Drop-forged and stamped knives share many features-a tip, belly, and handle-but the forged blade, which requires far more steps to make, has several additional features. If you were to look at the knives from a top view, you’d notice that the forged knife has a much thicker spine.

If you were looking down the barrel of a gun, it would look like a triangle. The blade is thicker on top and near the bolster and it tapers gradually to the edge and to the tip. This shape provides strength and weight right where it’s needed-where your hand will be.

A stamped blade, which is cut from a flat ribbon of steel, will be more consistent in width. This means the forged knife will be heavier and the blade will be stronger. The forged knife also has a swollen lump of metal between the blade and the handle called the bolster, which evolved out of and serves the same purpose as the guard on a sword.

Besides providing a physical barrier between blade and handle, it also provides a natural pivot point for the operator. Both forged and stamped blades can be taper-ground, which means the blade is machine-ground all over to produce a taper from the handle to the tip of the blade and from the back to the edge. A hollow-ground blade bevels inward at the blade’s edge. A single bevel means that the blade is beveled on one side only.

At the knife counter

Hold the knife a good long time before you buy it. Try it out on a cutting board at the store- any reputabe knife dealer will allow this (and a god dealer will encourage it). If you are looking at chef’s knives, test the rocking action from tip to heel as if you are mincing herbs. Do you feel that you can control the tip easily or is it unwieldy? Des the knife feel comfortable in your hand, solid with the pleasant heft of a good old-fashioned too? Is it too heavy? Too long? Imagine using it in your own kitchen on your own countertop: Oddly, knives and other utensils sometimes seem larger at home than they do at the pro shop or even in a commercial kitchen.

Whe shopping, pay a lot of attention to the handle. How does the surface and shape feel- slippery, awkard. too narrow for your hand, or too thick? Knife handles generally are made of very hard, tight-grained woods like rosewood, or wood that has been impregnated with plastic for still more durability, or molded plastic. The latter are used in most delis and butcher shops because they can be sterilized at high temperatures and aren’t even remotely susceptible to water damage or bacterial contamination.