Bean slicers are tools designed to slice green French and runner beans. They allow fast, efficient transformation of beans into thin, uniformly cut pieces.
There are many different kinds and models. Some are completely manual, and are simply a square shape with an open area with wires or blades built into one end. You press the bean onto the wires/blades and then pull the beans through to slice them.
The Bean Slicer in our pictures was made by an English manufacturer, Spong & Co, who began manufacturing their bean slicers in the late 1800s and they were considered a luxury item for more well-off families. In the 1930s, Spong’s advertised the slicers as ‘domestic labour-saving slicers’.
Spong produced both single and double bean slicers which sliced French beans into even slices with the turn of the handle.
This is how a bean slicer works. With older models of Bean Slicer, the slicer was fixed to the edge of a work top or table edge with a clamp which was screwed up tight to hold the slicer in place. More modern models use a suction pad to hold the slicer in place on a work surface. The bean should have the stalk and ‘strings’ (the tougher outside edges of the bean) removed first, and then the bean should be placed into the hole on the side of the slicer. The handle is then turned, and the slicing disc cuts the bean into ‘bite size’ pieces.
Some models can handle several beans at once and some are designed to take the strings off the beans at the same time.
The unusual name ‘Spong’ was one to remember, an Advertising Company’s dream (‘You can’t go wrong with a Spong’ said the adverts in the 1950s), making it a brand name still known to many people today.
James Osborn Spong (1839 – 1925) – was a prolific inventor. He patented and manufactured the famous Spong Bean Slicer and food mincer. The range of Spong labour-saving gadgets and utensils graced many Victorian and Edwardian households, with more and more gadgets coming onto the market (well into the 20th century), including a ‘Portable Shampoo system’ in 1890 – a forerunner of the shower! Spong revolutionised the domestic economy amongst the emerging middle-class families, who were unable to afford numerous household servants like the upper classes.