Well, let’s be honest, different knives are used for different things so it’s really important to make sure you choose something with appropriate features. For example, a long thin blade for boning compared to a short blade for peeling and mincing. But one of the things you will need to consider is whether you need forged knives or stamped knives. But what’s the difference?
The main difference is how these knives are made. Forged knives are made from a single bar of steel whereas a stamped blade is made by cutting the shape from a larger sheet of metal.
There are pros and cons to each of these types of knives and it’s important to think about these when choosing which is best for your kitchen.
In this guide, we will pit forged vs stamped knives and show you the key differences and how each one might benefit you.
Table of contents
- Forged vs Stamped Knives - The Difference
- What Is a Forged Knife?
- What Is a Stamped Knife?
- The Pros and Cons of Forged Knives
- The Pros and Cons of Stamped Knives
- Other Differences Between Forged and Stamped Knives
- Blade Thickness
- Blade Sharpness and Edge Retention
- Should I Buy a Forged or Stamped Knife?
- Final Thoughts
One of the things you will be confronted with when buying kitchen knives is having to choose between forged and stamped knives. This can feel a little intimidating if you don’t have any understanding of what these terms mean. But fortunately, it’s quite easy to get your head around and refers to the way in which the knives have been manufactured. Let’s take a more detailed look at each type, how they’re made and how forged knives differ from their stamped counterparts.
Forged vs Stamped Knives - The Difference
What Is a Forged Knife?
There are a handful of small businesses that still use a handcrafting technique to make forged knives. However, since most kitchen knives are now mass-produced, we largely rely on technology to get the job done.
While we would need a whole other detailed guide on how a fully forged knife is made, let’s take a quick look at the basic process.
● Forged knives begin their life as a computer-made knife design which is used to create the knife mould to achieve the desired shape.
● The next step involves taking bars of steel and heating these up to super temperatures.
● Once the steel is red hot, it is pressed into shape.
● The steel is then tempered and this sets its hardness.
● The next step involves grinding the steel blade to ensure the knife has a nice sharp cutting edge.
● The blade is then cleaned and polished.
● Next, the knife maker will attach the handle and finish off the tang and bolster.
● Finally, the blade is sharpened to the correct angle and inspected before being boxed and ready for sale.
The thing about using the forging process is that it requires a lot of hard work and even when aided by technology, knife makers need a good degree of skill. Moreover, this is a more expensive way of crafting knives and can involve a very high number of steps; with some brands of knives, this can be as many as 40!
In days gone by, all forged knives were handmade and this was called the hot drop forging process. It is still in action with some small manufacturers who have to shape the knife by hand pounding.
Regardless of whether a forged knife is made by hand or with the use of robotics, these are known for their durability, especially when compared to a stamped blade. There are a lot of other benefits to the forged blade such as thickness, better edge retention and more weight but we will look at these in a little more detail later on. Of course, you have to expect that the work and cost involved in making a forged knife do mean that it’ll cost more to purchase.
What Is a Stamped Knife?
What’s great about this method is that it is a lot simpler and perfect for wanting to mass-produce kitchen knives. Moreover, it is a lot more cost-effective which is why pretty much every affordable kitchen knife will have been produced using this method.
● To begin with, the blade design is added to the machine.
● Sheets of steel are loaded into the machine’s cutter where the blade design is cut out.
● The knives go through a tempering process and are then honed to improve durability.
● After this, the knife blades are sharpened.
● The handles are then put on before the knives are cleaned and polished.
● After a final inspection, the knives are ready to be sold.
One notable difference between forged and stamped blades is that the latter are much thinner than their forged counterparts. What’s more, they have a lot more flex and don’t cost anywhere near as much. For knife manufacturers that want to make affordable, everyday kitchen knives, this is the obvious method.
● The process of forging means that these knives are much stronger
The Pros and Cons of Forged Knives
● When a forged knife has a bolster, you get the benefit of greater stability.
● More weight to the knife means that each cut is a lot more powerful.
● There is almost no chance of the blade bending or warping when you cut tough foods. This results in much greater precision.
● These knives, with their full tangs, are often a lot more well-balanced.
However, you have to keep in mind the following downsides
● There is not as much flexibility in the blade
● The cost is much higher
● Since these knives have a bolster and full tang, the handle can feel heavier meaning that prolonged use can result in fatigue.
● Without a bolster, the user can get a better grip which usually means that a stamped knife feels more comfortable.
The Pros and Cons of Stamped Knives
● You won’t feel as fatigued when using a stamped kitchen knife since they are much more lightweight.
● When slicing, the thin design of the blade means that cutting is a lot easier.
● Stamped knives are a lot more flexible because of their thinner blades.
● It does not cost as much to purchase a stamped knife.
Just like forged blades, there are a couple of disadvantages you should consider when buying a stamped blade.
● The lack of a bolster means that stamped knives are not as well balanced which means they can be a little more difficult to handle.
● Moreover, without a bolster, you don’t have that natural guard for your fingers so injuries are more likely.
● If you are cutting harder foods, these flexible blades may move around meaning you don’t get such a precise cut.
As we have learned, the main difference between a forged and a stamped knife lies in how the blades are made. But these manufacturing processes result in quite different products, even though they’re designed to do the same thing; cut food. With that in mind, let’s explore how these differences affect the use of the knife.
Other Differences Between Forged and Stamped Knives
Different forged knives will have different thicknesses and their thickness will also vary from the butt to the tip. At the tip, these blades are usually a lot thinner but they’re thicker along the spine. Normally, the thickest part of the forged blade will be at the handle.
However, when you buy a stamped knife, the blade tends to be the same thickness throughout.
The main benefit of having a thicker blade on a forged knife is improved durability. Moreover, you’ll notice that the blades are so much more stable when you’re cutting. Plus, this thickness adds to the weight of the knife which is beneficial when you are cutting thicker foods or when using the rocking motion technique.
The tang is the portion of the blade that goes into the handle. Where the blade goes all the way through the handle, we call this a full tang. However, the blade can go just partway through the handle, in which case, we call this a half or partial tang.
Blades with full tangs are generally a lot more well-balanced as well as far stronger. They’re also a lot safer as it’s pretty difficult for the blade to come away from the handle when it's buried inside it.
You also have to consider that a full tang blade will produce a heavier knife and some people can find this very tiring when they use the knife for long periods of time. If you’re doing lengthier cutting tasks, it’s often preferable to use a stamped blade purely because of how lightweight it is. That said, this will affect the balance of the blade so it’s worth thinking about which is more important to you.
As I have just explained, the tang can play a role in the overall weight of the knife. However, this isn’t the only thing that will affect how heavy it is. Things such as the material of the handle, the bolster and how thick the blade is will all play a role.
Normally, stamped knives are a lot more lightweight than forged ones and the main reason for this is that they aren’t as thick nor do they have a bolster. Plus, most of these knives do not have a full tang.
You might wonder why weight matters when it comes to knives but it’s all about your comfort. It will be a lot easier to cut thicker, more solid foods with a heavy knife but it will make you fatigued more quickly. However, if you’re cutting softer foods like mushrooms then a lightweight knife is ideal.
Pretty much all forged knives will have a bolster of some kind but there are two different types which are the half bolster or the full bolster. Do note that half bolsters may sometimes be referred to as a semi bolster.
A full bolster is much longer and thicker so it gives a greater degree of protection for your fingers. However, it does mean that a small portion of the cutting edge is taken away so you won’t be able to sharpen the full length of the blade as the material here is just too thick.
Knives that have a half bolster don’t give the fingers as much protection due to the fact that the bolster is a lot shorter. However, you do have the advantage of being able to sharpen more of the blade edge.
If you purchase a stamped knife, it is highly unlikely that your blade will have a bolster since the manufacturing process doesn’t typically allow for this.
If you use a forged blade, you will notice that the blade is a lot more rigid which generally makes it much easier to control. These types of knives are ideal for jobs like mincing herbs, cutting meat and working with solid vegetables. What’s more, when the blade is more solid, you will find it a lot easier to sharpen. This is especially true if you are working with a whetstone.
When it comes to stamped knives, there is much less rigidity so you end up with a knife that gives a lot more when you are cutting. Due to this flexibility, stamped knives are often preferred for jobs like boning or filleting. They are also a common choice for Japanese sushi chefs who are performing more delicate cutting work.
The way that a blade is manufactured doesn’t really have any bearing on how sharp the blade will be. This normally comes down to the angle to which the blade is sharpened. Smaller angles mean a sharper blade. These small angles are brilliant when you’re working with softer ingredients but they are more brittle so there’s a greater chance that the knife may become damaged or chip more easily.
Blade Sharpness and Edge Retention
Generally speaking, you will find that knives are sharpened to angles between 10 and 20 degrees but on average, it’s around 16 degrees.
If you want a more robust and durable knife then you will need something that has an angle of at least 15 degrees. Any less than this and you will find that the blade does not retain its edge as well and it is more susceptible to damage.
Forged knives, regardless of how sharp they are, are usually better for heavy-duty jobs such as slicing and chopping. They’re also great if you are using the rocking motion technique and work well with solid foods. On the other hand, you would use a stamped knife when you’re doing lighter, more intricate work where precision is important. The design and uniform thickness of the blade means that it doesn’t push on the food as you cut it.
When you purchase a knife, it doesn’t matter whether it is forged or stamped as both will be just as sharp when they’re brand new. The problem with some knives is that you will need to sharpen them more often and this is usually the case with a stamped blade.
The reason for this is that when forged knives are made, they undergo treatments with extreme temperatures and this results in metal hardening. When metal is hard, it develops the ability to retain a sharp edge for much longer.
Another benefit of the forged blade is that, when you need to sharpen it, it’s a lot easier because of the rigidity of the metal. When sharpening a flexible stamped blade, the sharpening process can be much more challenging. That said, when it comes to using an electric sharpener, it doesn’t really make a lot of difference how the blade was made. But we wouldn’t typically advocate the use of electric sharpeners as they can damage the knife.
When it comes to buying a knife, you will typically find that forged blades come with a higher price tag as the manufacturing process is a lot more time-consuming and difficult. In addition to this, the materials that are used to make forged knives are more expensive as they must be raw.
But there are other things that will affect the cost of a knife including the brand, the metal alloy used and where the knife was made.
Whether you purchase a forged or stamped knife always comes down to personal preference. Where one person finds a forged blade more comfortable and easy to use, the next person may swear by a stamped blade.
Should I Buy a Forged or Stamped Knife?
It’s also important to think about the types of food you will be cutting. For dense, hard foods, the weight and balance of a forged knife are always going to be superior. But for softer foods and for those who will be using the knife for prolonged periods, a lightweight stamped blade is the better option.
For professional chefs, the excellent edge retention of a forged blade is ideal for commercial use as maintenance will be much less.
But the best way to choose a knife is simply to try it. A knife could have all of the best features in the world but it might feel terrible in your hand. Narrow down your choices and select a knife that feels good to you as well as something that performs brilliantly.
If you are looking to purchase new kitchen knives, you will have noticed that there are a lot of things you need to consider. One of these things is whether you should buy a forged or a stamped knife. The main difference between stamped and forged knives is the way in which the blades are made; stamped blades are made by stamping the shape from a large sheet of metal whereas forged blades are made from a single steel bar.
The way in which the blades are made does have an impact on how they perform so it’s important to think about what you expect from your knife in order to determine whether forged or stamped is best for your kitchen