Last week we left off with the fact that today, quality knives can be made almost 100% by machine or by using the skills of a master cutler. This is accomplished through two manufacturing processes discussed below.
1) HAND FORGING BLADE MANUFACTURING PROCESS
The hot drop hand forging process is the ultimate production method used to produce high quality cutlery. It combines the best of the old with the new. The old is the master cutler’s skill and expertise and the new is the latest in advanced steel processing technology. Master cutlers must hammer raw cutlery steel into the desired blade shape. This is just the beginning – the knife will go through more than 60 different processes before it is finished. These operations involve almost 100% hand work and the dedication and skill of a true craftsman able to blend his skills with modern technology. Generally, hand forged knives are very expensive given the number of processes and hand work involved. You can identify a hand forged knife by its “solid bolster.”
2) STAMPED BLADE MANUFACTURING PROCESS
With this process, cutlery steel is prepared at the steel mill rather than being hammered out by hand. The steel mill produces and delivers the desired grade of stainless steel in coils to the knife manufacturer. The shape of the knife blade is cut from the coil of steel by a machine designed for this task. The remaining processes, such as grinding, tempering, polishing, sharpening and finishing are completed using a combination of highly skilled labor and machinery. You can identify a stamped knife by the fact that it does not have a “solid bolster.”
Different cutting jobs require different blade edges. Several of the most common are described below.
SERRATED EDGE: A serrated edge allows the knife blade to easily saw through objects that are firm throughout. It is ideal for cutting solid European type breads.
SCALLOPED EDGE OR WAVY EDGE: A scalloped or wavy edge allows the knife blade to slice easily through surfaces that are firm on the outside but soft on the inside. It is ideal for cutting tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, types of breads that are crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. A scalloped or wavy edged knife stays sharper longer than a regular straight edged knife. This is because its very thin cutting edge is protected by the projecting points of the blade.
GRANTON EDGE (ALSO KNOWN AS UNDULATED EDGE): Granton edged knives are extremely sharp. The undulation actually creates air pockets at the blade to prevent food from sticking to the knife. Granton blades are ideal for slicing ham or beef and whenever a perfect slice is desired. Note: This edge is delicate and can be chipped if it hits bones or other hard objects.
DECORATOR EDGE: Some blade edges are specially designed for creating artistic food presentations. The decorating edge is ideal for sculpturing fruits and vegetables.
THE KNIFE HANDLE
Knife handles come in a variety of different shapes and are made from many different types of materials. Polypropylene and POM (Polyoxymethelene) and various woods are examples of handle materials.
Polypropylene, commonly known as plastic, is widely used on good quality stamped knives. Its use helps to keep the overall cost of the knife lower than that of knives made of more expensive handle materials.
POM (Polyoxymethelene) is more durable than polypropylene and has all the positive properties of plastic – an extremely high melting point and the ability to meet stiff sanitation regulations.
Natural woods and wood composite products are also used for knife handles. PakkaWood® combines the beauty of hardwoods and the strength and performance benefits of plastic. PakkaWood® handles are ideally suited to meet stiff sanitation regulations while providing the beauty and feel of a wood handled knife.
To choose the right handle design, it is best to hold a knife and pick the combination of shape and material that “feels” best.
Handle finish is very important. Visible gaps and seams will cause deterioration and cracking, resulting in an unsightly, unhygienic kitchen tool. A good knife will not contain a “filler” where the blade meets the handle.