Henckel Knives Series
Can someone explain the difference between the various Henckel knives series?
The only obvious differences I can see are the blurbs ("aspriring chef vs professional") and the handles.
Is there any difference in the material the knife itself is made from?
Sure, that's easy. The following series are made with stamped blades:
Twin Signature, Gourmet, Everedge, Fine Edge Synergy, International Eversharp, International Fine Edge, International Fine Edge Pro, Everedge Plus, and International Classic.
The forged blade lines are:
Four-Star, Twin-Pro, and Twin Cuisine.
For the purposes of cutting food, either a forged or stamped blade will work fine. They are pretty much the same metal. However, because the stamped blade is cheaper to make, the manufacturers then cheap out on the handles. So if you really want a nice set, the forged knives are better, That being said, forged Henckels and Wusthof knives are a pain in the ass to sharpen. The bolster runs to the edge of the heel of the knife and must be ground away as the knife is sharpened. The following is a partial list of knife brands that sell bolsterless forged knives for people who expect to sharpen them: Ergo-Chef, Global, Messermeister and Shun.
Also, ignore claims of sharpness. It has no legal meaning. All knife makers claim to have razor sharp edges.
I think Global are stamped, actually (except for their more expensive series).
Good knives... just not forged. I would definitely suggest (to the OP) that you check out Japanese knives (Shun and Global being the most commonly available ones in the US) before making a final decision.
I believe that their lower end stuff is manufactured by other companies - I heard that Mundial made some for them.
In addition to Theodore's comments, you need to count the little men on the blade near the bolster. 2 means they're made in Germany and 1 means somewhere else, usually Spain, I think
atuallly there's a difference in forging, hot drop forged (like the old fashioned samurai) and precision forged (out of a single sheet of steel. The Zwilling twin cuisine and the global forged are hot drop forged. These are pricier knives. The Miyabi knives are great too.