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Forged and stamped knives are two of the most common ways that modern knives are made. There are several core differences between these two processes and also in the resulting knife. An honest comparison between forged and stamped knives will highlight the differences between them and give you the necessary information to make a choice.
Forging is a very different process to stamping knives, and the processes result in different knives. A forged knife is more robust and holds an edge better than a stamped knife. A stamped knife is lightweight, more flexible, and significantly cheaper than a forged knife.
Forging and stamping of knives refer to the manufacturing process that is used to produce the knives. Each knife-making process has its advantages and disadvantages, and the knife produced as the final product from both processes is quite different from the other.
Understanding the difference in the process and the final product will give you the knowledge when selecting knives made in this way and which type would best suit your purposes.
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Forged Vs. Stamped Knives
Stamping and forging knives are the two most common ways knives are produced by knife manufacturers. Traditionally, stamped knives were considered to be the manufacturing process of choice for mass-produced knives, while forging implied a handmade process of knife making.
Forging of knives, while still done by hand by some knife makers, has moved into the realm of commercially mass-produced knives as well.
Contrary to what some may believe, a commercially produced knife is indicated as being forged does not mean that there is some blacksmith in a hot, smoky forge that is beating out the knives one by one!
Even though forging has moved into the modern era of mass production, there are still significant differences between stamped and forged knives.
Let’s begin by examining the differences in the manufacturing process since the process dictates some of the physical attributes of the knife produced.
How Are Forged Knives Made?
Forging as a process for knife manufacturing can be done in two ways; hand forging or commercial forging. There are differences between both processes, which produce different knives. Hand forging produces unique knives, where each one has its own characteristics, and the process is not repeatable to produce exactly the same knife.
Hand forging has the advantage that the knives are custom-made with attention to detail, and the end product is as much a work of art as it is a tool to be used!
The disadvantage of hand forging is that the process is slow, which makes this process unable to keep up with the general demand for forged knives. Some smaller Japanese knife-making companies still hand-forge their knives, but most have moved over to the commercial forging process to meet the demand.
Hand-forged knives will also generally be more expensive than a commercially forged knife, but you will have a superior quality blade for the price.
A hand-forged knife will be a one-of-a-kind knife that is well made, robust, and can be hidden tang or full tang. The custom nature of the process allows for variations in the style, function, and form of the knife produced.
These knives are usually sought-after but demand high prices due to the level of care, time, and craftsmanship that goes into the manufacture of each knife.
Hand Forging Process
Hand forging starts with a billet of steel, either bar-stock, round-stock, or a billet of Damascus steel. We will not go into the process of how Damascus steel is made, and that is an involved process with many variants.
The steel billet is heated up to forging temperature, which is different for each type of steel and takes a practiced eye to determine by the color of the glowing-hot steel.
The hot steel is removed from the forge and taken to an anvil, where the knife maker will hammer the steel to shape the knife.
As the steel cools in the hammering process, the knife will need to be reheated in the forge to get it back up to temperature before it can be hammered on again. Hammering on cold steel can produce fractures in the steel, which result in a flawed knife.
Once the knife has been beaten into the desired shape and the blade bevels roughly established, the forging part of the process is complete.
The process of repeated heating and cooling of the blade and the hammering on the blade put stresses into the steel, which can develop into fractures in the steel unless the steel is normalized.
The normalizing process is a series of controlled heating and cooling of the steel to re-align the granular structure of the steel to prevent cracks from forming.
After normalizing, the blade will be cleaned up and the shape refined on a grinder. The bevels will be perfected.
The blade will then be heat treated and tempered to develop the required characteristics of the blade, a handle fitted, and the knife will finally be polished and sharpened.
The Commercial Forging Process
The commercial forging process is slightly more sophisticated and employs the use of machines and robotics as well as human skill to produce the knife.
- A mold is designed on a CAD system for the shape of the knife. The mold is then produced and used in the manufacture of the knife.
- Steel bars that are cut to a predetermined length are heated to the forging temperature for the steel.
- A press is used to force the hot steel into the mold to form the basic shape of the knife.
- The knife is then heat-treated and tempered to achieve the desired hardness of the blade.
The process to this point is generally completed by machines and robotics that are programmed to perform these repeatable steps as a production line.
The next steps are where the human factor comes into the commercial forging process of a knife.
- Final grinding of the knife to refine the shape of the knife and the edge of the knife is done by hand.
- The knife is then cleaned, polished, and inspected for flaws.
- Handle attachment is done to complete the look of the knife.
- The knife is then sharpened to an angle that is suitable for the type of knife and thickness of the steel. The sharpening process can be done by hand, but some manufacturers use machines to do this step.
- A final inspection is then done on the knife before packaging.
Commercial forging, even though some processes have been modernized and industrialized, still has processes that require human labor and skill.
This mix of technology, mechanization, and human craftsmanship makes this process fairly labor-intensive in comparison to other knife-making methods.
Commercially forged knives can be full tang or hidden tang knives. The knives are strong and robust and can be made with variations in thickness and design, but changing designs can be expensive due to the molding that must be manufactured and the changes that must be made to the production machinery.
TIP: Grooves, dents, and other textures are sometimes featured on Japanese and other kitchen knives. Do you know what their purpose is? Find out the answer in the article below:
How Are Stamped Knives Made?
Stamped knives are a manufacturing process that differs for forging right from the outset with the form of the steel that is used in the process. In the stamping process, the steel used is typically in the form of a large sheet of steel as opposed to a bar.
The sheet form of the steel is more suitable for this type of knife manufacturing, and multiple knives can be cut from one sheet, which promotes a faster production process.
The process of stamping a knife from a sheet of steel can be achieved with a number of different processes.
Initially, stamped knives were exactly that; a die that is made to the form of the knife would come down with force on the sheet steel, cutting the form of the knife out in a cookie-cutter style.
Modern advancements have included the process of laser cutting and waterjet cutting of the steel sheet, all operated by computerized equipment.
The basic steps to produce a stamped knife involve the following steps.
- A cutting die is manufactured to the shape of the knife design.
- The die is fitted to a press or cutting machine.
- The metal sheet is positioned under the die.
- The die is brought down with force on the steel sheet, cutting the shape of the knife out of the sheet.
- The stamped knife is then heat-treated to the desired hardness.
- A handle is then fitted to the knife, and the knife is polished.
- Final sharpening is then completed on the blade, and inspections are performed to check for quality.
- The knives are then cleaned and packaged for sale.
The downside to the stamping of knives is that when a new design of a knife is required or a design is changed, a new die must be made to match the design.
This can make stamping with a die to be a cumbersome and expensive process and is only worthwhile if the knife will be made in large quantities.
When other cutting methods are used to get the knife from out of the sheet steel, the knife is still considered to be stamped, even though there is no pressure placed on the steel.
With laser cutting or waterjet cutting, the process for making the knives would be as follows.
- The knife is designed in a computer-aided design program, and the design is fed into the cutting machine computer.
- Steel sheets are laid out and under the machine, and the cutting head moves over the sheet, cutting out the knife blanks.
- Once the knife is cut out, the bevels are ground in, and the knife is heat treated and tempered.
- Handles are then attached, and the knife sharpened and polished.
- Inspection and packaging are the final steps.
The advantage of laser cutting and waterjet cutting is that there is no die that needs to be made for each new knife design. The design is simply put into the computer controlling the cutting, and it automatically cuts out the design.
Another advantage is that multiple designs can be cut from one sheet of steel, maximizing the use of the steel and reducing waste.
Stamped or cutout knives are generally made from thinner stock steel which makes the final product a much thinner knife than a forged knife. Manufacturing using this method is much faster and less labor-intensive than forging.
This means more knives can be produced more cheaply using the stamped method than by forging, but the characteristics of the end product knife are different between the two methods too.
TIP: Wusthof is very popular German knife making company. German knives are often compared with Japanese knives. How do the German and Japanese knives stack up against each other? Find out the answer in the article below:
What Are The Characteristics Of A Stamped Knife?
A stamped knife has several characteristics that are due to the base metal selection for the knife and the stamping or cutting process used to produce the knife.
The following are the main defining features of a stamped knife:
|Feature||Characteristic of a Stamped Knife|
|Thin steel||The base steel sheet that the stamped knife is cut from is a thinner stock material than that of a forged knife. |
The thinner material makes the stamping or cutting process of the knife from the sheet steel a much easier process than if the steel was thick. This results in a much thinner blade and tang of the knife.
|Flexible blade||Because the steel is thinner on stamped knives, the blade is generally more flexible than that of a forged knife. Flexibility can be a good and a bad feature. |
You do not want too much flex on a robust chef’s knife where you may be cutting heavy-duty ingredients, but on a utility knife, the flexibility of the blade may be more desirable.
|No bolster||The stamping or cutting of the knife from thin, flat sheets of steel does not allow for a bolster to be incorporated into the design of the knife. Some manufacturers try to compensate for this by bringing the handle material further onto the blade to beef up this section of the blade for better grip.|
|Tang||The tang is the metal part of the knife that extends into the knife handle material. A stamped knife typically does not have a full tang that extends all the way through the handle material of the knife. |
In some instances, it is only a half tang, and others a partial tang, which is hidden completely in the handle material. Some stamped knives will have a full tang, but it is less common with this type of knife.
|Lightweight||Stamped knives are often lightweight knives in comparison to forged knives. This makes the blade agile and capable of fast chopping and slicing. |
However, the knife can feel like it lacks a little substance in hand, especially when processing larger ingredients such as large cuts of meat. Some people prefer lighter knives, while others prefer a blade with a bit of heft to it.
|Hardness||Because the steel is thinner on a stamped blade, it is only hardened to a 56HRC which has implications for the durability of the edge.|
|Sharpness||The thin steel on the blade allows for a very sharp edge on stamped knives.|
|Edge retention||A stamped knife will not hold its edge as well or as long as a forged knife. The lower Rockwell hardness combined with the thinner steel results in a knife that loses its edge much faster and will need more frequent honing and sharpening. Most stamped knives will require honing daily before use and sharpening.|
|Price||Stamped knives are usually significantly cheaper than forged knives of the same size and style. This is due to the thinner steel used and the more cost-effective manufacturing process used to make stamped knives.|
Stamped knives certainly have their place in the kitchen, and many knife manufacturers who make forged knives also make stamped versions as well.
Our choice: Are you interested in buying a set of stamped knives made by a reputable knife manufacturer? Find below our recommendation:
Set of stamped knives (Amazon link)
This set is made by Wüsthof company is not so expensive but definitely worth its price. You will get a high-quality set of forged knives.
TIP: Do you know how to sharpen stamped knives? Check out the step-by-step guide on how to do it in the article below:
What Are The Characteristics Of A Forged Knife?
The forging process and the different stock materials used in the manufacturing of these knives lend distinct characteristics to the knife as a result. Many people prefer these characteristics over those of the stamped knives.
|Feature||Characteristic of a Forged Knife|
|Thicker steel||The base steel billet used to make a forged knife starts off as a thick piece of steel that is forged down to the desired thickness for the knife. This means that more steel goes into the manufacture of the forged knife, and this extra steel dictates some of the other characteristics of the forged knife. |
The thicker stock material allows for more versatility in different thickness blades for different purposes. A forged knife can be made to be thin at the cutting edge and more robust on the spine of the knife, which adds strength to the blade
|Rigid blade||The thicker steel used generally makes forged knives more rigid in structure than stamped knives. Many people prefer a rigid knife, which provides more control over the blade when putting pressure on the blade while processing tough ingredients. |
However, forged knives can be made thin to provide flexibility for certain purpose-built knives, such as fish filleting knives.
|No bolster||Forged knives commonly have a partial bolster or a full bolster. The bolster is formed as part of the knife during the forging process. Bolsters add a level of protection for the knife user, preventing the hand from slipping forward over the blade. |
Bolsters also provide additional grip when choking up on the blade for certain chopping tasks. The balance between blade and handle is also improved with the addition of a bolster in the design.
|Tang||Frequently, the tang in a forged knife will be a full tang, which extends all the way through the handle material, and is visible all the way around the handle. In some instances, such as in Japanese kitchen knives, a forged knife can be made as a partial, hidden tang. |
This style is less common in western forged knives. A full tang adds weight to the handle and improves the balance of the knife. It also adds strength to the handle construction of the knife.
|Heavyweight||Forged knives are heavier when compared to stamped knives. The additional thickness of the steel and the full tang construction contribute to the heavier weight of forged knives. |
The heavier weight makes the knife feel like it has more substance and feels more balanced in your hand, which can improve control in certain processing circumstances. Many people also simply prefer the heavier knife in the hand.
|Hardness||Forged knives can be hardened to greater levels of hardness because of the additional steel in the blade construction. Typically, western forged knives are hardened to between 58 and 60 HRC, while Japanese kitchen knives can exceed 60 HRC.|
|Sharpness||Forged knives have a tapered blade from the spine to the cutting edge of the knife, which allows the sharp edge to be thin and extremely sharp.|
|Edge retention||A forged knife can have a thin, sharp cutting edge, but the additional thickness of the blade adds more meat behind the blade to support the cutting edge. This makes for a more robust edge that will hold its edge for longer than a stamped knife. |
Typically, a forged knife will only need to be honed every 4 to 5 days of use and will need to be sharpened much less frequently than a stamped knife.
|Price||Forged knives are usually substantially more expensive than stamped knives of similar size and design. The thicker steel used to make forged knives and the additional cost from the labor-intensive process contribute to making these knives more expensive than stamped knives.|
Many people prefer forged knives over stamped knives simply for the way that they feel in the hand and for the better durability of the edge.
Our choice: Are you interested in buying a set of forged knives made by a reputable knife manufacturer? Find below our recommendation:
Set of forged knives (Amazon link)
This set is made by Wüsthof company is not so expensive but definitely worth its price. You will get a high-quality set of forged knives.
TIP: Do you know how to sharpen forged knives? Check out the step-by-step guide on how to do it in the article below:
Are Forged Knives Better Than Stamped Knives?
The different characteristics of forged and stamped knives give the knives varying features, which will define their perception to the user. Mostly, the choice between the knives will be personal preference or cost-related.
The more robust construction of the forged knife makes these knives more durable. They hold the edge better and for longer, and the handle construction makes for a stronger and better-balanced knife. In respect of edge retention and durability, forged knives are better than stamped knives.
The heaviness of forged knives may count against these knives when used for long periods of time for repetitive tasks, such as in a professional kitchen. In this situation, a stamped knife, being lightweight, would have the advantage over a forged knife.
The perception is that because a stamped knife is cheaper, it must be inferior to a forged knife. While this has been a true statement historically, the stamping process has improved with technology, and many stamped knives from reputable knife manufacturers such as Wusthof, are high-quality knives.
Of course, a cheap knife bought at the $10 store is also a stamped knife, and the quality will certainly be inferior to a forged knife.
If you prefer a lightweight knife, or you have a lower budget for your knife spend, a stamped knife is a way to get a quality knife so long as you buy a stamped knife from a reputable manufacturer.
BTW: If you want to know more about Japanese and other types of knives and their sharpening check out the books listed above. These books are recommended by professional sharpeners and knife makers (Amazon links):
- Japanese Kitchen Knives: Essential Techniques and Recipes
- The Knifenerd Guide to Japanese Knives
- Knife: The Culture, Craft, and Cult of the Cook’s Knife
- Sharp: The Definitive Introduction to Knives, Sharpening, and Cutting Techniques, with Recipes from Great Chefs
A forged knife is a durable knife and one that can certainly last a lifetime, but the cost of these knives is often prohibitive for many knife buyers. Stamped knives are an alternative to get a good quality knife, but they will never be a long-term purchase.
Stamped knives are not as robust and durable as forged knives and do not hold an edge as well as forged knives. My preference is for a forged knife, but others may prefer the lightweight feel of a stamped knife and the agility of the blade.
The choice between the two knives really comes down to personal preference, but if you are looking for a knife that is a work of art as well as a functional tool, a forged knife is the way to go!
TIP: A lot of people prefer use of electric knife sharpeners. We personally prefer manual sharpeners because they offer more precise sharpening. Check out the differences between electric and manual sharpeners in the article below: