forged knives vs stock removal

Aug 18, 1999
Every once in awhile I will read in some article (usually written by well-respected knife people) that forged blades are vastly superior to knives made by stock removal. What are your thoughts on this?


I get some pleasure from finding a relentlessly peaceful use for a combative looking knife.
I've seen the same. I'm not sure that you can generalize in such a fashion. I suspect you can find excellent stock removal and forged blades from many makers and you would be hard pressed to tell the better. I think you can selectively harden/temper both. Both have long histories and many success to point at. Maybe forging is "sexier?"
First let me say that I have never made a blade and I am by no means an expert.

Im not sure if I would say VASTLY superior. However I see two possible advantages with forging a blade.

First, forged blades often feature differential tempering/zone hardening. Zone hardening requires that you heat the metal which is easy enough if you've already got the forge going. I suppose you could make the blade by stock removal and then harden it in a forge but I've never seen it done.

Second. When forging a blade you have more ability to make blades with interesting cross sections. With stock removal the cross section is limited by the size of stock you start with.

Also I think there is a little bit of class/charm/karma/etc with a forged blade. Maybe Im old fashioned.
I think there is a little truth to the statement due to one simple reason. When forging, you can drive impurities out of the steel and you can affect the grain and make it a little finer and more uniform when forging. You can selectively temper any blade, forged or stock removal. I use the stock removal and have made a few nice blades with the method. Forged blades are generally more elaborate, ie damascus, but you can buy damascus bar stock now.Forged blades are almost always differentially treated, whereas stock removal method knives can be selectively hardened or not, depending on the material. Air hardening steels don't selectively temper too well form what I have heard. hope this helps!
Most blanket generalizations tend to be untrue. I think you can certainly make very interesting knives through forging, especially if you progress into domascus pattern welded blades. Stock removal knives tend to be fairly standard, the shape is somewhat determined by a standard grinding wheel. But, as for whether they are better, standard bar stock is currently manufactured to very high standards. There is little need for anyone to alter the composition of the blank.

If I understand what I've read here on the forum and in various knife magazines, the multiple heating involved in forging blades has a good deal to do with enhancing the qualities of the blade. Cold Steel's statement on heat treating Carbon V indicates that it goes through several cycles, and it's darned good steel. Marble's also uses a sophisticated, multiple heat treat including cryogenic freezing, and its 52100 blades (at least judging by my Fieldcraft) are fantastic! Just my two bits Canadian (that's two cents in US currency).
My perspective as an uneducated dink...

Forging is better than stock removal. Why? No REAL reason, I just like the idea more. I like the idea of moving metal around instead of cutting it away. Does this mean a difference in performance? Naw. Less wasted material though, which is something that appeals to me.

I think a lot of the "performance" comes from thermal cycles...and sometimes (though not a rule) forgers who have a lot of experience learn a lot about taking advantage of the thermal effects on the blade while forging...control and all that. Doesn't necessarily mean a forged blade will be any superior to a ground one...if the ground one has good heat treatment it will turn out good.

I think process isn't nearly as important as the proficiency of the person who's doing the process.

i agree...the heat treating makes or breaks a blade, pun intended!
The HT makes the blade, not the method of the blade making or shaping. Forging isn't as wasteful as stock removal and requires more skill, i think. Plus it helps out with the grains tructure and you can make damascus what YOU want thru forging. i like damascus!
Many steels are not suited to forging by virtue of their element content, these steels are best when the stock removal methods is used. I believe steels that benifit from forging, should be. Strength and grain structure play a vital role in blades, here are a couple of examples....


Both of these pics show how forging to shape will force the grain within steel to follow the desired paths, creating a stonger end product.

Ed Caffrey "The Montana Bladesmith"
ABS Mastersmith
And I also believe what the forgers say about the grain of the steel being "packed" making the grain structure smaller than the original piece of steel.
Smaller grain structure makes for a potentially sharper
And along with the grain following the curves of the blade makes for a potentially sharper knife all along the edge with better edge
The heat treat plays a very major part of whether the knife is going to be all it can be in terms of strength and toughness.
Multiple quenches in bringing the knife to optimum hardness counts for a lot as well.
I believe the bottom line is the heat treat whichever method is used.


Each person's work is always a portrait of himself.

---- Samuel Butler.

Khukuri FAQ
Himalayan Imports Website
Forged knives seem much "cooler" to me. Even though I know it is not true, in the back of my mind I always think "I could grind A blade out of a bar of steel". I never even fantasize that I could forge though. Like someone said earlier, it seems forged knives are "sexier". The above statements are true to the best of my knowledge.

AKTI# A000991
What's the best folk dance for my monkey?
Most of my knives are forged. But I am buying some stock removal pieces from time to time as well. I started a couple of threads last year to see what folks would say about this. I got a few really good responses in a troll thread I posted in the custom forum: Forged knives are better than stock removal knives.

I no longer believe this statement is accurate, or even fair. As Ed Caffrey notes above, some steels (particularly stainless steels) are not good candidates for forging. But they still make great functional knives. Nobody will tell you that 420V is a poorer blade material than just about any forgable carbon steel, but 420V is impossible to forge (the reasons for that are very interesting). The functional properties of the blade are mostly determined in the heat treatment for any blade steel. Forged knife makers seem to often take a greater interest in this process than stock removal makers. But that is not always the case

I am now more interested in the question: Does differential temper make a better knife?

Some makers like ABS Mastersmith PJ Tomes and Al Pendray make forged blades of 52100 and pay meticulous attention to the heat treatment (and the cold treatment), but do not normally differentially temper blades. PJ explained that he thinks nobody needs to actually bend a knife according the the ABS requirements in the real world. He makes smaller knives 'all-hard', that is, with no differential temper. He believes his heat treatment method makes a better knife than differential tempering. Interesting huh?

Anyway, I still like forged and differentially tempered knives. I think a little more of the knifemaker's soul goes into these pieces, but I don't think I could devise a scientific test that would appropriately reveal this quality. Another thread I started on this issue is Knife Making: Science or Mysticism

Paracelsus, wondering around the Universe

[This message has been edited by Paracelsus (edited 11-16-2000).]
Ed Caffrey:

forging to shape will force the grain within steel to follow the desired paths, creating a stonger end product

Ed, have you ever tested similar blades side by side to estimate the magnitude of this difference in strength? I wonder though, on a stock removal blade, would you get similar grain alignment during the heat treat process which takes place after the shaping?


This is a tough one. If one could make a side-by-side comparison of two knives, one forged and one ground, by the same maker of precisely similar materials, made under perfectly similar conditions and to exaclty identical standards then an empirical study could be done.

Users and collectors simply have different affinities. Some have more affinity or admiration for one type of craftsmanship over the other, which is usually the impetus for these kinds of comments. A good deal of it is elitism, as well, I think,

In my opinion, it seems that "vastly superior" is an inappropriate adjective. I would suggest, "measurably," "moderately," or perhaps even "significantly" superior. But not vastly.

I am sure better thinkers than I will continue to weigh in on this.
I have two forged Randalls and various stock removal, but expensive, Bowies. It has been my subjective experience that the Randalls perform much better than the others, even if the prices were comparable. The CS Trailmaster in Carbon V comes to mind. They seem to list in close proximity to one another, but my 6" Hunter's Bowie will outperform my Trailmaster three ways to Sunday, and I hardly ever have used the latter, while I have used the former extensively. I favor forging.

Walk in the Light,
Hugh Fuller
The forged blade is far superior..... if you think it is. I learned to make knives using the stock removal process. For me, that was all there was because it was all I knew. After learning to forge, I realized what I'd been missing all that time.

I don't think there should be any problem distinguishing between the two. With stock removal, you are limited to the dimensions of the stock you start with. And you have to be careful, because you can always take some off, but you can't put it back on. What happens to all that steel dust anyway?? Hmmmm......

With forging, on the other hand, your only limitations are your imgination and materials you happen to be working with. You use less stock to make the same knife. Is it better physically than the same knife using stock removal? And the same heat treatment process? Who knows. I sure don't. All I know is that I prefer a forged blade because it pleases me more. It's all in your head.

One isn't better than the other. They're both great. Which one do you want? That's entirely up to you.


"It's better to be thought a fool and remain silent, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt"
Good thoughts guys, personally I prefer forging my knives. It is just quicker to forge a blade from round 5160(coil springs) then buying a billet of steel and waste time profiling it. Forging opens up so many options.
From my experience, I don't know how true the statement is about making a smaller grain structure is. If you normalize and heat treat properly, shouldn't a stock removal knife perform just as well?
The cool thing about forging is that it is cheap! Make some charcoal in the backyard, Get a hunk of railroad track and set up a forge...there you have it! Steel is easy to get because most junk yards will give away leaf springs.I am now coverting to propane but I have made many excellent knives in my coal forge.
Stock removal works excellent also. On most forged blades now, the maker will forge 70% of the knife and then grind 30% of it. So it is kinda the same as stock removal but not.Obviously stock removal works because Busses are ground by hand and then heat treated and spank most all knives out there.
your friend
I agree with the ideas Robert Marotz,
bteel and Max The Knife, I love forged knives and I swear they feel and work better Buutttt .... I think what I dig the most is the idea of a Blacksmith Dude banging on hot steel with a hammer. Sooooo ... I have often wondered how much is Real Performance and how much is my mind not allowing me to think anything but good thoughts. Oh Well ... You know what .. I dont want to know !! Forged is great ..... ummmmm ... Because ...... that's Why

Im sure glad though that Ed Caffrey posted that picture. Yea I was right It is Better


Updated 10/15/00

[This message has been edited by Boriqua (edited 11-16-2000).]
If I understand correctly what your asking, the answer is no. The only way to force the steel's grain "flow" to follow blade contours would be through forging. There is a change in grain structure during heat treating with all steels, but this refers more the the crystaline structure, rather than the acutal alignment of the grain.
I have done head to head tests with the same blades, one stock removal and one forged. Let's use the 52100 as an example. Eventhough both blades I tested were as close to the same as I could get them, with the same multiple quench, the stock removal blade failed to pass the 90 degree bend without the edge cracking/breaking. The soft portion of the spine held together, but the hardened portion of the edge did not. Compare this with the forged blade passing the 90 degree flex a total of 8 times before the edge cracked (more like fatigued in half), and although I cannot give you the scientific reasons, there is certainly something to it.

Ed Caffrey "The Montana Bladesmith"
ABS Mastersmith