These are the hand forged knife blanks that were available to forge from the smith shop. Not hand cut, each blank has a history of being worked by a master blacksmith before ran through the hands of a customer.
Although simple, the smith showed us how a simple change in hammering technique changes the inherent quality of the steel. Therefore, before any heat treatment or sharpening is done, the way the hammer falls can and will make or break a blade. From a cursory glance, the knife blanks appear as chunks of metal and the resulting blade is simply shaped to a new form. However, it's what lies beneath the surface of the steel where the true strength lies.
By taking a cross section from two different examples of hammering techniques, the master demonstrated his years of experience in a few strokes of a hammer. Where one steel was grainy and rough, the other inner steel was smooth and appeared fine, both steels originating from the same knife blank.
This kind of knowledge lies in the hands of the few who truly pursue hand made or hands-on occupations. While some people outside these realms are aware of certain facts, it's often the blade smiths themselves who are aware of the specifics.
@tindallknives has a few very interesting videos on the importance of a heat treatment method in the making of a blade. He demonstrates that the same steel does not mean the same blade and rather it is the craftsman who makes the difference in his work. I highly recommend checking them out.
The point here is: Be an educated consumer. Understand that "quality" does not necessarily apply to how something looks or what it's made of but how the product was made. "Quality" implies "process" and not always appearance.
Before purchasing an item, learn about it. We can always take that step.