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What Are Butter Knives?
By definition, the butter knife is a knife having a thin, straight blade that has the same shape and proportions as a butter dish or knife. In common use, however, the term refers to any straight, blunt kitchen knife designed with a point and usually made with a rustic or wooden handle. In some cases, this knife has a decorative edge pattern on its top (often called a cap), making it distinctly different from a traditional butter knife. These knives are often seen in old-fashioned cookery shows and in early barbecues where they were used for cooking strips of fat or for buttering certain vegetables. In recent years, however, this knife has been relegated more to kitchen knives, usually for use in the kitchen rather than for special dishes.
Historically, the knife has had a number of distinct names throughout the ages. The flat-bladed knife became the basis for all cross-bladed knives and eventually became known simply as the knife. It was named for the Romans, because of their use of the knife in their military strategies. For the Greeks and the Romans, the knife was named basilice, which ultimately took its name from the basil plant (also called olea europaea). Basilicices also served as bread knives. The Swiss made pocket knives (pommes frites), which have a round blade instead of a sharp one, and the English used a double-edged knife, so-called because of its shape (it actually had two blades).
The earliest description of a knife was found in the Egyptian Papyrus of Ebers. It featured a straight edge and was probably a scaled down version of the knife known as the dagger. Archaeologists have discovered several other types of knives, dating from around 6000 B.C. Some of the earliest designs were shaped like hollowed out reeds, and others had a more geometrical design. However, the straight edge remained a central feature of the knife even into the Medieval Ages. Knives varied in size, from a few inches to a few feet in length; they were used to pierce different foods, including meat, vegetables, and fish.
Most early butter knives were made from metal, but later knives became covered with leather. Leather made knives had an advantage over their metal counterparts in that they could be used for any purpose, as long as the skin on the animal wasn't damaged. They also protected the user's fingers and could be used as weapons when needed. These knives were also often decorated, sometimes with gemstones.
In medieval times, the flat-edged knives became known as hastles, which comes from the Latin word for sword. These knives had a straight edge, but could also be used to pierce the soft flesh or other materials. The flat-blade was soon replaced by a more versatile knife, the hilt, which had a double-edged blade that curved slightly when it was held. This made it much easier to inflict blunt force on the target and to defend oneself against a blow. These swords often had a wooden handle. The flat-bladed knives were known as rapiers.
After a period of time, the use of knives declined. Some soldiers in the armed forces still used them, however, as they were easy to carry and because they could easily be used as weapons. The use of knives decreased, as the population grew. They never completely disappeared, however, and are commonly seen on streets and sidewalks around many countries today. Their use, while popular in some countries, is declining in other parts of the world, as technology advances and they become less practical.
Today, many people prefer to use pocket knives. However, they can be quite useful as cooking tools and can still be used to cut household items. People may collect several types of knives, depending on their tastes or what they need for a particular situation. Herbicides and pesticides can be put on the blades of butter knives to repel insects and pests. People may collect a set of knives to allow them to perform a specific task, such as cutting vegetables.
Butter knives have become a collectors' item. There are several types of knife styles to choose from, and there are several manufacturers who make antique knives. Collectors can find this type of knife at local thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales, and thrift stores. If you collect knives, these are some good choices.