Photo credit: PEI Museum & Heritage


Rotary Knife Cleaner

Back in the day, before the invention of stainless steel knives and mechanical dishwashers, knives had to be cleaned and polished on a daily basis to prevent rust or dullness from forming. This tool is known as a rotary knife cleaner. It was patented in 1844 and used until 1912 when stainless steel came about.

Knives would be cleaned first thing in the morning, typically taking an hour to do. The operator would insert used knives into slots along the side of the wooden drum. After insertion, the operator would then pour emery powder through the slot. As the crank on the side of the drum was turned, rows of bristles and leather inside the drum would rub against both sides of the knives. With the drum turning, the emery powder polished the knives as they passed by the bristles and leather.

This specific model is a Warren’s Rotary Knife Cleaner and is made of cast iron, wood, and brass. It is a rare make, in excellent condition. It seems somewhat ironic that while this knife-washing machine was made obsolete by the invention of stainless steel, we now wash kitchen knives by hand… Maybe we’ll soon see a modern iteration of the rotary knife cleaner.

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A diverse group of people, the Salty team works hard each month to bring you great stories about PEI's food and farming community.

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