We don't use silver flatware much anymore. Modern stainless is acceptable for all but the most formal occasions. But silver, whether sterling or silver plate, especially if it is an heirloom, lends elegance to a holiday table or a formal buffet. Our grandmothers used their silver weekly or even daily. To treat our silver like the heirloom -- and investment -- it is, use a silver drawer to store flatware and a silver cabinet to store holloware. Protecting your silver will minimize the number of times you have to clean it to preserve its shine.
Things You'll Need
- Close-knit cotton flannel, silver cloth or soft felt
- White glue or acid free spray fixative
- Heavy duty staples
- Foam blocks
Take stock of what you have. Most people don't have more than one or two sets of sterling or silver plate flatware. Consider buying a silver box for the set you don't use frequently ,to keep tarnish to an absolute minimum. Look for flatware insets at furniture stores or garage sales. These insets are sold with dining buffets and servers, and furniture dealers can often order them as replacement parts.
If you can't find an inset, you can make your own. Remove the drawer from the cabinet and lay out what you want to put in your drawer. Measure the height of each stack. Mark the spaces between stacks of flatware and remove the silver. If you don't want to make a permanent drawer, cut a piece of 1/4" plywood the size of the inside bottom of your drawer. Be sure to subtract 1/2" of length and width for the fabric.
Use foam blocks to separate your flatware so that like pieces can be stacked. Cut slots for the knives that are wider than the knives, to allow for felt covering. Cut flannel or soft cotton felt to fit and glue on pieces to cover the top and sides of foam. Cut extra for tabs on the sides, so that you can glue flannel flat to the bottom of the drawer. For knife slots, cut a long strip to go in and out of the slots across the top, then cut pieces to cover the sides. Apply glue very lightly, spreading with an index card. Heavy glue application will soak through the fabric.
Cut a sheet of flannel to cover the entire bottom of the drawer, adding 1" for overlap to tuck under the board or up the sides of the drawer. Cut holes to fit over your flatware guides and glue the sheet down, starting around the guides and spreading toward the edges evenly, like wallpaper. Again, apply glue very lightly, spreading with an index card. Work only on a small area at a time, adjusting as you go. Trim the corner of the overhang and turn the last inch under the board or up the side of the drawer.
If you are upholstering the drawer, fit a long sheet of flannel around the sides inside of the drawer and glue in. If you are just making an insert, cut a piece of flannel or silver cloth to fit on top of your silver. Add a few inches to both dimensions to tuck in and glue around the edges.
In homes with lots of silver, butlers' pantries always had storage for silver dishes or holloware. To make your own butler's pantry cabinet, line a cabinet with flannel. Wrap dishes in acid-free paper or put in silver bags to store. Be sure to keep it as airtight as possible by using it only for silver storage.
Tips & Warnings
- Silver tarnish is simply oxidation. Good silver storage limits air circulation and exposure to acids, which have oxygen molecules to give to the process.
- The easiest way to keep silver flatware is in a silver box. These flannel-lined boxes have sections for each type of flatware. They are often available at department stores or antique barns. If can find one, you've got a ready-made silver drawer.
- Find the close-knit cotton flannel that is marketed as "silver cloth," or use old cotton flannel shirts. Avoid polyester or combination fabrics.
- Most department stores and many jewelers sell (or can order) silver bags and cloth.
- Always wash your silver in hot, soapy water before using and before storage. Never put silver in a dishwasher, as the detergent (even liquid) is abrasive and can scratch your silver.
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