Why fully forged knives are 100% worth the price tag.
If you’ve shopped for knives before, you’ve probably seen brands proudly advertise their knives as “fully forged,” which means they’re constructed from a single rod of steel. When it comes to investing in any type of knife, we almost always recommend buying fully forged knives over the alternative, which is knives stamped from a single sheet of steel (also known as “stamped knives”). But what exactly is the difference? Moreover, how exactly does the forging process justify the higher price tag?
Read on for an in-depth look at the forging process itself and how it produces a stronger, more durable knife.
A fully forged knife starts with a single rod of steel, which is then placed on a furnace until it’s red-hot and soft enough to be pounded flat. This pounding process, combined with additional steps like quenching and tempering (part of a multi-step process called “heat treating”), strengthens and hardens the metal of the knife.
The result is a knife composed of a single rod of steel that extends from the tip of the blade through the butt of the handle. This means you’ll have a well-balanced knife with no weak spots and a solid weight that feels comfortable in your hand. The bladesmith will also typically include a bolster—i.e.. a junction point that connects the blade to the handle—which helps to balance the weight of the handle with the weight of the blade.
From balance to durability, here are some of the best reasons to invest in a fully forged knife.
Exceptional Balance and Weight Distribution
The process of heating and hammering a single rod of steel makes for a knife with a uniform weight throughout. Combined with a bolster and a full tang construction, forging makes for a knife with better balance and comfortable weight.
Because the metal of a knife that’s been fully forged will be harder than a knife that isn’t, it can get—and stay—extremely sharp. This makes for quicker, more accurate cuts without needing to sharpen the blade as frequently (though we do recommend regular honing).
A fully forged knife will typically have a bolster connecting the blade to the handle which helps to balance out the overall weight of the knife, so it’s not too heavy in the blade or the handle. It can also make for an easier grip and more comfortable handfeel, and minimizes the risk of your hand getting nicked on the edge of the blade.
Strength and Durability
Firing, pounding, and heat-treating steel helps to reinforce the bonds in the metal, leading to a stronger, less brittle product overall. This strength makes for a less flexible, stronger blade that will hold its edge for longer.
A fully forged knife will typically offer the heft and sharpness necessary for making powerful and precise knife cuts without too much effort. This makes it easier to break down hard vegetables, for example, or to slice tougher cuts of meat.
While we recommend a fully forged knife for pretty much any home cook, there are still a few key differences between forged and stamped knives that you should keep in mind when shopping.
Because fully forged knives are pretty much always made by hand, which is a time- and labor-intensive process, they typically come at a higher price tag. That said, we definitely see a fully-forged knife as worth the up-front investment and agree it will pay itself off time and time again.
Fully forged knives tend to be much less flexible than stamped knives. This is an advantage especially when it comes to tough cutting jobs like breaking down a whole kabocha or breaking down a chicken, but can be less so when it comes to delicate jobs like fileting fish—for this we recommend a flexible fish knife.
Because a fully forged blade is made from pure steel that’s been pounded into a thin, compact shape—and because they’re often full tang and include a bolster—these knives tend to be heavier than stamped knives, especially if you haven’t used one before. That being said, a properly forged knife should feel stable and balanced without making your hand tired.
A stamped knife is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a knife whose blade has been cut or “stamped” from a large sheet of metal—much like using a cookie cutter to make shapes out of dough—rather than being hammered from a rod of steel. Many manufacturers prefer this method because it’s easy to automate, and requires less time and labor than forged knives.
While they’re not our preferred type of knife, there are some benefits to buying stamped, including a relatively lighter weight and lower price point.
One of the main advantages that stamped knives have over forged knives is that they’re usually going to be much lighter. While this isn’t always a good thing—lighter can sometimes mean less stable—it can also be better for people with small hands or who have hand or wrist injuries.
Because stamped knives aren’t as hard as forged knives, they’re typically more flexible. While some cooks prefer a sturdier blade, as it makes for a knife that’s easier to control, a flexible blade can be advantageous if you prep a lot of whole fish: this makes it easier to debone, skin, and filet (though you might be better off buying a dedicated fishing knife set).
Because stamped knives are usually mass-produced rather than handmade, they tend to be much cheaper. For example, if you search for chef knives online, the cheapest ones will nearly all be stamped knives—though there will typically be variance in quality, so you should do a bit of research before selecting a stamped knife.
Like we’ve mentioned, there are a number of drawbacks to buying a stamped knife over a forged knife. Here are some of the most critical ones to consider.
The lack of a bolster—plus the fact that stamped knives are often not full tang—generally makes for a knife that’s less balanced throughout its length. This can make it unwieldy at best, and possibly even unsafe.
Lack of Bolster
While the forging process allows knifemakers to include a bolster when shaping the molten steel into a knife’s final shape, a stamped knife will never have a true bolster. This can add to the aforementioned lack of balance.
Because of the relative softness of unforged metal, stamped knives won’t hold an edge for as long as forged ones will—meaning that you’ll need to sharpen stamped knives a bit more often.
While there are plenty of decent-quality stamped knives out there, we’ll pretty much always recommend a fully forged knife over a stamped one. Stamped knives tend to be less balanced and strong, making for a less long-lasting edge and a more cumbersome experience overall.
While the price can be a drawback for some, fully forged knives more than make up for the investment with their increased strength, balance, and ability to hold a sharp edge for longer, resulting in less maintenance and care required over time.
Whether you’re shopping for your first kitchen knife or your tenth, any of our fully forged, full-tang Knives is an excellent place to start. Made in Thiers, France—aka, the knife-making capital of the world—these knives are precise, durable, and comfortable to hold, perfect for everyday tasks like prepping tons of restaurant-quality mise en place.