Sure, it’s convenient to have all of this manufactured stuff at our fingertips but there’s something about a hand-crafted product that just hits differently.
With handmade products, there’s great care and attention that goes into the process and this shows in the quality of the goods.
With this in mind, we thought we’d share a bit about what sets a handmade knife apart from those manufactured blades that you can pick up almost anywhere. Manufactured knives certainly have their place but they’ll never compete with a lovingly crafted piece, forged by someone passionate about knife making.
Table of contents
- What's the Difference Between Handmade Knives and Manufactured Knives In Terms of How They're Made?
- Handmade Knives - What Makes Them So Good?
- They're More Durable
- More Diverse In Terms of Shape and Design
- They're Easier to Sharpen
- They're More Sturdy
- They're a Lot Sharper
- The Materials Are Better Quality
- What About Manufactured Knives?
- How Sharp Are Manufactured Knives?
- What's the Quality Like?
- Final Thoughts
Regardless of the way that a knife was made, it will have been forged. Forging involves heating up the metal and then manipulating it into your desired shape. In this case, that’s the shape of a blade. Without this process, you would end up with something weak and brittle so both handmade and manufactured knives are forged.
What’s the Difference Between Handmade and Manufactured Kitchen Knives in Terms of How They’re Made?
But when a lot of people hear the term forged, they instantly think of a hand-crafted knife. The reason for this is that the term is often used interchangeably with handmade. But in order to properly understand, one has to realise that there’s a significant difference between forging and hand forging.
However, there is another method of hand forging which involves pouring melted metal into a cast to obtain the shape. In this case, and the aforementioned technique, the metal is then beaten and rolled which ensures maximum strength and durability. Some might argue that, since machines are used to roll the metal, the knives aren’t truly handmade but that isn’t the case as the majority of the process is completed by hand.
Once this portion of the crafting is complete, the knifemaker then goes on to sharpen and polish the blade. This is often the most labour-intensive part of the process and requires a high level of skill to get it just right. This is one of the reasons that a hand-crafted knife will cost a lot more.
When it comes to manufactured knives, these are mass-produced and the whole process, from start to finish, is automatic. It’s all done by machine and involves no human touch at all but the result is a much more affordable knife since so many can be made in a much shorter period of time. The downside is that the knife quality is not as good, largely owing to the fact that the machines cannot exert the same level of control.
If you look in the average UK kitchen, you’ll probably find more manufactured knives than handmade ones. The problem with this is that, while you might feel as though you’re getting a bargain, they won’t last as long so you’ll end up having to replace them a lot more regularly. Compare this to handmade knives which can last a lifetime when well looked after, and it’s easy to see why I’m so enamoured with the latter.
Handmade Knives - What Makes them So Good?
There’s not much use in buying a knife that’s not going to last. You’d end up wasting so much money on replacements that you may as well just have brought a more expensive handmade knife in the first place.
They're More Durable
But durability issues won’t ever grace your kitchen when you buy a handmade knife. They’re designed to stand the test of time without ever compromising on sharpness. On top of this, handmade knives are a lot more resistant and while I would never recommend using a knife for anything other than its intended purpose, you’ll find they’re a lot less likely to just break under pressure.
Of course, the durability of your knife also rests on how well you take care of it. You’re never going to have a super sharp, seemingly immortal knife if you don’t maintain it well.
If you buy a manufactured knife, you’re getting whatever comes out of the factory. However, when you buy handmade, there are so many more options for the design and shape. If you’re really fortunate and commission handmade custom knives then you’ll have complete control over the design process giving you a custom knife that’ll really benefit your kitchen.
More Diverse In Terms of Shape and Design
They're Easier to Sharpen
If you don’t have any previous experience in using a whetstone then it can take a great deal of practice to get it right. But when the knife is cooperating, it just makes everything a lot simpler.
Handmade knives are not something that you’ll buy and just throw away after a couple of years of use. These are a lifetime investment and one of the reasons for this is that they’re so sturdy and really will stand the test of time.
They're More Sturdy
This sturdy design means that they are a lot more resilient and are far less likely to be damaged than factory knives. And when you take good care of your knife and run it over a whetstone regularly, this will further boost its longevity.
They're a Lot Sharper
Because handmade knives are so sharp, they provide you with much greater precision when cutting. If you’re a professional chef this will really up your game in terms of presentation.
Moreover, a handmade knife will retain its edge for a lot longer so there won’t be as much need to sharpen quite as frequently.
When you look at buying anything, one of the first things you often think about is what it’s made from. You’re not going to want to buy a knife that’s made from weak steel that’s just going to shatter after a couple of uses.
The Materials Are Better Quality
The problem with a lot of manufactured forged knives is that they aren’t made from such high-grade steel. This means they’re cheaper to make and therefore, cheaper to buy.
But with handmade knives, you are getting something that’s made from the very best steel. It’s durable, sharp and will last a lifetime. What’s more, when correctly forged, you’ll notice that the steel is far more resistant to rust which isn’t something you can guarantee when using a manufactured knife.
Generally speaking, there are three different types of steel used in knife making. These are high carbon steel, stainless steel and Damascus steel. They all have their pros and cons but that’s something I’ll go into another time.
Manufactured knives are made in a factory with big production machines. The level of ‘hand crafting’ that goes into this is non-existent unless you count turning the machine on.
What About Manufactured Knives?
These machines are fed with large pieces of metal, typically steel which are attached to a handle once they are cut. The problem with this method of production is that you cannot guarantee the quality of the blade which is another reason the knives are so much more affordable. Of course, the final quality will rest largely on the grade of the steel.
With all of that in mind, we still cannot deny that manufactured knives are among some of the most popular. Many more are sold each year compared to hand-crafted blades and this is mainly to do with the low price. What’s more, since they’re so cheap, it doesn’t really matter if there is a problem as consumers can simply buy a new knife without making a dent in their bank balance.
So, let’s take a look at what you can expect from a manufactured knife in terms of features and performance.
How Sharp Are Manufactured Knives?
Because of the way that manufactured knives are forged, they aren’t as durable or rigid as handmade knives and this affects how well they retain their edge.
When it comes to sharpening a manufactured knife, you’ll likely find it much more of a challenge since the blades are a lot more flexible. This again is another reason that so many people just dispose of them and get new ones. But that’s hardly the most-eco friendly approach to knife shopping.
You cannot produce a knife whose quality is any better than the steel it was made from. So, when you buy a manufactured knife, you have to hope that the steel was of the best quality, otherwise, you are going to end up with an inferior product.
What's the Quality Like?
What’s more, while there are some decent quality manufactured knives out there, this is never going to match the quality of a lovingly-crafted handmade knife and this is reflected in the price. If you use a manufactured knife, you’ll find that it’s much more likely to break under pressure.
If you are looking to buy a knife or set of knives for everyday use in a domestic kitchen then you won’t go far wrong with manufactured knives. They’re much more affordable and while they don’t quite match up to their handmade cousins, they will work well for basic needs. So what’s the point in spending all that money on a single handmade knife if you’re not going to get the use out of it?
Manufactured knives are around ten times cheaper than handmade ones so it’s easy to see why they’re so attractive. But if you’re after something long-lasting and high quality, knife enthusiasts would definitely recommend handmade over factory-made knives.
Buying knives can feel like a real whirlwind since there are so many choices out there. While there are a number of things you’ll want to consider, choosing between a handmade and a manufactured knife is often one of the most important.
A lot of people go running for the hills when they see the price of handmade knives but don’t let that put you off. If you’re willing to make that investment then you’ll end up with a knife that’s going to last a lifetime and will perform beyond your wildest dreams.