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I just bought an old fork + knife set at a flea market. The kind of big cutlery that is used to cut and serve chicken, roasted meat, whatever.

The strange thing is that the fork has a moving part on the top of it. I don't know how to describe it, so here are the photos. This thing can be put up or down, and it doesn't have any spring, but it can stay in position (for both positions).

enter image description here enter image description here

What is the purpose of this? I have never seen such a thing before.

For information, this was found in France, and the set is probably 50 years old or so.

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    If photo #1 was flipped, would the carving fork stand by itself? Or would it be wobbly and fall sideways ?
    – Criggie
    Feb 7 at 8:51
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    @Criggie I don't have the fork at hand here, but I believe it would stand by itself. The lever holds its position very well.
    – dim
    Feb 7 at 9:01

4 Answers 4

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I found the answer with a good illustration (from https://www.925-1000.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=36&t=41243):

enter image description here

The idea is that when you have a large piece of meat (such as a large prime rib or so), it's difficult to balance the meat to be able to cut it vertically. Instead, you cut it horizontally from the right with your carving knife (assuming you are right-handed).

To keep the meat from slipping away, you stick the fork in from the left, using your left hand. That puts the fork (and your left hand holding the fork) directly into the path of the knife when it exits the roast. The sudden lack of resistance could cause the knife to "jump" towards your hand.

With this guard, the knife hits the guard rather than the hand.

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    In other words, you use when when you are cutting TOWARDS the fork (and therefore your hand).
    – longneck
    Feb 7 at 15:02
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    You might want to add the actual illustration. That way if the link goes dead, this answer will still work; 925-1000.com/td/f/Trash/Carve.jpg
    – Richard
    Feb 7 at 18:44
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    It actually has two uses. Notice the notch at the top of the guard. With the guard raised, you can rest the knife blade in the notch in the guard. Reading my comment, I expect it seems very unlikely, especially with the guard pictured. But my father has a knife and fork set where there is a notch in the guard and the guard doubles as a stand for the fork and when you put the blade in the notch the set stands very stable and neat. And neither the tines of the fork nor the blade are touching a surface where they might pick up anything. Feb 8 at 1:50
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    @Richard I know this is customary here, but I wasn't sure about copyright implications for images like this. Feb 8 at 7:14
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    Mmmmm. Pancakes. Feb 8 at 14:04
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It is a hand guard.

You can find these on new carving forks too. Example from amazon:

fork w guard

A thing I do not understand, though, is what sort of carving motion would put you in need of a hand guard. Something that entailed cutting towards yourself, I imagine.

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    I've seen this technique at old-style carverys on very large joints - a horizontal cut 'n' serve motion.
    – unlisted
    Feb 6 at 18:30
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    It would be useful if you're in a scuffle with a swordsman, armed with this carving fork (and hopefully something else in your other hand).
    – Kaz
    Feb 8 at 16:31
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That is (also) a lobster pick.

It seems to also serve as a hand guard, but the tiny prongs are exactly like on the forks used for coaxing lobster or other delicious sea food out of their garments. If it was only a hand guard, those would not be there.

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    I doubt this would be practical enough. The lever will keep moving as you use it, the tines part of the fork will just get cumbersome, and having the handle perpendicular to the pick will certainly be impractical. Contrary to what the picture seems to show, the prongs aren't really pointy, and when the lever is closed, they fit nicely on each side of the middle tine, so I would think they are simply there to avoid the lever being bent when pushed laterally.
    – dim
    Feb 7 at 15:55
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We used to have one of these at home.

One use is to stop the fork going all the way into the joint if it is very big. We are a big family and the Sunday roast was huge.

edit: if it's a big roast and maybe a bit overdone, you fork will go all the way through. Also the prong keeps the mass in one place while you cut it, if the knife is not very sharp.

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    Surely the crown/bridge at the base of the tines is enough to do that ?
    – Criggie
    Feb 7 at 8:50

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