The Stock removal Method....What is it?

Mar 12, 1999
Can someone define the stock removal method of knifemaking and how it differs from other methods?
Take a bar of steel and a belt grinder and go to town till you have a knife.Of course there is a hell of a lot more involved overall but this is pretty much it in a nutshell.
The two usual ways to make a knife blade are forging and stock removal.

Stock removal is the older method, going back at least 2.5 million years. You take a suitable rock and hammer or flake away everything that doesn't look like a knife. With modern steel, it means taking suitable bar stock from the mill and grinding away, with abrasive wheels or belts, everything that doesn't look like a knife. In the not-so-old days, without mass production rolling mill steel, so you can economically turn more than half of it into dust, and electricity to power the grinder, stock removal wasn't very efficient.

Forging is the older way to make a blade from iron or steel. In the days before consistent rolling mill bar stock and power grinders, you made a blade by heating and hammering iron and/or expensive steel from a low-tech furnace into a solid bar, and then heating and hammering it into the shape of a blade, and then doing a minimum amount of finish grinding.

Knife makers who do it with a hammer, even when they start with good bar stock, will tell you that, all else being equal, forging gives you better allignment of the grain, or otherwise makes the blade tougher and stronger and generally more vorpal. Dedicated removal people will tell you that bar stock from the mill is as flawless as steel will ever be, and hammering it can only create problems.

The argument goes on.

AKTI Member # SA00001
I believe it was our esteemed colleague, Mr. Cougar Alan, who mentioned in a previous post that steel barstock is cold rolled these days and thus the grain has already been as aligned as it's gonna get, and he's pretty much right.

As to banging scraps of steel or iron into a solid bar, that's been mostly a Japanese thing for the past 1,000-1,200 years now. You see, in Europe they were making homogenous crucible steels suitable for use in weapons since the 800's, maybe even the 600's.

When iron was first discoverd, there was no way to make a flame, or rather they didn't know how to at that time, that was hot enough to melt it from the ore. They obtained iron either from relatively clean iron meteorites, or from stony ores by heating them up and beating them down to remove the slag. Needless to say, that doesn't yield a quality product.

All else being equal, I'd just as soon dropforge a knife into it's rough dimensions with a die and big ass powerhammer and then just clean it up with a buffing wheel or a little light grinding here and there.

This isn't because I think that the dropforging will make it a better blade, though you'd only have to heat and smack it once which means you lose less carbon, it's just that dropforging is a new and economical manufacturing process that will save me labor and thusly allow me to sell my product for less.

Oh yeah, the more you heat and beat steel, the more carbon you're gonna lose and the more oxygen and such you'll gain from the atmosphere. In fact, because you lose carbon with heating and beating this was an important step in early steelmaking to reduce the carbon content to desired levels.

To add yet another level of complexity to the manufacturing of edged weaponry, in 19th century Western nations it wasn't uncommon to cold roll sword and knives to rough shape and then finish them with some grinding. Large waterwheels were used to supply the force needed, I think some steam turbines were used later on, I know Ford used'em, but he made cars...
I won't comment on the relative virtues of the finished blade from both methods. the last time I did that, I was (regarding forging) merely speaking from what I had read and learned from folks, and Mr. Ralph "called" me on it. As one of the few makers with years of experience using both techniques, he was right to do so, and is one of our best resources on the subject.

I will say a couple of things about the process and the people who do each, though. All bladesmiths must also perform stock-removal to finish the piece. The reverse is not true - I make knives by stock removal but can't even hammer a nail very well. Nearly all bladesmiths do their own heat-treatment (simple carbon steels), while few stock removal makers do (complex stainless alloys). And nearly every bladesmith (especially if an ABS member) tests blades extensively as part of learning the whole process, while it is possible to make hundreds of stock removal knives and never test a single one. This all adds up to a greater repertoire of skills and (I feel) greater functional mindset among bladesmiths than stock removal folks. Like any stereotype, you can't expect to apply that to individuals, it's merely a statement about the group as a whole. I have a lot of respect for folks who take a hammer to the steel, though I know that you can make a fine knife just by grinding. Some day I hope to have experience in both methods, though I only do stock removal right now.

In the end, the knife is all that matters. But I think that you can often tell a stock-removal maker's knives from a smith's, and the differences in each approach are fascinating.

-Drew Gleason
Little Bear Knives
It's responses like the ones from the guys above that make coming to this forum such a genuine pleasure; what a fantastic learning experience. Simply marvelous; thanks guys.

[This message has been edited by Jumbi (edited 05 August 1999).]
Cordoroy's post above takes the right approach to my mind -- there are differences between most forged blades and most stock-removal blades. That means nothing when you're buying, because you're not choosing between a composite average of all forged blades and a composite average of all stock-removal blades.

This is a recurrent flame war, and in every iteration of it some forgers or forged-knife buffs come on and argue forged blades are better because they have tapered tangs and distal taper and they're made of real steel.... It's easy to prove hand-made forged knives are superior to mass-produced stainless factory junk. Or course that has nothing to do with the question.

The other argument plays on the advantages of forged parts over cast parts, claiming forging compacts the grain of the steel -- again, irrelevant (except to the dendritic cast knives).

Forging in the early stages of making a knife is a faster more convenient way of doing it, if you're set up for it and don't have neighbors to complain about the noise, and if you're using a suitable steel for forging (and those steels generally are superior for most purposes anyway IMHO; few knife applications really call for corrosion resistance).

Not all forgers claim forging produces a superior knife; many of them don't claim that at all.

Don't confuse "forged" with "pattern-welded." Many knives are forged of crucible steel and these days quite a few pattern-welded blades are made by stock-removal from bought bar stock.

-Cougar Allen :{)
Cougar, now that you're here, I just want to say that I hope I didn't misqoute/paraphrase you.
I sense that school is out

Thanks all
mr jumbi...please dont take it personally.. its just my sick sense of humor....and my constant obcessing on guns!!!! didnt spell that right did i....have fun...tom


Are there any forgers who claim their folding knives are smoother to open?

Stock removal blades can be made PERFECT.

Like throught the use of CNC machinery, and CAD/CAM computer programs.

!!! Loca Grande !!!
Nothing is ever perfect. Every time someone tells me so-an-so's knives are "perfect" I think "you aren't looking hard enough." If they tell me that my knives are "perfect," that's even worse, because I know dozens of little ways they're not. The key is to make knives to higher standards than your critics judge them by. If anyone made "perfect" knives I don't imagine they'd enjoy doing it anymore.

As for smooth action, all that requires is as smooth and round a hole as possible, and two surfaces that are as flat and parallel as possible. That's not something you need CNC machinery to do. Remember, bladesmiths do (or may do) everything a stock-removal maker does. They just add a step where they whack the knife with a hammer. You could even forge a blade to rough shape and then machine parts of it, provided you could hold it down properly. I'll concede that stock removal folks seem more inclined to machining and precise, geometric shapes while smiths favor organic shapes with less emphasis on making each piece identical, but again I am generalizing.