Weight 15 kg