When shopping for kitchen knives, you’ll notice brands using the terms “forged” and “stamped” in their advertising.
What do these terms mean? Which style of knife is better? Does it make a difference?
In this comparison of forged vs. stamped kitchen knives, I answer all of these questions and more.
You’ll get a complete breakdown of the key differences between forged and stamped knives. You’ll also learn the most important factors to consider when deciding which type to buy.
So, if you aren’t sure whether forged or stamped knives are best and need all the facts before deciding, keep reading.
Use the links below to navigate the comparison:
- What Is a Forged Knife?
- What Is a Stamped Knife?
- Forged vs. Stamped Knives: Comparison Chart
- Differences Between Forged and Stamped Knives
- Bottom Line: Are Forged Knives Better Than Stamped Knives?
What Is a Forged Knife?
It’s important to understand that the terms forged and stamped refer to the manufacturing process of the knife’s blade.
And how the blade is manufactured has a significant impact on the end result — including the sharpness, edge retention, thickness, weight, price, and more.
A forged knife begins as a single bar of steel. It’s an intensive process to go from that bar to a beautifully-crafted forged knife and takes the knowledge of skilled craftspeople.
Some smaller kitchen knife makers still make forged knives by hand, but high demand has forced larger companies to scale production. To do this, a mix of robotic technology and hands-on influence is essential.
The basic steps in the forging process include:
- Computer-aided design for the knife mold
- Pre-cut bars of steel heated to extremely high temperatures
- Pressing red hot steel into shape
- Tempering the steel blades to set hardness
- Grinding to give the knife its sharp edge
- Thoroughly cleaning, polishing, and inspecting
- Handle attachment, as well as finishing for the bolster and tang
- Sharpening to a pre-set angle and final inspection
The forging process is extensive, labor-intensive, and requires a mix of skilled craftsmanship and technology.
For example, Wüsthof, a respected brand in the knifemaking industry, follows a 40-step process with multiple quality checks to make each forged knife. To put that into perspective, it takes only 14 steps for Wüsthof’s laser-stamped knives.
Furthermore, the forging process requires furnaces heated to at least 2000°F to make the metal alloy pliable enough to shape.
Modern forging requires special equipment and robotics throughout the forging and tempering process, but there was a time when knives were mainly forged by hand.
The method, known as hot-drop forging, is still used by some knife manufacturers today. Instead of robotics and molds, skilled artisans pound the red hot metal into the knife shape, swing by swing.
Whether by traditional methods or by modern forging, the process creates exceptionally durable knives — more so than stamped knives.
But these extra steps are well worth the effort. In general, a forged knife has a thicker blade, more heft, holds its edge, and offers greater durability. The main downside — all that extra labor comes with a higher price.
Check out this quick video for a behind-the-scenes look at how forged knives are made.
What Is a Stamped Knife?
Instead of starting from a single bar of steel, stamped knives typically begin as a large sheet of steel. The blades are stamped (or laser-cut) from the sheet, similar to a cookie cutter on a sheet of dough.
This process makes it easier and more economical to mass-produce kitchen knives. And, because of this, stamping is the manufacturing method of choice for producing affordable kitchen knives.
To make a stamped knife:
- The knife design is programmed into a machine
- Large sheets of metal are placed into a cutter
- The stamped knives are cut out (stamped) from a large sheet of metal
- The knives are then tempered.
- Next, they are honed to increase the blade’s strength and durability
- The blades are sharpened, and handles attached
- Knives are cleaned and inspected to ensure quality before being packaged for sale
Stamped blades are thinner and more flexible than forged blades. The simplified, machine-led manufacturing process allows companies to produce knives at a much lower cost, resulting in more affordable options.
See the making of a stamped knife in this quick video.
Forged vs. Stamped Kitchen Knives: Comparison Chart
|Forged Knives||Stamped Knives|
|Manufacturing Process||Heat molded and tempered||Laser-cut and tempered|
|Blade Thickness||Thicker profile||Thinner profile|
|Bolster||Yes, half of full bolster||No bolster|
|Tang||Full-tang, half-tang, or partial tang||Half tang or partial tang|
|Sharpness||Very sharp||Very sharp|
|Edge Retention||Holds edge well||Loses edge faster|
|Ease of Sharpening||Easier||Harder|
|Price (skip to price comparison chart)||$$$$||$$|
Differences Between Forged and Stamped Knives
Now that you know how forged and stamped knives are made, let’s review the key differences.
Forged knife blades are thicker than stamped. That is because they start with a block of a metal alloy. Stamped knives are punched out from thin sheets of metal.
Forged knives vary in thickness from butt to tip. The blades tend to be thicker along the spine and thinner toward the tip. The thickest part of the knife is the handle, from the butt to the bolster.
Alternatively, stamping produces a blade and handle with uniform thickness.
The thickness of a forged blade makes it durable but also creates stability when cutting. The blade’s thickness, combined with the weight, makes it easier to “rock” chop or push cut through thick meats and vegetables.
The bolster is the thick piece of metal that rests between the blade and the handle. It serves two purposes. It strengthens the knife and acts as a finger guard to prevent slipping.
The majority of high-quality forged knives have some type of bolster. The main options are full bolster, half bolster, or semi-bolster.
Full bolsters are thicker and longer, providing extra protection, but it takes away a portion of the cutting edge. With full bolsters, like on the Wüsthof Classic collection, you can’t sharpen the entire edge because the steel is too thick at the heel.
Half or semi-bolsters, like on Wüsthof Ikon knives, are shorter and don’t provide as much protection, but they allow you to sharpen the entire edge with ease.
Since stamped knives are cut from a sheet of steel with uniform thickness, they typically don’t feature a bolster.
Both forged and stamped knives can have a full-tang handle. However, it’s less common in stamped knives.
A tang is the part of the blade that extends into the handle. If the blade extends through the butt, it’s known as full-tang. If it only goes halfway or through the handle, it’s called half-tang or partial tang.
The more tang, the more strength and balance a knife has. The tang makes it harder for the blade to be detached from the handle — a built-in safety feature.
Most forged knives are full-tang, while most stamped knives are partial tang.
Tang also adds to a knife’s weight. A full-tang knife can get cumbersome after extended use. That is why for some knife work, home chefs reach for a stamped blade. Its lightweight nature is appealing, but, depending on the task, it can feel unbalanced in your hand.
Balance is essential when preparing food, so it makes sense to use a knife with good heft but not so heavy that you find yourself with aching hands after a few minutes of chopping.
Several factors contribute to its weight with a forged knife, including blade thickness, bolster, tang style, and handle material.
Overall, stamped knives are lighter than forged knives because they don’t include a bolster, aren’t made from thick blocks of metal, and usually feature a partial tang.
Comfort and function matter, so finding a knife with just the right weight for your cutting tasks is essential. A heavier knife is helpful when cutting thick foods like spaghetti squash or pineapple. But a lightweight and more nimble knife is better for prepping less dense foods like onions or mushrooms.
Compare weights of popular forged and stamped knives in the following chart. It will give you an idea of what to expect when you use either type:
|Wüsthof Classic 8-inch Chef’s Knife||8.5 oz.||Forged|
|Wüsthof Gourmet 8-Inch Chef’s Knife||6.25 oz.||Stamped|
|Shun Sora 8-inch Chef’s Knife||6.8 oz.||Forged|
|Global Classic 8-inch Chef’s Knife||5.5 oz.||Stamped|
|Shun Kaji Western 8-inch Chef’s Knife||8.9 oz.||Forged|
|Zwilling Gourmet 8-inch Chef’s Knife||6.2 oz.||Stamped|
|Zwilling Pro 8-inch Chef’s Knife||12.8 oz.||Forged|
Forged blades are rigid. For most tasks, such as chopping vegetables, cutting meats, and mincing herbs, you want a stiff, controllable knife.
Stiffer blades are also easier to sharpen, especially if you’re using a whetstone.
Stamped blades are less rigid and provide more “give” as you work. When boning, filleting, or making sushi (delicate knifework), stamped blades can be a better choice because of their flexibility.
When it comes to sharpness, forged and stamped blades can boast equally sharp edges. The smaller the angle, the sharper the edge. The edge angle per side ranges between 10 and 20 degrees, with an average of around 16.
Smaller edge angles are excellent for cutting very soft foods but are also more likely to chip or get damaged if you place heavy demands on them. In general, knives with an edge angle of at least 15 degrees per side are more durable and tend to hold their edge longer than those with edge angles less than 15.
Forged knives are suited for heavy-duty chopping and slicing using push and rocking motions. They act as a wedge since the blade increases in thickness as the edge cuts through and the food slides up.
Stamped knives are suitable for light chopping and delicate slicing, especially when you desire extremely thin, precision-cuts. The uniform thickness of the blade does not push against cut food.
Forged and stamped knives can be equally sharp out of the box. The difference is in how well they hold their edges.
In general, forged knives hold their edges longer than stamped knives. In other words, all else equal, you need to sharpen a stamped knife more often than a forged knife.
Why? Because the forging process, specifically the extreme heat followed by tempering, results in an incredibly hard blade, and hard blades hold their edge longer than softer blades.
Ease of Sharpening
Manual sharpening requires a rigid blade, which makes forged knives easier to sharpen. Since stamped blades have a little more flex, they can be more challenging to sharpen manually.
If you’re using an electric sharpener, it doesn’t matter if the blade is forged or stamped.
Forged knives are more expensive than stamped knives because they require a more detailed process to produce. Also, forged blades are thicker, therefore, require more raw material to make.
Of course, many factors also drive prices, such as the brand, the type of metal alloy (high carbon steel tends to be more expensive), knife construction, and the country where it is produced.
To get a better idea of the prices of forged and stamped knives, check out the chart below:
|Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Stamped)||Amazon|
|Victorinox Swiss Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Stamped)||Amazon|
|Global Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Stamped)||Amazon|
|Wusthof Gourmet 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Stamped)||Amazon|
|Chicago Cutlery Essentials 8-Inch Chef Knife (Stamped)||Amazon|
|Henckels Solution 8-Inch Chef Knife (Stamped)||Amazon|
|Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Forged)||Amazon|
|Mercer Renaissance 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Forged)||Amazon|
|Wusthof Classic Ikon 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Forged)||Amazon|
|Wusthof Epicure 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Forged)||Amazon|
|Zwilling Professional "S" 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Forged)||Amazon|
|Zwilling Pro 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Forged)||Amazon|
|Miyabi Birchwood 8-Inch Chef's Knife (Forged)||Amazon|
Bottom Line: Are Forged Knives Better Than Stamped Knives?
Now that you understand the key differences between forged and stamped knives, it’s time to decide which type is right for your kitchen.
Before I make my recommendation, let’s recap the differences between forged and stamped knives.
Manufacturing Process: It takes more resources and processes to create a forged knife. Stamped knives are cheaper to mass-produce.
Construction: Stamped blades, at a minimum, consist of a thin blade and handle. A forged knife has thicker steel, a bolster, and is often full-tang. All of these factors contribute to the balance and durability of the knife.
Weight: Forged knives are heavier than stamped blades. The added heft is a plus in terms of stability and functionality but can become cumbersome when prepping lots of food.
Flexibility: Forged knives do not bend, increasing their durability. Yet if you have delicate knife tasks, such as deboning fish, a little flexibility makes it easier. Stamped knives are much more flexible.
Sharpness and Edge Retention: Both forged and stamped knives can be incredibly sharp, but forged knives hold their edge longer.
Ease of Sharpening: If using an electric sharpener, both are easy to sharpen. If sharpening manually, forged is your choice.
Price: Forged knives are usually more expensive than stamped.
There’s a perception that stamped knives are inferior, but that’s not always true. Technology has come a long way in the design of stamped knives. For example, stamped knives from brands such as Global, Wüsthof (Gourmet collection), and Misen are high quality, incredibly durable, and perform similarly, or better, than many forged knives.
In fact, stamped knives are often preferred in high-volume professional kitchens due to their lightweight construction and cost-effective pricing. One of the most popular stamped knives among pro chefs is the Victorinox Fibrox (check out my Victorinox knife review to learn more).
Still, I recommend home cooks invest in forged knives. Yes, forged knives can be pricey, but the cost becomes less of a factor when you consider their longevity (years) and how much use you’ll get out of them.
Compared to stamped knives, forged knives are usually made from higher-quality materials and perform better in the kitchen via superior strength, balance, durability, and edge retention.
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