History on Forgecraft knives; please educate me

Kitchen Knife Forums

Help Support Kitchen Knife Forums:

DevinT

Founding Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
1,110
Reaction score
357
I have a sudden interest in forgecraft knives and would like to know more about their history. I can remember them from when I was a kid. I think that they may have been sold at K-Mart and other retailers in the '70's.

If I were a bettin' man I'd say they were made in Japan. The simplicity of the handle and the profile of the blade along with the kurouchi finish and the blade ground only half way up seems like it was designed and built in Japan.

Any help is appreciated.

Hoss
 

Jmadams13

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 18, 2012
Messages
988
Reaction score
0
Read through the ODC thread. Some really go info. American made, from old sawmill blades I think. It all in that thread. Son really explain it well
 

DevinT

Founding Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
1,110
Reaction score
357
Do you have a link for that thread?
 

DevinT

Founding Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
1,110
Reaction score
357
I found the thread, thanks.

After reading through it, I think the knives sold at K-mart were Old Hickory.

Hoss
 

Jmadams13

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 18, 2012
Messages
988
Reaction score
0
Not that all Old Hickory were that bad. Some were just as good as Fordgecraft. I think at some point, there were made by the same company. Ill has to look into that or... Son... Steeley... I'm sure you'll both put us to shame with your knowledge
 

DevinT

Founding Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
1,110
Reaction score
357
Thanks

I tested one for hardness and was impressed that it was 59rc. The one I have is a little thicker at the edge than I thought it should be, it measures .028 inches.

Hoss
 

sachem allison

Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Messages
4,162
Reaction score
17
different companies, I think old hickory was made by Ontario knife works and Forgecraft was made by Washington Forge. The Forgecraft line was discontinued in 1968. However, Old hickory did have the label forgecraft on their boxes. It was more for marketing then anything. The forgecraft Hicarbon was the actual name of the washington forge line. Even though the company went defunct in 1968 there was a lot old stock in warehouses and restaurant supply places and the knives were still being sold throughout the 80's and every once in a while you can hit a restaurant supply place and they will still sell them to you. Any one who thinks that they still make them is incorrect, They have not been made since 68. The best ones were made in the 50"s and very early 60"s. You can tell there age by very slight changes in the Forgecraft Hi Carbon stamp. It is strongly believed that the steel is 1095. No one left around who knows exactly for sure. It is a highly reactive simple carbonsteel until it develops a patina and settles down. It is 100% American made and designed. I sold Lefty a pre- Forgecraft from the 20's before the company was bought by Washington Forge and the profile is pretty much the same. Large diameter wheels used to hollow ground it, Thin behind the edge and those cold rolled forge markings on the top half of the blade. Case made similar knives, Winchester, Old Hickory, Wards, Shapliegh and a bunch of others but, I think Forgecraft gut it right. When you find a really good one they are amazing and a not so, good one is alright too. It's a work horse, Nothing other than that.
 

sachem allison

Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Messages
4,162
Reaction score
17
.I like it because that 1095 can take a razor edge and is easy to maintain. It doesn't have the best edge retention, but that is mainly do to the fact that they are not heat treated to their full potential. The blade geometry is pretty sweet. The knife is fairly thin under 2mm I believe , so you have a potential laser here. Fully one half of the height of the blade is hollow ground on a very large diameter wheel and the remaining half of the blade is flat ground and contains divots formed during the cold rolled forge process. This combination on a properly polished and maintained blade actually provides exceptional food release. It is the exact opposite of the convex grind that everyone is playing with now. They both get the job done, but go about it in different ways. This is the old school way of doing it. On This grind the food pushes itself into the concave surface of the blade, as it travels up the face and reaches the outward facing edge of the curve the food naturally falls away from the blade. Anything that gets past this will hit the divots which provide an air break to weaken the surface tension caused by the moisture in the food. The key to all of this working properly is the use of large diameter wheels. Most of today's hollow ground kitchen knives do not perform as well because small diameter wheels are used, mostly by guys who sharpen on grinders in the back of trucks.( sorry , Dave) ( I said "mostly"). The small diameter wheel gives you a hollow ground that is too small and a radius that is too tight. The food wants to curl up on itself and a lot of wedging occurs or because of the small hollow the food just bypasses it all together and gets stuck on the flat ground face of the blade.

Plus these are very comfortable to use. I prep about 4 to 8 hours of solid knife work everyday, 7 days a week with my forgecraft, no problems. a few strokes on the 1k king and I'm back in business.
 

sachem allison

Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Messages
4,162
Reaction score
17
The story was that the original pattern was from Band saw blades used in lumber mills. The cold rolled forge allowed long continuous sheets of steel to be made and the ridges left over from the rollers actually proved to be beneficial in that they allowed the blade to run cooler by reducing friction from contact with the wood. Like many early knife makers, they were always looking for cheap sources of steel. When the band saw blades would snap or dull they would throw them on a scrap pile. In the early days they would just give the stuff away to get it out of there space. The knife makers found out it was good steel and they could make good inexpensive blades and sell them at a reasonably affordable price. During the Depression, There were a lot of public work projects and a lot of lumber mills were set up an a lot of surplus and used steel laying around. In the twenties all the way up to WW2 you see a lot of companies using this type of steel. During the War that sort of stopped as all that scrap went to the war effort. When the war ended you again had a surplus of steel lying around and this pattern went on for about 20 more years. Old Hickory continues with thie pattern today more for nostalgia's stake than anything else. Old Hickory really made their company what it is today. Unfortunately The origi8nal Forgecraft was bought up by Washington Forge and the brand was retired in 1968. Washington forge had over 40 plus individual brands and lines of cutlery and just over extended them selves and then The Japanese came to knife prominence in the 70's and things have never been the same for the American knife industry.
 

Jmadams13

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 18, 2012
Messages
988
Reaction score
0
Wow! Thanks Son. Makes me appreciate mine even more now. You the man!
 

Benuser

Supporting Member
Joined
May 3, 2011
Messages
6,334
Reaction score
780
Thank you Son, especially for explaining the food release with a concave face!
 

DevinT

Founding Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
1,110
Reaction score
357
Thanks Son, lots of great stuff. It's interesting that the profile is closer to a Japanese knife than a European knife, which is where most of the early American cutlery got it's influence.

It would be cool to find some of that old band saw material.

Hoss
 

DevinT

Founding Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
1,110
Reaction score
357
Son, do you have any pics of the different markings/name stamps?

Hoss
 

sachem allison

Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Messages
4,162
Reaction score
17
unfortunately Devin, I don't. There aren't any books or references I can find with the different markings, It's more something that I have noticed and picked up over the years. subtle differences in printing size and shape and slightly different placement within the little plaque. I have four or five of them here, I'll see if they match up and I can take some pics.
 

Benuser

Supporting Member
Joined
May 3, 2011
Messages
6,334
Reaction score
780
Thanks Son, lots of great stuff. It's interesting that the profile is closer to a Japanese knife than a European knife, which is where most of the early American cutlery got it's influence.
I guess you mean German where you write European. To me it's quite obvious the Japanese took the French profile as a model. Is it unthinkable the Forgecraft guys did the same?
 

DevinT

Founding Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
1,110
Reaction score
357
Good point. Sabatier's have a different profile though.

I did the math on the Forgecraft and it is the same as many Japanese knives. The handle reminds me of a wa handle except for the full tang and rounded scales.

Hoss
 

Marko Tsourkan

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2011
Messages
4,964
Reaction score
29
The story was that the original pattern was from Band saw blades used in lumber mills. The cold rolled forge allowed long continuous sheets of steel to be made and the ridges left over from the rollers actually proved to be beneficial in that they allowed the blade to run cooler by reducing friction from contact with the wood. Like many early knife makers, they were always looking for cheap sources of steel. When the band saw blades would snap or dull they would throw them on a scrap pile. In the early days they would just give the stuff away to get it out of there space. The knife makers found out it was good steel and they could make good inexpensive blades and sell them at a reasonably affordable price. During the Depression, There were a lot of public work projects and a lot of lumber mills were set up an a lot of surplus and used steel laying around. In the twenties all the way up to WW2 you see a lot of companies using this type of steel. During the War that sort of stopped as all that scrap went to the war effort. When the war ended you again had a surplus of steel lying around and this pattern went on for about 20 more years. Old Hickory continues with thie pattern today more for nostalgia's stake than anything else. Old Hickory really made their company what it is today. Unfortunately The origi8nal Forgecraft was bought up by Washington Forge and the brand was retired in 1968. Washington forge had over 40 plus individual brands and lines of cutlery and just over extended them selves and then The Japanese came to knife prominence in the 70's and things have never been the same for the American knife industry.
Now that's damn impressive.
 

don

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2012
Messages
663
Reaction score
1
Thank you for sharing, Son. Really interesting read.
 

sachem allison

Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Messages
4,162
Reaction score
17
from top to bottom
1. this is and 8in late 60's towards end of production flowing thin script with pronounced full curly tail on the g. larger copyright r. thick behind the edge and not as well ground.

2. this is a 10" early 60's flowing thin script slightly smaller Hi carbon print and smaller copyright r, g tail missing( at first I thought this was just a poor strike or the g wore away but, I have seen this a lot and it is always consistent with this batch.) thin behind the edge and beautifully ground

3. this is from a mid 50's cleaver the stamp is bolder the script slightly different and about 20% smaller then other logos, better quality strike and a different full curly tail on the g. thin behind the edge and beautifully ground.

4. This one is from a 10 in early 1950's The stamp is deeply struck, much crisper and of a better quality it is about 20% smaller then the later model ones and has a distinctive tail on the g. Thin behind the edge and the best ground.

The olde ones are better struck and better ground in my opinion. I contribute the loss of quality to an aging work force and modernization. As the company got closer to its end they let the highly skilled more experienced workers go and just sorta phoned in the rest with the newbs.
 

DevinT

Founding Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
1,110
Reaction score
357
A very big THANK YOU to you Son and the forum members for all the help and info.

Hoss
 

Jmadams13

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 18, 2012
Messages
988
Reaction score
0
Yeah Son, thanks a bunch. I've actually copied and pasted your replies Sony could save them for reverence later. You the man, man..
 

jayhay

Senior Member
Joined
May 18, 2012
Messages
351
Reaction score
0
Son, thanks so much for the info and pics on forgecraft. I've recently piced up a couple, and just love 'em. I tried to find some history on the brand, but came up empty handed. Thanks again.

One of mine came incredibly thick behind the edge, and looks completely flat ground on both sides. The second is much thinner behind the edge, almost like it has thinned out over the years. I'll check for the differences in logo, as you posted. Both 10" chefs.
 

sachem allison

Supporting Member
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Messages
4,162
Reaction score
17
There was a batch I want to say around the late 60's towards the end of production that was relatively thick and flat sided usually 8 in. size. I suspect that this actually was one specific person who was grinding out the blades and just either wasn't trained properly or just didn't care. you can actually tell knives ground by the same person over the years. I have had some from the 40's to the mid 60's that was ground by the same person, you can tell by the grind, the way the tip is shaped or the heel is ground, little fingerprints so, to speak. I instantly can tell because it is so much better than the others. I'm sending 2 to Devin to look at and I think they may be from the same person or someone he trained. Over the years I have come across about a dozen that were very thick almost slab sided and usually over ground, they all look fairly identical and may very well have been made by the same guy or gal. THey usually date within the last 5 years of production. Now keep in mind many of the nos that is being found out there was not necessarily made on the 60's. The knives could have been sitting in the warehouses for decades before it was sold and then sat in the restaurant supply house for decades more. Things would have gotten mixed up and turned around so, its a crap shoot. These are rough guess estimates only based on years of experience.
 

Mike9

Banned
Joined
Jul 14, 2012
Messages
936
Reaction score
0
Thank you son for that - I had three 10" Forgecrafts and two look to be ground by the same guy. They each have a certain mark in the exact same place. Great knives really and so much fun to convert.
 

RoanRoks29

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 13, 2012
Messages
69
Reaction score
0
Thank you for this fountain of knowledge !! Very Interesting story behind these knives!!!
 

Lefty

Canada's Sharpest Lefty
Founding Member
Joined
Mar 31, 2011
Messages
5,504
Reaction score
0
Son's last post is especially true. The one that I sold to Huw is one of the finest vintage grinds I've seen/used. Karring's is my all-time favourite, though.

Sorry I missed this thread. I'm sitting in Starbucks, trying to cram for a classification exam and here I am reading through this. Haha. As for Old Hickory, I have two bullnoses by them that are maybe, just maybe superior to Forgecraft. Beautiful, heavy nosed knives. Man, I love vintage carbon.
 

brainsausage

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2012
Messages
3,318
Reaction score
16
Location
Somewhere else
I just checked eBay for the first time in a about 3 weeks. Only found one lot with a questionable 10 inch chefs. Last fall there was somewhere around 15-20 at any given time. And they were CHEAP- $20-40. I looked again sometime in the middle of January they were averaging $60-70!

Maybe I won't sell that Stefan handled Forge after all...
 

apicius9

Das HandleMeister
Founding Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2011
Messages
3,953
Reaction score
5
Time I get a handle on my own which was a generous gift by Mike H. Just wondering, what is the wood on these oldies, does anybody know? I want to rehandle mine but I want to stay with the American theme - had some old wormy American chestnut stabilized, and when done it may look just as it does right now... Maybe I'll throw a touch of redwood in there.

Stefan
 
Top