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Al on Kitchen Knife Making

Posted: Tue Dec 30, 2003 1:42 pm    Post subject: Drop forging, cold forming and stamping...


Yes on all counts but one.

There ARE "stamped" blades. The metal is cold-rolled (for strength), the blade is then punched out (causing work-hardening where the metal is deformed - that's the only tempering it gets), and the edge is ground or cut on (lasers, now. Aren't computers wonderful).

Stamped blades are useful in some places: Almost every filleting knife I ever owned was stamped. Uniformity of thickness, temper and flexibility are GOOD things.

You'll find that these knives are meant for specific uses. If the blade is thick (for rigidity) they'll almost always be serrated. Having just a bit of full-thickness steel reaching down to the edge protects the sharp bits inside the serrations. That makes them good for sawing (like frozen foods, bones, bread and things like that - flexibility means the ability to deform, then return to the original shape, right?). If they have smooth, straight edges, they're almost always thin and flexible (filleting knives [where all you're cutting is fish and skin and not the bones] and boning knives [where you do NOT saw into the bone, but slide along it] ... uhhh ... SPRING [just to continue the flexibility theme here] to mind).

Note: Both are low-sharpening-type uses. Since the edge only has a very thin temper line, caused by the deformation of the metal at the edge if the punch and die, repeated sharpening will do it in pretty quickly.

These applications exploit the uniformity of flexibility that is hard to get on any worked (cold OR hot) blade: HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS worth of hard to get.

Thing is: Stamping is fast and cheap. As a result, you can find all kinds of low-priced, stamped knives out there. I gotta tell you, though: A thin, flexible chef's knife is NOT a thing you want to use. There is nothing in the WORLD like having the blade flex under hard use, turn to the Dark Side and go out and cut something to shreds all on it's own.

You'll also find fast-and-cheap knives to be chrome-plated.

That's because in chrome plating, there's a first layer of copper, and copper is LOTS easier to polish than steel! Rough-punch the steel, brush it to knock off the really big stuff, put a layer of copper on it thick enough to fill all the remaining scratches (sometimes mechanically significant scratches, causing failure points), then polish down the copper to get that glossy, smooth blade that you wind up buying. A layer of nickel for color, then a flash of chrome to give it shine, and you've covered a LOT of manufactural sins.

I won't buy a chrome-plated blade. If I were you, I wouldn't buy a chrome plated blade. You should not buy a chrome plated blade. Everything I tell you three times is truth.

So: As in everything else in the kitchen, there is good and bad in every niche, and there are people that will make things to fill that niche, and people who will exploit a technique in order to make another two one hundredths of a penny per item, never mind that it winds you up with another piece of sharp, pointy junk in your drawer ... or that it'll wind you up at the hospital emergency room.

Figure out what you want to do and what you need. I can use my nice Heinkel paring knife to bone and fillet, thank you, since I don't do much of either. I trade my time, spent in working around the bones, to avoid having to buy another knife. I NEED strong, rigid and lots of temper line. If you slice a lot of bread, though, a thick bladed, stamped, serrated bread knife will be your dream (as long as you slice it on a bread board and not on a ceramic plate, or [gasp] glass cutting board). Avid fishermen (and even a lot of fishermen that don't fish for avid) almost NEED a filleting knife.

There's a plethora of means whereby to flay a feline. Fit the tool both to the nature and size of the job. A screwdriver is a good enough chisel if you're only going to chisel once or twice.

Just don't use that chrome plated knives as a chisel, Ok??

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Last Edited: 08/27/2010