"forged" knives outdated?

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by hipjoint, Feb 6, 2005.

  1. hipjoint

    hipjoint

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    i may be stepping on some toes with this subject, but i am going out on a limb here and will state in writing ... i think that the traditional "forged"
    knife is outdated.

    outdated ... old school ... passe.

    in a multitude of websites and many threads in this website, when a person
    asks for advice for buying a "good" knife, the usual answer will include looking for such features as "forged blade", heavy bolster "for balance and safety", and "full tang construction". these qualities will usually have the writer/advice giver giving the nod to the traditional wustof and henkles style knives, and make you feel that if you buy one of these knives, you have purchased the "ultimate".

    i say "baloney".

    if you have already bought these knives and like them, good for you. but there are reasons why i believe as i do.

    cook's illustrated has time and again chosen forschner's fibrox knives as strong contenders against the traditional german stuff. these knives are not forged, have no bolsters, and do not have full tang construction. i have always wondered why their fibrox knives were so much cheaper than the
    wood handle ones, and it is because the metal in a fibrox knife only goes thru 1/3 of the fibrox handle!! how did i know?? i cut one open and looked!!

    in their recent ratings of santoku knives, the clear winner was the MAC superior santoku. this knife was rated (along with the shun) as sharpest
    of those tested and guess what ... stamped blade with no bolster.

    moreover ... henkles four star, wustof culinar, global anything, kai bonvivant,
    the outstanding brieto knives, the impressive $1175.00 aritsugu sashimi knife, or even the incredible $2890.00 masamoto sohonten sushi knife ... not a full tang in sight!

    even wustof, the knife most refered to when mentioning a full bolster knife,
    totally surprised me when they introduced their "cordon bleu" line of knives with only a partial bolster!

    you may be surprised at how many knives with a partial bolster look (usually a sign of being a forged knife) are in reality, "stamped" knives with the partial bolster welded on and polished down to "look" like a one piece unit!

    with modern manufacturing techniques where a blade is laser cut from a flat sheet of high quality steel then ground to taper and shape, the blades end up sharper and straighter than forged knives. (when i went to a local knife shop the other day, i looked into their backstock and noticed that over 75%
    of their forged knives were either bent, curved, wavy, or twisted, and i had looked at something like 120 knives! needless to say, it is reeeeally hard to cut a straight line with a crooked edge.)

    what to look for in a knife? how about sharp edge, straight blade, and comfortable handle securely attached to the blade. let's not worry so much about forged blades, full bolsters, and full tang construction.
     
  2. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    "...but WAIT, there's more!" And now a word from our sponsors.
     
  3. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    All I can say is Cook's Illustrated testers don't know what knives are used for. I've used stamped knives in the kitchen a lot. Many kitchens rent knives which get replaced with freshly sharpened ones either weekly or biweekly. Most of the time these are either Dexters or Forschners. All I can say from experience is, my forged knives work much better. For little things, yeah, but when you need to go through a case of celery, the forged knife works much better.

    Hacking through bones is another area where forged knives work very well. The heavy heel adds support and makes frenching legbones and chicken wings a lot easier. And what about the back of the blade? The back of the blade is used for cleaning lamb racks and sweeping off the cutting board.

    Nevertheless, I can do almost anything with a cheap chinese cleaver so, what's the big deal eh?
     
  4. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    I think forging is of no particular benefit in and of itself. What matters is the steel type, it's quality, tempering and design. Knives of equal quality can be made in stamped (more accurately a stock removal process) or forging.

    As to what knives are called forged today, well, modern production forging is not what you think it is. The knife is still "stamped"--really a blank cutting process. Cheap knives will be cut by stamping. Better knives by laser or other CNC techniques but they still fall into the "stamping" category.

    Knives that are cut by true stamping require steels that work well for this method. Generally, these are less costly steels with lower additive percentages. To my knowledge 12C27, a swedish stainless steel designed expressly for knives, is the pinnacle of a stampable steel. I own a couple of pocket knives in this steel and they are on a par with my Wusthofs in their edge holding and such. At least when properly tempered.

    Production forging takes a blade cut from a "stamping" method and then mechanically-not humanly-pounding them at a moderate temperature. In true hand forging, this would be a shaping process but it isn't in the production forged knives as the shaping happened during stamping.

    In both cases, the pounding CAN improve the grain structure of the steel. It really depends on the quality of the steel in the first place to whether it's actually useful. Modern powder/sintered steels can be of equal or better quality without any additional working.

    Both of forged knives and stamped knives are given bevels and any tapering in a grinding process, usually automated processes.

    Both can make good blades, but neither method is automatically better than the other.

    Even lesser steels by modern standards can be made quite good when given excellent tempering. For example A2 is a venerable carbon steel. It has fallen out of general favor in comparison to 1095, or 01. Yet with good tempering such as Mike Stewart knows how to do, I prefer it to those other carbon steels. Paul Bos can bake 420 steel to a tolerable knife when the steel itself is basically capable of only ornamental functions. It won't compare to even average BG42 in it's performance but temper is an often overlooked aspect of a knive's capability.

    In Production Knives, a forged knife is a stamped knife. The differences in brands of knives arises from other issues than stamping/forging.

    Even in hand made knives, forging vs stock removal is not a particular issue in final quality.

    Phil
     
  5. dano1

    dano1

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    Funny, thats usually the first thing i grab out of the block or kit. Never spent more than 10-15bucks on em **** on chicken ;).

    danny
     
  6. d_r_sharpening

    d_r_sharpening

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    What to look for in a knife?

    1. Feel/Balance

    2. Heat Treat/Rc value

    3. Steel Type

    4. Half (or no) Bolsters

    5. Price


    --Dave M.--
     
  7. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    Why purchase a Lamborghini just to drive around the block?
     
  8. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    I love Chinese cleavers and at $10-15 dollars you can't go wrong, but they were never designed to take a beating that comes with working in a professional kitchen. I usually figure my chinese cleavers will last me about a year or so while I have Wustofs that I have owned for the past 10 years.
     
  9. ma facon

    ma facon

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    Why purchase a Lamborghini just to drive around the block? Have you ever driven one ? That drive around the block lasts all day just like the forged knives will go all day. Although a knife is a personal item so to each her/his own. I use a chinese clever at home and F. DICK knives at work. :chef:
     
  10. dano1

    dano1

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    A couple of my cleavers would beg to differ ;). i've got one with a bamboo handle, the "tang" so to speak was bent over the grip at the end-high quality stuff and going on 10 years old :). I've spent some time in Chinese kitchens and would be surprised if there was a knife over $15 in the joints.

    Great thing is they are so cheap no one wants to touch em, let alone lift em. And they're not suited for prying open 10's and mustard cans, etc...

    Of course, every tool has it's purpose and am not advocating nor denigrating any knife. For fine work i grab a chefs Sabatier or Wustof, For chopping veg/potatoes, hacking bones, the cleaver comes out, and so on.

    No flames, just what works for me.
     
  11. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    When buying knives I use the same parameters that I use for buying shoes. Number 1 does it fit and feel good? Number 2, for the functions and conditions it is being considered, how well will it perform? Any considerations beyond that are ludicrous.

    " traditional "forged" knife is outdated...outdated ... old school ... passe."

    Not an important consideration to me.
     
  12. hipjoint

    hipjoint

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    ===== i find it odd that you would say a chinese cleaver can't take a
    beating that comes with working in a professional kitchen ... so all those
    chinese restaurants all over the world aren't professional????? heck, that's
    about all you find in a chinese kitchen!!
    chef spenser o'mera of the paragon restaurant chain once told me that his
    globals last him only four years, his german knives even less. his reasoning was that the thicker german blades can be ground down only so far before they are so thick they no longer "sharp". the thinner asian blades can be sharpened for a longer time and still remain thin enough for sharpness.
     
  13. dano1

    dano1

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    a double bevel does wonders on them thicker blades.....
     
  14. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    The thing with the bolster is it turns the knife into sort of an impact wrench. The weight helps you with the downward motion so you use less energy.
     
  15. hipjoint

    hipjoint

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    so does the extra weight found in a double wide chinese chef's knife/cleaver.
    (double wide as in they are twice as wide as a regular chef's knife). of course, a chinese chef's knife has no bolster ... never had, never will ... and
    of course, all that weight "out there" will never give you a knife that is "balanced". so much for bolsters, full tangs, and balance being essential
    for a good knife.
     
  16. mikeb

    mikeb

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    IMO the old school heavy german style knives are definitely outdated. I prefer Japanese style knives - most of the good ones still are forged, but without the heavy bolster and have much thinner blades. Right now I have a Kasumi chef knife, cuts much better than any German knife I've used... (and it's pretty low end compared to some of the Japanese knives I've seen)
     
  17. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    But when it comes to slicing bacon off of the slab (skin on), how well do the glorious Japanese knives perform compared to a heavy Henckles 12-inch blade chef's knife?

    :bounce:
     
  18. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, call me outdated then, because I love my German knives. Yes, I own and have owned a number of chinese cleavers and have used those "santoku" style knives, but 90% of the time I reach for my trusty Wustof 8" chef's knife. And I will continue to sing their praises, outdated or not.
     
  19. hipjoint

    hipjoint

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    the yanagi (pointed sashimi knife) or the takohiki (square ended
    "octopus cutting knife") are both GREAT at slicing bacon from a
    slab!! the flat side of the knife makes very very straight slices
    and the bevelled edge "pushes" the slice aside. of course, slab
    bacon slices best when the slab is chilled so that the fat is firm
    but not hard.
     
  20. kokopuffs

    kokopuffs

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    What about cutting thru the hard skin, how well do they perform?