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What is a Forged Knife?

Hand-forged knives are labor-intensive and can be quite expensive.
A forged knife is made by the painstaking hard work of a blacksmith.
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  • Written By: A Kaminsky
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2014
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When consumers want quality knives, they often consider the forged knife. This is a hand-crafted knife that is durable, holds a sharp edge and does not break. A good knife will last for a lifetime of household or field use.

A forged knife is a true example of blacksmith art, even on a large scale. A steel blank, or piece of steel, is heated in the forge. The maker then pounds the steel with a hammer, into the rough shape of a knife. It is heated again and more hammering follows. Several cycles of heating, cooling and hammering all serve to temper the steel and make the knife strong and not easily broken.

After the knife is completed to the maker’s specifications, it is ground from spine to edge, creating a tapered blade. The handle is attached to the tang, or the bottom part of the knife, and is riveted into place. Almost every forged knife has a bolster, or divider that separates the blade from the handle. The bolster may be for balance, as well, but this thickened part of the knife helps create a safety barrier between blade and fingers. Once the handle has been attached, the blade is then sharpened to a razor edge.

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Because of the labor-intensive nature of its construction, a forged knife is often significantly more expensive than a stamped steel knife. And, when a high quality, high carbon stainless steel is used, the price also goes up. This method of construction is used in kitchen knives, as well as for hunting and field knives, and those made this way are often prized for their durability in all conditions, and for the ease with which they maintain a sharp edge. The other advantage is that most people can sharpen the knives themselves. Only minimal maintenance is required to keep a high carbon stainless steel forged knife in good condition.

Many consumers find a forged knife to be an invaluable addition to their knife sets. Their quality and durability usually justify their higher price.

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Betowess
Post 4

Many commercially available fully forged knives have the blank under high pressure and heated at its highest temp near the blank's center, where it is then stamped by a drop hammer under tremendous pressure (between two dies), not individually hammered by a blacksmith. Then the final shape is finished by "hand" grinding/honing with guides. Lastly, the handles are riveted to the fully forged tang/bolster.

A nice French chef knife such as made by K Sabatier in Thiers, France uses this traditional, 100 percent forged method.

Amphibious54
Post 3

@ Fiorite- Depending on your situation, there are times when you would be better off buying a stamped knife set. Stamped knives are better for commercial use for multiple reasons. Forged knives cannot be put in a dishwasher because the handles will warp and fall off. If you are working in a commercial kitchen, you likely need to sanitize your knives in 170-degree water to be in compliance with health codes; though using a sanitizing solution is an option.

This makes stamped knives more expensive, and the antimicrobial kevlar type plastics used for the handles on some of these knives add an extra level of sanitation as well as better balance. Stamped knives are also more durable in a commercial kitchen setting. They do not hold an edge as long, but they can be sharpened until there is no metal left. Forged knives often have a thicker knife back then blade so they can only be effectively sharpened for so long. Commercial sharpening also weakens the steel in forged knives because they heat the metal up to temperatures that will de-temper the steel. Because stamped knives are not usually tempered, this is of little concern. At home, I have a forged kitchen knife set, but at work, we use stamped steel knives.

parmnparsley
Post 2

@ Fiorite- Forging realigns the crystalline structure of the metal. The grain of the steel will begin to align and overlap with itself, making it more like a spring; able to bend then spring back into shape. If you could etch the polished surface off a forged chef knife, you would see that the grain follows the length of the blade, where as a stamped knife would have little grain structure.

A forged knife also takes about forty additional steps than a stamped knife to manufacture. If you are buying knives that you will want to keep for years or hold an edge longer, I would recommend buying forged knife.

Fiorite
Post 1

Why is a forged knife so much stronger and more flexible than a stamped knife? I always wondered what makes a forged knife set so much different form a stamped set that you can buy for a quarter of the price.

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