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Hand hammered woks

I've been trying to look for those woks with those beautiful hammer marks on them, like the ones in these pictures

http://www.chsa.org/images/uploads/br...
http://ninecooks.typepad.com/photos/u...

The "Wok Shop" (www.wokshop.com) sells hand hammered woks, but the ones I bought don't really have that distinctive hammer pattern. They came out with a new hand hammered one, but the hammer dents look really really strange, like they purposely put a bunch of dents in a regular wok as some gimmick

http://www.wokshop.com/HTML/images/pi...

Anyways, it seems as if you can only get "authentic" hand hammered woks from China. Has anyone been able to get a hold of one in the US? I would probably assume that you could find anything and everything Chinese in San Francisco, but unfortunately I live in DC

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  1. Same reply as earlier. Ask the folks at Best Restaurant Supply if they can locate something like that for you.

    1. I bought a hand-hammered wok in SF at the Wok Shop; it is lovely and works like a charm, after a thorough seasoning.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Hungry Celeste

        Do they sell the ones with the ping marks over there? I ordered a handhammered wok online, and though it is an excellent product, I'm specifically looking for the ones with the authentic looking hammer marks on them.

        1. re: takadi

          The one I bought certainly looks hand-hammered, but I'm not a metalworker, so I can't vouch for the hammering technique.

            1. re: justjoe

              To me, both the wok above and the seasoned one linked below look to be hammered for looks only and not actually formed by hammering. This wok appears smooth and has an even matte finish, and the hammer marks are evenly spaced and shiny (hammering metal creates a shiny mark), more like a decorative pattern. It is possible that the wok was formed by hammering and the craftsman fully planished out all hammer marks, created a matte finish (sanding/sandblasting or whatever), THEN put decorative hammer marks back into the metal (this seems unlikely). More than likely, I would think that the wok was stamped into shape, given a matte finish, then given hammer marks as a final step. Technically I guess you could say it is a 'hammered wok.' However, to actually form a piece of metal by hammering, you have to hammer the HELL out of it and nice neat evenly spaced marks are not what you get.

              Here's a photo of a wok that looks like it was formed by hammering:
              http://ninecooks.typepad.com/photos/u...

              It is possible that the shiny hammer marks perform some function, but I'm not a wok-cooking expert.

      2. like you, i had some concerns about the wok shop's hand-hammered wok being too "dented". i found this better picture of one of their woks after seasoning:

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/15301689...

        it looks as though the "dents" aren't nearly as pronounced as they look in the picture on the wok shop site, but the fact that they are so regular and evenly spaced lead me to doubt that it's truly hand-hammered.

        i'm guessing that the marks are caused by two hammers--a hammer (or stamp) is placed where the mark is to be made, and then another hammer is used to strike the marking hammer/stamp. so i guess technically that could still be considered "hand-hammered", but not in the sense that the mark is caused by a direct hammer strike during the forming process.

        either that, or the marks are caused by a stamping machine.

        i agree, it doesn't have that "authentic" look, but even so, it's probably a perfectly good wok which i might end up ordering anyway. and i'm guessing the hammer marks still serve the function of holding the food up on the sides of the wok, rather than just being a gimmick.

        since you live in dc, maybe you can contact the person who took that picture to see if you can take a look at the wok first hand! or else just contact him/her if you have more questions.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bbobbo

          I was always under the impression the hammer marks or dings were to hold the oil not food. If you find a solid source I hope you will share as I have always wanted a drunk.....er I mean hammered wok.

          1. re: bbobbo

            Oh my, the wok shop's credibility dropped a notch for me. It looks like they took a regular wok and pounded some dents in it, and they think it'll increase it's value! LOL

            In the summer of 2007 they had another hand hammered wok that was very much different than the one they have today, perhaps they couldn't find anymore of it. Anyways, I'm convinced that you can only find the "real" stuff in China.

            1. re: jeffreyem

              Asianawest seems to have outrageous pricing -- cooking chopsticks for 10.95 (a dollar store item!) and porcelain soup spoon for 4.95 (way under a dollar at any asian store store I've ever been in). If you're buying a wok here, make sure you price compare what you're getting!

              )

              1. re: tekkamaki

                I have to be genuinely curious as to the *real* benefit of a hand hammered wok over one that has been fully planished (smoothed out) or one that has been spun (resulting in the familiar concentric pattern in the steel). I admit I love the visual beauty of a rustic-looking roughly hewn cooking vessel, but I have to question just how much the millimeter or so variance can affect cooking -especially if the heat gets evenly distributed.

                As an aside as to where to go for such an item- has anyone considered having one made?? Such a form as a shallow bowl (all a wok is, after all) is simple work for anyone familiar with metalworking. any metalworking student or auto fabricator can churn that shape out in literally under an hour (if not under a half!).

                I can almost assure you that the "hand" aspect of many of these woks is less than likely to actually be the result of the visual imagined hammer in hand striking the metal and more the result of a power-hammer and the piece being controlled by hand turning - still considered 'hand-hammered" in truth *and* result, but not quite as poetic an image.

                1. re: Scortch

                  I think that a cast iron wok works best on most home stoves. I like my Lodge cast iron wok.

                  1. re: justjoe

                    They had an amazing deal on Amazon where they cut the price in half. Stupid me thought it was going to go lower, so it's back at 50/60 dollars now. I can't bring myself to buy cast iron for that much money

              1. re: alanbarnes

                I recently bought this wok. It's a great wok, don't get me wrong, but it looks like kinda a toned down version of the wooden-handled pow wok posted earlier in this thread.

                So "authentic"...probably not, but it really does cook great and the price is right. That being said, if I found a genuinely hand-hammered wok, I'd buy it in a half second, give my current one away, never look back - I'm flaky that way. :)

              2. Have you found an authentic hand hammered wok yet? I can't seem to find them anywhere...

                3 Replies
                  1. re: bugmenot

                    Be aware that "hand hammered" doesn't necessarily mean someone whacked the thing for hours to get it into shape, especially if you pay $18 for it. Most likely the the hammer was a hydraulic machine and the hand part means someone manipulated the sheet metal to get the proper shape (the same technique is used to make custom car parts). Nothing wrong with that, it's probably an excellent wok, but don't think you're getting something made by an artisan.

                    1. re: Zeldog

                      Zeldog, you can still find 100% hand made but they're very difficult to find, I've met a few different guys now who are starting from a round sheet of metal and making them 100% manually with fire and hammers, one family in particular are head and shoulders above the others. It's a dying art though, the younger generation has typically gone off to university to do business and the fathers are basically trying to make enough money to retire. You can find other things too, hand made knives, hand beaten copper cookware, hardwood chopping boards etc, but again they're getting very difficult to find.

                      For info a 36cm wok typically takes 1 guy 5 hours to make, a 64cm wok takes 2 guys 2 days, a machine made wok takes seconds, if you see a "hand made" wok for 18 dollars I would be very cautious!. When hand hammered woks are made well the structure is changed by the fire and hammering making the surface very hard (something which doesn't happen during machine forming) and they can be expected to last in excess of 5 years in commercial kitchens (continuous use) where they typically eventually fail from the outside in, in the home I guess you're looking at 20-30 years easily.

                      Give me a shout if you need any more info!

                1. Besides looking great, I've heard that hand hammered metals, for instance with french copper cookware and various knives, improves their strength. In addition to holding the food I've also heard it allows oil to drain down the walls beneath the food better.

                  I'm not a metallurgist, but I'd guess that if a metal is hammered while very hot and cooled rapidly, this would tend to reduce the size of crystal domains. This would perhaps make the metal harder -- like glass -- though perhaps less flexible. Somehow this must help. Cold machine hammering, like the ones which look cosmetic, is probably not quite as effective in this....I just saw an interesting article about alloys here,

                  http://www.teachersdomain.org/resourc...

                  they suggest that so called "work hardening" randomizes the weak defect spots between atoms in the metal.

                  As for where to get the wok I emailed Grace Young a couple of years ago and she was kind of to reply back herself. She said, "Unfortunately, it's very difficult to find Cen Lian Gen. He doesn't have a phone number or e-mail address. Curiously he's not particularly interested in selling woks on a large scale. He has his steady restaurant clients and that seems to give him more than enough work."

                  I just checked Ebay today, however and see that someone from Shanghai seems to be selling ones which look EXACTLY like the ones you're looking for.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: matterello

                    I just thought of a cooking analogy for hammered metals. Imagine the metal is like a chocolate chip cookie dough with mostly chocolate chips. Since the dough is highly inhomogenous, it is more likely to break apart. Pounding the cold cookie dough will move the chips around, perhaps break up a few, but it will still be the inhomogeneous cookie dough. If you heat the dough, however, the chocolate melts, and if pounded while warm, the chocolate will mix more into the dough creating a more homogeneous and and stable structure. Yum...might make for rather hard cookies though.

                    1. re: matterello

                      Aside from the aesthetic value, I've looked everywhere for hand hammered woks for their rumored strength. My conclusion so far is that they can only be found in rural parts of China.

                      1. re: takadi

                        http://shop.ebay.com/merchant/taost_W...

                        These woks from taost on eEbay seem pretty solid, but rathr expensive.

                        1. re: ATaleOfFiction

                          A great thread this. Been looking for one since I bought the book. Great heads up. I bought one of the Taost woks recently and it is the same as the one featured in Grace Youngs wok book. The workmanship and quality is excellent and I believe it will turn out to be the best wok I've ever owned. Expensive yes, compared to run of the mill woks but you get what you pay for and still far cheaper than hi-tech woks such as found in boutique cookware shops. This one will last a lifetime.
                          Heres their direct web link. The prices seem cheaper than on Ebay.
                          http://e-woks.com/index.php?main_page

                          1. re: the eel

                            Not the same, but close. Unless of course the Cen brothers work with someone to sell their wares on the internet. The one the eel linked to though, does resemble these very closely. I would say anything with huge hammer marks like some links earlier were added for show.

                            If you ever make your way to Shanghai, go to 212 Baoyuan Lu. I made my way up there recently and came away with two of their woks (they are the ones on the cover of The Breath of A Wok) for 200rmb. Make sure to bring someone who speaks Wu or Mandarin or you will surly leave empty handed.

                            1. re: ajmills

                              ajmills: You sound knowledgeable about these hand-formed woks. Pardon my ignorance, but I do not see any advantage--other than aesthetics and the signs that the wok was made the "old way"--of a beaten one over press-formed or spun.

                              Aren't these all made cold from mild steel? If, out of the same mild steel sheet, one wok is beaten cold and the other stamped or spun cold into shape, won't they perform identically and with the same longevity? What I'm pondering is that these steels don't work-harden like copper, so the planishing marks that make these woks desirable are either just artifacts of their traditional formation, or ornamentation added to make them LOOK traditional.

                              Or are these FORGED? I've done just enough bladesmithing to know that debates rage over the metallurgical effects of hammering red-hot steels, but there we are talking about TOOL steels with a propensity to harden when properly heat-treated. As far as I know, forging mild steel doesn't bring any metallurgical or crystaline benefit as far as strength or longevity go. And sustained cooking in a heat-treated tool steel wok would probably eventually anneal it back to near mild hardness anyway.

                              Perhaps I have missed something. Can you educate me as to any functional advantages of hand hammered over stamped?

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                Griddle versus grill.
                                Flat and smooth versus an uneven surface which allows for oil to wick away better.

                                "Aren't these all made cold from mild steel?"
                                Appears to be ductile iron, not steel, although I wouldn't rule out a true wrought iron.

                                1. re: ThreeGigs

                                  3G: Uneven (planished) surfaces allow oil to wick away better? Sorry to be so thick, but how can that be? I mean it makes some sense to me that the concentric tool marks in spun woks might theoretically hold more oil a little longer than smooth, but why would a smooth, seasoned wall "wick" worse than uneven? Isn't gravity going to take care of draining everything to the center in short order?

                                  Or are you saying that the texture of the wall reduces the surface area of the food that is actually in contact with the wall? If so, why don't the toolmarks in the cheap spun woks do the same?

                                  What advantage is there, cooking-wise, of ductile or wrought over steel?

                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    The space the dimples allow between the food and the wok serve a couple of purposes. They create a path for oil (and juices) to flow back to the bottom of the pan. Concentric rings just collect the oil. Also, the dimples reduce the food contact with the wall, lowering heat transfer from the sides, which is what you want... food is cooked at the bottom of the wok, and pushed up onto the sides to keep warm. Now, the spun rings will reduce the contact area, however since the depressions are filled with oil that has no way to drain back it still cooks.

                                    Is it a huge difference? No. However it might make the difference between slightly crunchy veggies and mushy, overcooked ones.

                                    No difference that I know of between iron and steel in cooking, although there might be a slight difference in heat transfer.. just wanted to make sure you were aware they probably aren't steel.

                                    1. re: ThreeGigs

                                      This all makes sense. Thanks for the education.

                                      When you said "wicking", I was thinking in terms of capillary action or like the "legs" in a wineglass.

                    2. re: matterello

                      It's not "so-called work hardening." It's "work hardening." Metallurgists use this technique to harden metals like steel, and it's done while the metal is cold.

                      The theory goes a bit like this. Metals that are not work hardened have relatively large, very regular crystals in them (mostly iron in the case of steel). These crystal lattices can be deformed because the layers of the crystal lattice can slide past each other with relative ease, like so. (ignore the periods, they're just there to keep everything in place)

                      ooooo.......-->.......ooooo
                      ooooo................ooooo

                      When a metal is cold worked, the individual layers of the crystal lattice slide against one another or get torn like sheets of paper. These layers in the crystal lattice are thus "out of place", and are called dislocations. These dislocations are essentially imperfections in the crystal. The crystal structure is no longer as regular as it once was, and the layers of the crystal lattice can not be moved around as easily. In other words, it takes a greater external stress to cause more deformation/dislocations.

                      When thin pieces of metal are sufficiently work hardened, they become so resistant to deformation that they will bounce back to their original position rather than bend permanently, and this is how we get springs. The "more springy" a metal is, the more it can be bent without being permanently deformed, this property is usually depicted by what is called a stress-strain curve.

                    3. Just look on ebay there are some really nice hand hammered woks on now. Granted they start at $65 But they look great. It looks like my wok may start collecting dust soon. They look pretty authentic in the pic, not like the other "Hand Hammered" woks I've seen with the perfect concentric dents. I hope this helps someone. I think they are thesame ones on Ewoks but you'll savea few$$ on the shipping on ebay i actually compared the costs of both

                      http://shop.ebay.com/taost/m.html?_nk...