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Old 04-05-2006, 12:00 PM   #1
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Knives: Forged vs Machined

a professional's view. what is yours? I'd like to hear from some of the pro chefs out there.

Forged vs. Stamped
Steel is the best medium for knives because it is malleable. It can be made soft or hard depending on how it is heated and cooled. It can be shaped while soft and then hardened to make a great cutting tool.
In the old days, steel was mostly just iron and carbon. There was no way to remove impurities in the raw materials. When the steel cooled, its grain structure formed randomly. You can think of the grain structure like water: cooled one way it forms snowflakes, cooled another way it forms very dense ice. In steel, dense compacted grain structure, like ice, is what you want for a cutting edge. Forging, or hammering, on the steel as it is cooled compacts the grain structure along the edge so it was its hardest and most dense.
With the advent of modern, high-carbon stainless steels, or alloy steels, forging has become obsolete. These steels were developed for the aerospace and industrial machining industry. Parts made for airplanes and space ships are made to such precise tolerances that it was impossible to forge them. Therefore, super-hard, super-dense steel that could be precision machined had to be developed. Precision machining is what is often referred to as stamped.
Modern steels are a precise mixture of many different alloys that control the structure of the steel. Different alloys cause steel to have different properties. Manganese and silicon are two key alloys that are responsible for controlling the growth of grain structure. There are many different alloys that are added to the steel to give it other beneficial qualities such as stain resistance, wear resistance and toughness.
The other step in creating a superior blade is heat-treating. Steel must be precisely heated and cooled to bring out the ideal properties of the alloys it contains. It is very much like baking bread- you can put in all the right ingredients, but if you don’t let it rise enough or bake it at the wrong temperature or humidity and so on, it just does not come out right. It is the same story with steel. It must be precisely heat-treated (cooked). Cryo-treating is an additional step added to the process in which the steel is frozen to –110 degrees Fahrenheit. Studies have shown that this insures that the alloys in the steel perform at their optimal potential. It usually raises the Rockwell Hardness of the steel by one point.
Forging does not improve the edge-holding ability of a blade made out of quality, high-carbon steel because the grain density is already as tight as it can get. There is much evidence showing that forging can be detrimental to the performance of modern alloy steels. Hitting the steel as it is cooling and the alloys are doing their thing can cause micro-cracks in the grain structure. This is the reason it is common for forged high-carbon stainless steel knives to break when they are dropped. Modern high-carbon stainless alloy steels are like Aunt Esther cherry pie crust- they are at their best when they are kneaded/handled as little as possible before they are cooked.

(from New West KnifeWorks)

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Old 04-05-2006, 12:13 PM   #2
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I use both forged and stamped knives. I sometimes have to switch from one to the other and I do not like to do that. The stamped knives always feel worse to me.

I cannot speak to the accuracy of the statement, "...it is common for forged high-carbon stainless steel knives to break when they are dropped.". I've dropped many and never had one break.

I prefer the forged knives for their weight and weight distribution. Forged feels better to me. When I switch from forged to stamped, The knife feels awkward even after extended use. When I switch back, the forged feels 'natural' almost immediately.

Has anyone else experienced that it is 'common' for forged knives to break when dropped?
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Old 04-05-2006, 12:54 PM   #3
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never had one break either, but I'm not dropping them on concrete or terra cotta tile...linoleum is softer.

I do like the feel of the bolster on a forged knife and the weight / fulcrum effect. However, I am led to believe that a fine machined product can be so weighted.

anyone else please give your thoughts
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Old 04-05-2006, 01:05 PM   #4
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The only stamped knives that I have are my steak knives and for cutting my steaks I like them. All my workhorse knives are forged. I like weight to my knives. If I were working as a professional then I am guessing I would appreciate a lighter knife, but since I do not do prep work for hours on end then a weighty knife feels good to me.
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Old 04-05-2006, 02:15 PM   #5
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Gotta be forged.
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Old 04-05-2006, 02:30 PM   #6
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I gotta say I've seen more and more chefs using top quality machined product (not just on TV) and I don't mean the $12 special at Target.

see what New West KnifeWorks is doing. interesting.

www.newwestknifeworks.com
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Old 04-05-2006, 03:20 PM   #7
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Robo:

I just read the link you posted. So the guy you quoted is trying to sell stamped (precision machined) knives so he states that they are superior to forged knives...

Makes you want to go, "Hmmmmm."
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Old 04-05-2006, 08:39 PM   #8
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well, yes, but the logic and science are there too. If the weight and heft is right these should not feel like your average Emerilware knife. There is no reason precision machining as opposed to mass production machining can't produce a blade of exceptional quality. I've seen a number of fine chefs using what look like "flat knives" but are more than likely quite fine instruments.

I'm going to try to see some of these at a trade show. He displays his craft around the country.
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Old 04-05-2006, 09:39 PM   #9
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I wasn't criticizing his product. There is no reason why a stamped knife can't be of the same quality steel as a forged one.

My comments were only about the weight and weight distribution of the two types of knives and the writer's attacking forged knives (to promote his stamped knives). I can't imagine that old line manufacturers of quality knives such as Wusthof and Henckels choose to make knives of inferior quality.

I've read a number of different comments about stamped knives and their being top quality.
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Old 04-08-2006, 12:16 AM   #10
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Neither.

One word: Ceramic. The only place a metal blade has in my kitchen is for cutting through bone or opening tuna cans.

(OK so that was like...twenty words. But the point is the same)
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