Forged and Stamped Cutlery Review

Written by on April 2011

Forged and stamped kitchen knives each have benefits and drawbacks. They can be difficult to distinguish from each other by just looking at pictures of them on a computer. The features of each type aren’t exactly common knowledge, either. In an effort to clear up some questions about the two, I’d like to cover a few of those issues in this article. I’ll primarily address the differences between each type as well as why someone would want one over the other.Wusthof Kitchen Knives & Cutlery on Sale

Understanding Forged Knives: Modern Forging vs. Hot-Drop Forging

Hot-drop forging is what most of us think of as the traditional method of forging. Sometimes, in old samurai movies, you see scenes with a blacksmith pulling a sword from a blazing furnace and beating it into shape with a hammer. That’s essentially hot-drop forging. Shaping the hot steel is an important part of forging because it strengthens the metal by aligning the molecules into a useful shape. One thing is definitely certain about forged knives – they are strong.

Nowadays, very little cutlery is hot drop forged. I can name, off of the top of my head, only two lines of hot-drop forged knives that we carry here at MetroKitchen: the Global Forged Series and Zwilling J.A. Henckels’ TWIN Cuisine. Here’s a look at the manufacturing process behind Zwilling’s hot-drop forged TWIN Cuisine series:

Henckels Twin Cuisine Hot-Drop Forged Knives

Steps in the hot-drop forging process for Zwilling J.A. Henckels TWIN Cuisine knives

Let’s compare this method with the modern forging method used by Zwilling J.A. Henckels for their other lines of cutlery, like Zwilling J.A. Henckels Pro S.

Zwilling J.A. Henckels Forging Process

Steps in the forging process for other forged knives from Zwilling J.A. Henckels

As you can see, with this modern forging method, the forged blank doesn’t exactly resemble a knife before it is cut into shape in the fourth step. However, the benefits of forged steel are still present in this type of forging process because the metal blank is heated and hammered by machines before the shape of the knife is cut, strengthening the steel and rearranging its molecules.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Forged Knives

Wenger 5 inch Serrated Sandwich Knife

A forged deli knife from Wenger

I’ve already mentioned that forging makes steel stronger. The shaping of the steel molecules during the forging process results in a blade that is less flexible. As a result, these knives keep an edge for longer.

In addition to that, the forging process enables manufacturers to create a bolster for each knife. A bolster is the mound of metal between the handle and the blade. It protects your hand and gives you a safe place to rest your fingers while you’re using the knife. A bolster is one way that you can identify a forged knife with certainty. Any knife that has a bolster is certainly forged.

Finally, forged cutlery is easy to sharpen because it’s not very flexible. The blade doesn’t twist while you’re trying to hold it firmly against a whetstone or a sharpening steel. However, their lack of flexibility can actually be a drawback in some cases. Let’s say that you want a knife that’s super flexible to fillet a delicious red snapper; you’re probably better off with a stamped knife.

As for other drawbacks of forged cutlery, there are few. There’s really only one significant drawback, and that’s the price. Forged knives aren’t cheap, but they’re definitely worth the investment because they’ll last for a lifetime.

Creating Stamped Knives

Henckels Twin Signature 8 inch Cook's knife

A stamped Twin Signature 8 inch chef's knife from Zwilling J.A. Henckels.

Stamped blades are made from large, continuous sheets of stainless steel. A machine comes along and stamps out the shape of a knife, similar to a cookie cutter. The handle is then added and the knife is sharpened and polished.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Stamped Knives

Stamped cutlery doesn’t have a great reputation. People generally think “forged is better,” and chef’s and cooks are constantly debating which is better and whether it is a question of fact or preference. However, one thing is for sure – stamped knives definitely have their advantages.

Wusthof Gourmet 6 inch Flexible Deboning Knife

A flexible, stamped boning knife from Wusthof

Firstly, stamped cutlery is inexpensive when compared to forged cutlery, which is great if you’re on a budget. It’s also made with the same type of steel a comparable forged cutlery. If you need an arsenal of kitchen knives for many different uses at a low price, stamped knives are definitely the way to go.

However, the first drawback of stamped knives is that they don’t go through the forging process that makes forged knives super strong. As a result, they are more flexible and tend to keep an edge for a shorter amount of time.

Second, stamped knives have no bolster. This is one possible way that you can distinguish a stamped knife, although there are some forged knives that do not have bolsters, like most Japanese knives. The drawback of no bolster is that you might cut yourself while you’re using the knife if you’re not careful. However, many people prefer knives without bolsters, so it’s somewhat a matter of preference.

Stamped knives can also be a difficult to sharpen on a whetstone because a lot of times they’re too flexible. It’s certainly possible, but slightly more difficult. However, on an electric sharpener, stamped or forged makes almost no difference. We sharpened a stamped chef’s knife here a few days ago with this Edgeware Ceramic Edge electric knife sharpener and it turned out razor-sharp.

There are definitely ways that you can maximize the benefits of stamped knives and minimize their disadvantages. First off, if you need a knife that’s flexible, it’s probably a good idea to go with a stamped knife because they’re usually flexible by design. Boning knives and fillet knives are a good example of this. Some people like a hard, forged boning knife, but flexible ones also work well.

As I mentioned before, stamped knives are also a good choice if you need a lot of affordable knives for different purposes. If you think you can do everything with a chef’s knife, though, it may be a good idea to just invest in a single high-quality forged chef’s knife. You’ll probably be washing it a lot, though.

Conclusion

I hope that I’ve clearly outlined the uses of each type of knife and how they’re different. I can sum it up here in short:

Forged knives – Strong, sturdy, and dependable knives that will last a lifetime and are easy to sharpen.

Stamped knives – Affordable knives for someone who needs cutlery on a budget. Normally flexible and have no bolster. Consider buying an electric sharpener for sharpening.

There you have it, plain and simple. Check out our sales on kitchen knives from manufacturers like Shun, Wusthof, Henckels, Global, and others. If you have any questions about stamped or forged knives, we’re happy to answer them for you. We answer our phones Monday through Friday from 9 am to 6 pm EST. Our customer service phone number is 888-892-9911 and our email address is cs@MetroKitchen.com. Thanks for reading!

  • Chuck T.

    I really enjoyed your informative article! Having been one of the managers at several metal stamping companies, I have plenty of experience at the easier of the manufacturing processes. Never been involved in forging. Good facts and info to know!!

  • Mimi

    Thanks. It was very helpful.

  • larry

    What a crock of un-factual baloney. If you look at the directional grain in knives using the “modern forged method” they are basically the same as the directional grain of sheet stock used in “stamped” knife steel which is rolled, compressing the steel in the direction of the rollers similar to hammer forging. And what does the flexibility of a knife have to do with the ability to sharpen it? The ability of a knife to take and hold an edge is a direct correlation to the type of steel and how it is heat treated, this will also affect flexibility given the same thickness etc from one blade to another as well as edge holding ability.

    • george

      Larry – thank you for taking the time to post your comment. Despite your claim that the directional grain is similar between the large sheets used for stamping and the billets used in forged knives, the proof is in the results. If you compare stamped and forged knives from the same manufacturer side by side, their stamped knives have noticeably thinner blade stock, they are lighter, and they are more flexible. The billet blanks that Wusthof and Henckels use for their forged knives are simply harder and thicker than the sheets of metal used for the stamped ones. While it’s true that some forged knives are also flexible, it is because they have been designed that way for a specific purpose – that’s something I neglected to mention in the article.

      In regard to your claim about flexibility of a knife having no effect on ease of sharpening, I disagree based on my experience in having sharpened plenty of cheap, stamped knives on a whetstone while working working as a chef in a restaurant. It was far easier to sharpen a quality, forged knife on a whetstone than it was to sharpen a stamped one. They’re just heavier, harder, and more balanced, which makes for easier sharpening. If you look closely at the article, however, I never said that a stamped knife can’t take and hold an edge. I’m able to easily sharpen my stamped knives on an electric sharpener and they hold their edges well. Another factor involved in the ability of a knife to take and hold an edge is the accuracy and precision of the edge angle, which is why Wusthof has developed their new PeTec sharpening system. Their new PeTec edges stay sharper for far longer than knives with their previous sharpening method because they have more precise and accurate angles.

      Don’t get me wrong; I’m not against stamped knives. They’re great, but they’re not the same high quality as forged knives. Stamped or forged however, the knives we carry from different manufacturers will slice through baloney. :)

  • Martin Stephens

    A very interesting article. I happened by as the result of the following Google search:

    will machine forging produce different results than hand forging in knife blades

    Needless to say, I found the article very informative and extremely helpful. With that firmly in mind, I do have one small bone to pick. You said, “Any knife that has a bolster is certainly forged.” I must disagree. As an amateur (mostly self taught) knife maker (I have made less than 100 knives), I assure you that there are ways of attaching a bolster that do not involve forging. Welding and brazing spring to mind. However, a maker who is willing to go to that much trouble with a blade will probably forge it anyway.

    • george

      Thanks for the post, Martin. Good point. I hadn’t thought of someone adding a bolster via welding or brazing. I’ve never seen a bolster like that, but it’s certainly possible. There are also forged knives that do not have a bolster at all, such as Wusthof’s santoku knives. I suppose the only way to make sure that your knife is forged is to get it from a reputable manufacturer like Wusthof or Henckels and to make sure that you’re buying from one of their high-quality, forged series like Wusthof Classic or Henckels Pro S.

      -George

  • http://www.kniferating.com/kitchen Kitchen Knife Reviews

    Informative, thanks for the breakdown!

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