This article will help you with the critical decision of whether you want forged blades or stamped blades for your kitchen knives. There’s a lot of misinformation when you’re shopping for a new set of knives and it can be really confusing when all you want to do is slice or dice in style while preparing your food.
The whole myth starts with the idea that forged sheets are inherently better than stamped sheets. The idea behind this is that the steel molecules in the forged blades align better and therefore give them much better cutting properties. The fact is, this used to be true, but it is no longer due to updated manufacturing processes. In the old days the only way to make steel was to forge it, now knife makers just go and buy the precast steel.
This is where the fundamental differences between kitchen knives begin to form. The forged blades are heated again, crushed in the shape of a knife, and then ground and sharpened. Stamped or machined sheets are cut or milled into a knife shape and then heat treated twice to align the steel frame. The first heat treatment begins at 1400-1900 degrees Fahrenheit, leaving the steel brittle but very hard. The second heat treatment hits the sheets at 400-700 degrees, reducing both brittleness and hardness, but in turn, the sheets are more durable.
As you can see, the manufacturing processes are just different, which leads to different knives. Forged sheets tend to be much softer than stamped or machined sheets, due to the lack of high heat treatment. The benefits of this are that it is much easier to sharpen at home, the knife will have a heavier feel and will have a reinforcement. The downsides are that it won’t be as sharp as a comparable stamped blade, and it won’t hold a comparable sharpness for as long. The Germans, who are the main manufacturers using the forged method, rectify this by sharpening at an angle of 22 degrees instead of the 16 degrees that most stamping manufacturers use.
The benefits and drawbacks of stamped or machined sheet are opposite to those of forged. You will have a much lighter knife with no reinforcement, unless it is welded, which is extremely sharp and durable. You may also find it more difficult to sharpen it at home.
In the end, it comes down to you, the consumer, and which knife fits you best. If you are cutting a lot of vegetables and heavy meats, you can find the German-forged Wusthof knives of your choice. On the other hand, if you cook a lot in the Asian style, the high-end stamped Global knives or Shun knives may suit you better.