Those who are researching kitchen countertop materials might find some info here. Although countertops as we know them were a fairly new concept in 1923, the materials used on tabletops would have been used on counters by those who had them
LAYING IT ON THE KITCHEN TABLE
Ethel R. Peyser
House and Garden, Dec, 1923
Much of the Comfort and Ease of Kitchen Work Can Be traced to the table Which Is Substantially topped
'LAY it on the table," may be a safe thing for a chairman to say, but not so in the kitchen! Laying a thing on the kitchen table is a serious, and often an expensive performance, especially when the table has not the proper counter surfacing or top.
Now the table top is not meant for a carpenter's bench where little Willie can hammer cut a curve in his cart wheel rim, where the cook can crack Brazil nuts with her heaviest flat-iron; no, indeed, it is meant to hold unabashed and unscarred all the rational burdens of the kitchen. To this end must the table top have a few reasonable justifications for being. It must be non-cracking when things are brought into ardent or sudden contact with it; chipless; cleanable, for dirt must come off like water off the proverbial duck's back; impervious to acids; impervious to grease so that grease can never soak in, and impervious to an extremely hot temperature so that a hot-utensil can be placed on it.
From the foregoing you can see that the qualities of the table top involve very fine manufacturing and careful purchasing.
The familiar table top of wood has done service and will do service forever more. Tis a better top than zinc because if treated with a good resistant varnish, it will last many years. It can be revarnished when necessary and is a pretty good table, for those who can afford no better. The question itself of varnish is most interesting.
Often it is convenient to cover a poor wood top with linoleum which, in appropriate design, makes a satisfactory surface.
A hard wood, of course, should be selected and the top should have no flaws such as knots or grain which will chip out. Ash and maple tops make pretty good areas of work. A metal binder preserves the edges of a fine wood table top. .
Zinc tops are not very good, for they “puff up," get unlevel and humpy, and acids are "biting" to them.
White metal tops are excellent, noncorrosive, they stay flat--but are relatively expensive.
When you use the glass top-unless you keep it for the pastry table only, for which its usefulness is unbounded---then your troubles begin. It is like living on an island like Japan, given to cracking up and sudden breaks. There are all sorts of glass compositions for table tops. They are beautiful probably next to marble the most eye-satisfying. They clean easily, are not inroaded by acids or grease--but--they are unstable to shock and excessive heat-and one cannot carry a thermometer always to test the heat of the article to be placed on the table! Get acquainted when you buy these. Some are better than others and they are getting better yearly.
The marble top is the regal topping! For the pastry table it is cool and useful. See that the marble is at least two inches thick. Marble tops are costly-and the price depends, of course, on the kind of marble used.
Tin tops are practically defunct, and should be.
The various types of enamel-porcelain on steel, iron, etc., are about the best "buy" we know of for the average home.
Nickel composition tops are charming to look at but must be kept polished-which is a chore. They also become scratched and then form young canyons that harbor vinegar and salt, which in turn corrode the top.
Linoleum plus makes an interesting table top, for it has a steel counter and is covered by linoleum usually in one tone. The linoleum is bound by a metal band or nosing which holds it taut. This can be used beautifully on built-in table tops or kitchen counters. New linoleum can easily be put on when the linoleum wears-if it ever does -and the steel counter will last forever.
For years the table top has been a serious and basic question in the home kitchen and domestic science laboratory. I remember when I used tiles in the laboratory and these often broke and the cement streaked out. Taking all things into consideration, I feel that outside of the renewable wooden top the best of these porcelain enamels make, in the long run, the best appearing as well as the best wearing tops.
The manufacturers of these tops are continually trying to make them more proof against usage. Today we have these tops on tables, kitchen cabinets and the same material used for stove splashers and the interiors of refrigerators.
These tops come in whites, mottles and blue grays. Suit yourself but get them from the best guarantors---firms long in business.
Porcelain enamels are, to be sure, a kind of glass-but with a difference. It has the silica (from flint or from quartz and feldspar) but unless the silica is combined correctly with the other ingredients the resistance of the material is reduced. The secret processes of mixture and coalition has much to do with the value of the material. Then the mixture is ground, pulverized plus water, and is then sprayed on its unrustable metal base. This is then submitted to a 2000° baking and additional hyers of the molten porcelain are sprayed on (three layers at least) and "fired" In turn. These layers make the finished coat difficult to shock or crack. Being born of fire it resists heat as well as shocking knocks. It does not absorb grease and does not surrender to acids and therefore doesn't deteriorate. It is easily cleaned, always looks well and gives the kitchen an "air".
Porcelain tops are best when so made that they turn under the table and are caught underneath. This prevents chipping on the edge-where chipping seems to occur when it occurs. These are usually white on the top with a blue edge which turns under the table ledge.
Porcelain tops come for old tables, so that anyone desiring a modern kitchen need but renovate the old.
The purchaser can be more easily fooled by a porcelain table top than by many another kind. This is because the poorest can be made to look like the best. So it behooves you to go to the best makers.
The ordinary table is usually 3' x 7'. Most kitchens, depending on the size of the room and of the family and its needs, have two or three surfaces from which the cook works. For example, the large kitchen has a pastry and a regular table. This table is often partly covered with glass or marble for fine pastry work and the other part is of maple or ash.
A small 3' table can be had of glass or thinner marble for a pastry table in a small kitchen. Under some pastry tables or the large marble top seven footers, there are racks for holding pies or cakes. Under some tables can be built cupboards or whatever the purchaser desires.
In order to use the surface with convenience the top should be about 32" from the floor.But if you always employ “shorties”, (she meant short maids)28" may do.
And so, it is true-kitchen comfort mainly dependent on table comfort--consequently it is worth while to buy carefully and get guarantees from good makers
Don't forget, too, to insist that your table must stand evenly on the floor, so that it doesn't rock or tip. If your table does tip, call on a carpenter or on the people where you bought the table, ---don't be satisfied until the condition is cured. What can be cured must not be endured. And the annoyance and impracticalness of an unlevel table or a wobbly one. are difficult to overestimate. A drop spilled upon the sloping surface of a badly set table is not content to remain a drop, but develops into a stream.
The subject of tables is too important to slur, so I am in hopes that this introduction will be a spur to careful buying, which makes for comfort and assures a reasonable return for your expenditure.