When purchasing a mid-range knife set, you have an important decision to make. Should you buy a stamped knife set or a forged knife set? Which one is better for you and your cooking needs? In this review, we will explain the two types, the pros and cons of each, and the differences between stamped and forged knives. Then, as we evaluate forged vs stamped knives, you can determine the best quality option for you.
What Is a Forged Knife?
Both forged and stamped refer to how a knife’s blade is manufactured. This impacts the product in various ways, including sharpness, thickness, weight, and price.
How is a Forged Knife Made?
Some forged knives are made by hand. However, to scale production, many forged knives are made using robotic technology and hands-on construction. Both processes result in a quality knife.
A forged knife is manufactured uniquely. First, a knife mold is made utilizing a computer-aided design. Next, a forged blade is made from a single bar of steel. The steel is then heated and pressed into shape. This requires heat of at least 2000 degrees Fahrenheit so that the hot steel is pliable and can be shaped correctly. Hot drop forging involves putting a piece of steel into a furnace and then using a hammer to beat it into the correct shape. Historically, the hot drop process was very tedious, manual work. Forging can now be done with machines, but the forging remains the same. Heat is applied to the stainless steel, a hammer is used to shape the steel, and it is heat-treated. The metal forging efforts result in a durable product.
Next, the steel blades are tempered to set the hardness. This means that the metal is less flexible. After this, grinding is done so that the knife will have a sharp edge. The cleaning comes next, along with polishing the knife and inspecting it. The handle attachment follows, which includes finishing for the tang and bolster. Finally, the knife is sharpened to a predetermined angle and undergoes its final inspection.
As you can see, modern forging is very detailed and involves both skilled craftsmanship and technology to shape the metal. The entire process is very labor-intensive to produce a heavy-duty kitchen knife. Traditionally forged knives are made by hand. Modern forging complements the process with robotics. Knives forged via either process result in a durable piece of cutlery.
Pros and Cons Of Forged Knives
As you consider the forged vs stamped knives debate, there are numerous differences to keep in mind. A forged knife is typically heavier than a stamped one. The hot drop process means that the knife is very durable and built to last. Typically a forged piece will have a thicker blade, hold its edge better, and be heftier. It is easier to rock this type of knife. However, the downside is that the more intricate forging process (which involves more labor, even when combined with modern technology) is associated with a higher price tag.
Examples of Forged Knife Makers
What Is a Stamped Knife?
Like forged, the stamped distinction refers to how the blade is made.
How is a Stamped Knife Made?
The manufacturing process of stamped knives involves a large sheet of steel. First, stamped knives are made by laser cut or stamping the blade from the piece of steel, almost like a cookie-cutter. Next, the knives are tempered and honed to enhance their strength and durability. The last step involves sharpening them and attaching the handle. Finally, before being packaged and shipped out, the knives are cleaned and undergo a quality check. This process results in knives that are easier to make at a lower price point.
Pros and Cons Of Stamped Knives
When considering stamped vs forged knives, keep in mind that stamped blades are thinner and more flexible. They are also lightweight. There are more affordable cutlery options available when purchasing stamped products versus knives that have undergone the forging process. One key difference is that stamped knives do not have a bolster and can have half or partial tang. Stamped knives also tend to lose their edge faster, and it is harder to sharpen them.
Examples of Stamped Knife Makers
What Are the Differences Between a Forged and Stamped Knife?
In the forged vs stamped knives debate, several terms will come up, like the bolsters, tang, and edge retention. These terms will be defined as the differences between the two types of cutlery are discussed in detail below.
The blade of a forged knife is thicker. The reason for this is tied to the manufacturing difference between the two types of knives. There are also blade thickness variations on forged knives. Generally, the blades are thicker on the spine and thinner toward the point. The handle contains the thickest part of the blade. On a stamped blade, the blade thickness remains consistent throughout. As you contemplate your purchase, consider the type of food prep you intend to use the cutlery for. The forged option is more durable and stable. If you want to cut through meats or vegetables easily, the forged blade’s thickness is optimal. Stamped blades are better for more precise cutting.
The piece of metal between the knife’s handle and the blade is called the bolster. Bolsters strengthen the knife and protect your finger from slipping. Knives with bolsters include a full bolster, half bolster, and semi-bolster.
Stamped knives are cut from a sheet of metal and have a uniform thickness, so they typically do not feature a bolster.
Click here for a better understanding of parts of a knife.
The part of the blade that extends into the handle is called the tang. Forged and stamped knives can offer a full tang handle; however, it is more commonly seen in forged knives.
Full-tang means that the blade goes all the way through the knife. Half-tang means the blade extends to the midway point of the knife handle. Similarly, partial-tang indicates that the knife’s blade extends partially into the handle.
You might be wondering why you should care about tang. A knife’s tang adds strength and balance. There is also a safety element to tang as it is more difficult for the blade and handle to detach from one another.
Typically, you will find full-tang on forged knives and partial-tang on stamped knives.
The weight of a knife is determined by numerous design elements. The thickness of the blade, the handle material, tang, and bolster will all contribute to the weight of a knife. A forged knife is heavier and will feel more balanced due to its design. However, the stamped design’s lighter weight may make it easier to maneuver for some users.
When deciding on the type of cutlery you would like to purchase, consider how you will typically use it. For example, if you primarily use your kitchen knives to cut meats or chopping veggies, a stiffer knife with less blade flexibility is preferred. More rigid blades are also easier to sharpen. The blades on forged knives tend to be more rigid.
On the other hand, if you are doing delicate knife work such as boning or filleting, you would benefit from a more flexible blade. Stamped knives have more flexible blades.
Both forged knives and stamped knives can have equally sharp edges. The knife’s sharpness has to do with the size of the angle on the edge of the blade. Sharper edges are created by smaller angles. However, you do not necessarily want the smallest edge angle possible. While they are good at cutting soft foods, the blade is more likely to chip or break if you try to cut something too hard or too thick.
Due to their design, forged knives are better for chopping and slicing because they get thicker higher up the knife. However, if you need precise cuts or slices, stamped knives with their blades with consistent thickness are better suited for the task.
Edge retention has to do with how well a knife holds its edge over time. Typically, forged knives will have better edge retention than stamped knives (1). This means that stamped knives will have to undergo sharpening more often. Forged knives retain their edges longer due to the forging process that involves extreme heat and then tempering. This creates a tough blade, which holds its edge longer than a softer blade would.
Ease of Sharpening
If you are looking to buy a chef’s knife, you need to keep in mind that forged or stamped knives will need to be sharpened at times. It is easier to sharpen a forged piece because of the rigid blade. Manually sharpening a stamped blade is more challenging since the blades have more flex in them. However, if you use an electric sharpener, either type of knife can be easily sharpened.
The manufacturing process of forged kitchen knives is more complex, so forged knives tend to be more expensive. In addition, the thick blades found on forged knives mean more raw material is required to make the knives. Stamped knives can be mass-produced at a lower cost.
Are Forged Knives Better Than Stamped Knives?
Forged knives are generally considered better than stamped kitchen knives, but that is not always the case. Enhancements to technology mean that some brands can produce high-quality, durable stamped knives. In these cases, the stamped knives can be just as good, if not better, than forged knives. When shopping, keep in mind that some brands, such as Zwilling and Wüsthof, offer both types of cutlery. Compared to forged knives, stamped knives can offer a well-built product at a cheaper cost.
However, consider your usage and longevity if you are trying to decide between the two types of knives. Forged knives typically are made from higher-quality raw materials. They also offer better strength, durability, balance, and edge retention over the life of the knife. Though you will probably have to pay more for a quality forged knife set, your investment will pay off over the long term.
This article is by Ashley Hall.
1 – https://knifesteelnerds.com/2018/11/19/steel-edge-retention/
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