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What makes a "forged" blade?

Br80Sorenson

Gold Member
Joined
May 15, 2019
Messages
10
Hello fellow knifemakers,

While the majority of the knives I have made to date are purely stock removal, I have tried my hand at forging a blade or two. It seams like there is always a fair amount of grinding to be done after I finish destroying the bit of steel on the anvil.

I have also seen a few of the youtubers take a couple of whacks at the tip and bevels and call it a forged blade.

So my question is this; at what point can you honestly consider your knife to be forged and present as such? For instance, If I were to just hammer in the point; forged? Point and bevel?

I just want to make sure when I say my blade is forged, I am not overstating my accomplishment :)

Cheers and thanks for your input!

Brady
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2005
Messages
633
I get the feeling this going to turn into a real large bag of worms but I'll jump in.
For me to call a knife forged, the piece of steel I am forging must be recognizable as a knife blade. So a rectangular piece of barstock with a rounded or pointed end won't qualify. This being said, there are exceptions such as making a knife from damascus steel and not wanting to distort the pattern by forging it anymore once the bar stock is forged out.
This is my standard and I'm not trying to impose it on anyone else.
The main thing is, if you are selling the knife the customer knows what your standard is, and is OK with it.
As it has been pointed out, almost all bar stock is forged at some stage of its processing. Therefore anything made from them can be called forged. I think this is stretching the definition a bit too far.

Your knife, your decission.
Jim A.
 

weo

Joined
Sep 21, 2014
Messages
2,581
I'll give my 2 pesos as well.
If I were to just hammer in the point; forged?
Forging is forging. So if you forged the profile, then why can't you say the knife was forged?
Part of my reasoning is that if any amount of forging is done on the blank, the knife still has to go through the HT process, whereas it's possible to make a knife from a pre-HT'd blank purely through stock removal and gluing on a handle (Hmmm, should we start calling this the cut-and-paste method? Nahh, that sounds too derogatory). But don't forget, all knives are also stock removal to some extent as well.
 

Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

ilmarinen - MODERATOR
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My definition of forging a knife is that the original bar stock was shaped by forging into a knife shape. This would include shaping the bevels to some degree as well as shaping the profile of the blade. Things like the tang and distal taper are usually forged into the blade as well.

Merely adding a curve to a hot bar of steel or shaping the tip isn't forging a knife any more than removing a splinter is surgery.

Stock removal is the process of taking a bar of stock and removing the material to shape it into a knife by sawing/grinding/milling. This is much different than the final finishing of a forged knife on the grinder.
 

weo

Joined
Sep 21, 2014
Messages
2,581
This would include shaping the bevels to some degree as well as shaping the profile
Uh-oh!!!!! Not trying to pick, but what about those of us who forge thin kitchen knives, but leave the bevels to the grinder?
I guess I have to change how I describe my knives....😢 (j/k)

(am I starting to sound like natlek??? 😜)
 
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Stacy E. Apelt - Bladesmith

ilmarinen - MODERATOR
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Andy said it very well.

Grinding the bevels post-HT on a thin knife is a normal procedure for either method of making a knife.
If you take a bar of .060" steel and saw it into the shape of a kitchen knife, then heat up the tang to bend it .. it is not a forged knife.
If you take a bar of .060" steel and shape the profile and tang by heating it in a forge and hammering it to the desired shape ... it is a forged knife.

I want to be clear about one thing - There is nothing inferior about a stock reduction knife. The vast majority of knives I make are stock reduction. In many cases, a stock reduction knife may be superior to a forged blade, depending on the skill of the smith. Forging a .060" kitchen knife is really a silly idea. Grinding a complex bowie with distal tapers, thick spine, tapered and curved tang, etc. is also a silly idea. Both methods have their uses.
Forging is the best choice when the shape of the blade and certain features are not economically produced by sawing and grinding. There is no metallurgical advantage to forging a normal shaped blade with modern steels.
 

Br80Sorenson

Gold Member
Joined
May 15, 2019
Messages
10
Good stuff. Thanks for everyone's input!

I will say it is much more fun to hammer than to grind.

My neighbors may disagree :)

Cheers!

Br80

Instagram @sorensoncustoms
 
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Jun 2, 2021
Messages
31
If I take leaf spring and straighten it, flatten it out, heat treat it then grind an edge I call it forged, because I do all of those things on the forge.
 

Rick Marchand

Donkey on the Edge
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I'm wondering why it makes a difference. I mean, it DOES, for some people but only because...

1. They believe a forged blade to be superior. FALSE
2. They like a forged finish. Aesthetics only.
3. They believe it takes more skill to forge a knife. It doesn't... it only takes a different kind of skill.
4. They appreciate pattern welded steel, by the maker's hands... which is probably the only legit reason.

Don't get hung up on the term. Every piece of barstock steel available to us has been forged at the mill.

My choice to forge is simply a personal one. I like the process and it allows me to break free from the confines of dimensional barstock.
 

Mecha

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Dec 27, 2013
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Forging is just one of many metalworking operations that are used to shape metal, albeit one of the more artistic ones - aesthetically, things can be done with forging that just don't tend to (or can't) happen otherwise. Various textures, asymmetrical distal tapers, wandering lines of san mai cladding, blacksmith knives, one-off pattern-welded steel that flows with the shape of the knife, efficiently making integrals, etc.

Also in my case, the available dimensions of material are very limited. I simply can not use much of it without forging it to shape. In this way forging opens up opportunities to use different alloys that would otherwise be unusable. It also saves on wasted material and grinder belts.

When someone wants to know if a blade has been forged, they don't mean "was the steel rolled into a plate at the mill," they mean "did the knifemaker shape the knife by forging it himself." But there's a wide range to how much forging is used to shape the blade. I use "lightly forged" and "heavily forged" sometimes to explain the degree to which the metal was forged to shape. If I just start the bevels and curvature by forging, I call it light. If the entire bevel shapes, flats, distal taper and curvature are set by forging, and this final shape is merely smoothed out on a grinder, I call it heavy. Either way they still get ground, a lot.

What I like about forging in some of the shape is the flow, how the blade sort of shapes itself, surprising even the smith with something unexpected and delightful. However when forging I can quickly reach the point of diminishing returns and then the grinder takes over.
 
Joined
Jun 2, 2021
Messages
31
Exactly. I have a wavy or kris style blade that started its life as auto coil spring, and some where I just straighten and flatten a leaf spring, heat treat and temper, and put an edge on it. But I do ALL of my heat treat and tempering on the forge.
 

Mecha

Titanium Bladesmith
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Exactly. I have a wavy or kris style blade that started its life as auto coil spring, and some where I just straighten and flatten a leaf spring, heat treat and temper, and put an edge on it. But I do ALL of my heat treat and tempering on the forge.

Well there's the metalworking heat source known as a forge, and then there's the operation of forging by mechanically shaping metal into an object through directed kinetic force. Just using a forge to conduct the heat treatment doesn't mean the blade was forged, because it wasn't shaped into a blade using forging techniques. I wouldn't consider taking the bow out of a piece of metal to make it a flat bar then doing everything from there on a grinder a "forged blade" either, but using a hammer to shape a wavy kris blade out of a coil spring? Definitely forged.
 

Richard338

Gold Member
Joined
May 3, 2005
Messages
3,506
In principle one can make any shape by stock removal, but a nice illustration of the advantages of forging is a appreciated by looking closely at the tsuba of Mirabile's latest katana. https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/david-mirabile-shobu-zukuri-katana.1794005/
The four little depressions along the edge were clearly forged and create a flare in the width of the tsuba.
This would be very difficult to achieve with stock removal, and likely impossible if you consider also the flow of the texture of the wrought iron.
I have made several tsuba from sheet stock using files and a jeweler's saw, but they can't match that organic look.
 
Joined
May 25, 2021
Messages
21
To me what makes a blade forged is that the profile of the knife is forged from stock. You should be able to look at a forged profile and the finished blade and recognize that they are the same blade. I don't think the bevel needs to be forged out. I think this way because I don't forge the bevels on any of the chisel that I make. I don't forge the bevels because I make the blades so that the bottom cutting part is a thin layer of 1095 while the rest is mild steel. If I would forge the bevels, it would make the 1095 too thin for my liking on the edge.
 
Joined
Jan 13, 2022
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1
So I’ve read that some here think that forging to shape has the same strength as grinding to shape. I can tell you with unbelievable certainty that forging to shape and finishing with a grinder will always be stronger than grinding or milling a billet into a shape. Look at automobile parts, particularly any Motorsport. Forged parts are alway used over billet when strength is a factor and billet is used over cast in the same respect. So don’t tell me your stock removal job is just as good as a fully forged shape. It’s not and has been a proven fact for at least a century if not more.
 

Rick Marchand

Donkey on the Edge
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D DelusionalVet
You are technically right but it’s definitely misleading to apply it to this conversation. Parts under extreme stress can benefit from forging to shape. However, this does not come into play with the overwhelming majority of industry fabrication and even less so for knives and swords. I worked for 15 years in the tool, die and mold industry. We had to take this into account for some of our bigger jobs … but less than 0.5% of our parts production process even considered rolling direction or hot forming. THIS WILL NOT BE A FACTOR, AT ALL when it comes to knifemaking. You are kidding yourself, if you think it does. Knives, are not race cars.
Check out this article by Dr. Larrin Thomas
 
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Larrin

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So I’ve read that some here think that forging to shape has the same strength as grinding to shape. I can tell you with unbelievable certainty that forging to shape and finishing with a grinder will always be stronger than grinding or milling a billet into a shape. Look at automobile parts, particularly any Motorsport. Forged parts are alway used over billet when strength is a factor and billet is used over cast in the same respect. So don’t tell me your stock removal job is just as good as a fully forged shape. It’s not and has been a proven fact for at least a century if not more.
Stock removal knives aren’t made from cast steel they are made from forged steel. It’s not the same as forged vs cast auto parts.
 

Rick Marchand

Donkey on the Edge
Moderator
Joined
Jan 6, 2005
Messages
9,630
Stock removal knives aren’t made from cast steel they are made from forged steel. It’s not the same as forged vs cast auto parts.
To be fair, Larrin … he wasn’t asserting that knives are cast. He said it like this… cast < machined < forged. His argument was that the fact that industry sometimes uses forged parts over machined… that it holds true, across all steel parts, including knives. I felt your article was an appropriate read.
 
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