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What is a Splayd?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A splayd is a piece of cutlery which combines a fork, a knife, and a spoon. Some people may refer to splayds as “sporks,” although this usage is technically incorrect, since a spork only combines a spoon and a fork, without any cutting edge. Splayds may also be seen spelled as “splades,” especially outside their native country of Australia. The name is actually a reference to a specific brand of splayd, which came to be used as a common name through trademark dilution, much as people use terms like “kleenex” or “xerox.”

The splayd was developed by William McArthur in Australia in 1943. Allegedly, McArthur saw a photograph of women balancing plates of food and cutlery on their laps at a casual buffet, and he realized that a muli-purpose utensil could be very useful. He developed a splayd prototype, which his wife began selling in her shop, and the utensil really took off in the 1960s. Many Australians have some splayds in the silverware drawer from the heyday of this utensil.

The design of a splayd includes a scooped bowl like a spoon, topped with four small fork tines. The sides of the splayd are flattened so that they can cut through a variety of soft to medium-hard foods, essentially like butter knives. Splayds are not sharpened due to concerns about cutting the lips, cheek, or gums while attempting to eat with a splayd, but the edges are still sharp enough to be highly functional.

As with sporks, it is claimed that a splayd can be used for a wide range of things, from eating soup to pasta. Splayd producers make plastic, wooden, and metal splayds for a variety of markets, and some very fine examples of formal metal splayds can be seen in the collections of some Australian museums. Some kitchen supply stores also sell splayds, and they can be ordered from Australian importers who specialize in such cultural ephemera; many people find that splades are preferable to sporks, since they have a crisp cutting edge.

For picnics and casual events, a set of splades can be quite useful. The single combined utensil allows diners to keep one hand free for things like balancing a plate of food, a highly useful feature at parties where people might sit on couches, chairs, or the floor to eat. Generally, splayds are not appropriate for formal dining, in which several changes of specialized silverware are used.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By SZapper — On Sep 19, 2011

@strawCake - Splayds do sound quite useful. I'm actually a little bit surprised they aren't more popular!

I could actually see something like this going over really well with college students. Instead of buying a whole set of silverware, you could buy a couple of splayds and call it a day! Also it seems like college kids like anything that is "retro" and "cool," which I think splayds certainly are!

I think someone should jump on this untapped splayd market immediately!

By strawCake — On Sep 19, 2011

I've never heard of a splayd, but I am pretty familiar with sporks. Anyone who has ever eaten school lunch in the United States is probably just a familiar with sporks as I am!

I have to say, I didn't enjoy eating with a plastic spork very much. I found them to be flimsy and the tines at the end were kind of short. I think I might give a metal splayd a chance though-I think it would be far less flimsy than those sporks!

By lonelygod — On Sep 18, 2011

@Sara007 - If you are worried about kids getting injured on the cutting side of a splayd why don't you bring along just a couple of bamboo sporks as well? They work really well and will keep you from having to throw away more trash.

When I started going on picnics on a more regular basis we invested in a lovely picnic basket set and a few extra splayds and sporks. It really depends on who is coming with us as to what we bring.

I really like the bamboo sporks because they look nice and the brand we brought was made from a sustainable wood project, so you don't have to worry about negatively impacting the environment. I know that can be a big concern for many people, especially if you are outside in nature a lot.

By Sara007 — On Sep 18, 2011

There is nothing better for a picnic than a set of splayds. I used to bring plastic sporks on our outings, but I hated using disposable utensils because it is so bad for the environment. Plus, I also had to lug a bunch of plastic knives with us for buttering rolls.

When I spotted splayds in the store I honestly got the impression that they were the perfect cutlery. They are great for picnics because they can be used for pretty much anything, and they are easy to clean. I don't feel so wasteful now throwing away a bunch of plastic sporks and knives.

One warning though, I wouldn't let small children use a splayd, just because the cutting edge is enough to hurt them if they aren't super careful.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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