Handmade according to an exacting process, Kramer chef's knives sell for $10,000 or more. They're beloved by chefs and collectors for their keen edges, thoughtful design, and beautiful finish, and demand is such (a New Yorker profile never hurts) that anyone who wants to buy one must now sign up for a lottery in which you can win a spot on the years-long waiting list for a knife.
But Kramer fans are about to have an easier time of it: Bob was in New York this month to announce a new partnership. I took advantage of the visit to pull him into the PopSci video chamber so he could demonstrate dramatically just how effective his knives are.
The knife he's wielding in the video is not one of the hand-forged beauties, but a mass-produced Kramer. Zwilling J.A. Henckels, one of the largest knifemaking companies in the world, has just put into production a line of Kramer-designed knives, which are made of the same high-carbon 52100 tool steel as the basic line of handmade ones.
I recommend watching this full-screen.
Pretty impressive. And he was also very helpful when it came to sponging down the video room afterward!
(If you enjoyed that, you might enjoy watching Theo Gray cut steel with a blowtorch made of bacon.)
The majority of kitchen knives nowadays are made of stainless steel, which requires little maintenance since the presence of chromium in the alloy resists corrosion. But, as Kramer explains, stainless knives are difficult to sharpen, and the edge they have even when they are maximally sharp is limited in its keenness by the molecular structure of the metal. The Kramer knives are made of a non-stainless high-carbon steel with relatively little chromium, which makes them delightfully easy to sharpen, and when they're sharp they're very sharp.
Kramer, a certified Master Bladesmith, is hardly putting himself out of business with the Henckels deal. He plans to concentrate his efforts now on making his Damascus steel knives, in which different types of steel are folded and layered thousands of times to create intricate patterns; these works of art are not amenable to mass production.
The mass-produced knives, which are made at Zwilling's facility in Seki City, Japan, will be available at Sur La Table in June, and elsewhere in September. Use only as directed.
I've got a set of knives like that. I actually got them in Japan, so every thing's in Japanese, and I don't know if they're actually Damascus, but they're sharp enough to split hairs (literally).
at 2:49 in the video: when he brought the knife back, it looked like he was winding up to chop through his arm
Wow that is a beautiful knife for a chef's knife. I bet a super slomo HD video of some of those cutting would cool also.
Apparently, my post has been marked as spam- so this is simply a test to see whether or not my account got #$^%$&! by hackers or whatnot.
Very COOL! I live in Fukui Japan and in ancient times Fukui was famous for its swords (which were then outlawed during Meji Restoration). Many of the sword makers started making Japanese style scissors, and knives. Fukui has since become world famous for its hand made knives ESP sushi knives (which have to be VERY sharp to cut fish correctly).
They have a work shop at one of the "factories" where you can make your own knife. They give you a peace of carbon steel and you get hammer out, and cut (machine press/stamp), and sharpen it. It was about 100 US$. Of course it was no where near the quality of the a pro made one, but it was a fun experience nonetheless. And you have to take VERY good care of these knives. They will rust if you don't clean them EVERY time you use them.
FYI Seki City, Japan is in GIFU right next to fukui about 2 hours from my house. So I guess this entire area of Japan is famous for its blades.
SORRY 1 last thing!!! I dont know if any of you are Mythbusters fans. BUT they got the Samurai sword episdoes WAY wrong. A samurai sword COULD indeed chop through a human body!!!! I think this video is evidence enough of that. THAT knife, in the hands of a blade master like that dude could cut off an arm with one slice!!! (that rope is SUPER tough and thick)
There are only 3 licensed sword sharpeners in the world qualified to sharpen ancient Japanese swords. One lives here in Fukui as well and I met him one day. He told us in ancient war times they would test a sword by laying dead bodies of fallen enemy (or pigs or live stock) on top of each other. A GOOD sword in a Masters hands could cut through 3 bodies. A great sword: 6!!!
this is from the mouth of a Japanese Master Sword Sharper. and like a I said just LOOK at this video!!!
When Japan made swords they were the best in the world. Do you really think the sword on mythbusters was ANY good? and the "ninja" ( i mean OLD white dude) was a blade master???
Didn't catch that particular Mythbusters episode but tameshigiri is well documented.
As stated in the article, stainless steel, from which most modern replica swords are made, can't be sharpened to the same degree as steel without the chromium. I've used swords made of both kinds of steel (not on people, though, honest) and there really is no comparison.
The ending was hilarious. SOO SMOOTH!
. . . "is well documented"
link to wikipedia
Or, you can buy a knife that uses a surgical steel. They're still stainless, but the steel is *much* softer - so you can get it much sharper.
I put a 20 degree edge on mine, and sharpen them once a week (a process that goes through 4 different grits, starting with an 80-grit course, through 600 grit, ending with a Sapphire stone polish - taking about an hour per knife), it's a lot of work, but I can do all those same things he just did with his knives (I'd be willing to bet he used a different knife after the rope, coke can and water bottles).
Remember kids, a sharp knife is a safe knife - you don't have to fight with it while cutting when it's sharp. No fighting means no slipping, and no slipping means no (/fewer) accidents; a knife will cut you at any sharpness.
mythbusters are liars. they are paid to misinform their audience. i can do this with a blunt butter knife. its all about technique.
Anyone Pick up that its made with chromium? Certain varieties and can be toxic. It can be found in some older paints. So i get tested for it at work. Its a carcinogen in large amounts.
For a fraction of the cost of this knife (a few bucks), you can get a french Opinel pure carbon knife. I use one everyday for cutting just about anything.
Chrome in steel is used in surgical tools and implants, and of course also in cooking pots and cutlery. It certainly is inert and not poisonous to man or beast. I would be very surprised if you do not handle chrome containing cutlery every day. Chrome salts and oxides that are in pigments can be harmful.
I would like to point out a mistake I believe was made, correct me if I'm wrong-that Damascus steel knife was crucible forged, not pattern welded. Pattern welding has much more uniform lines, and it crucible forging that really produces that "water steel" effect.
Much like chlorine can be toxic yet is one of the two elements in salt, which is a necessity of life, when an otherwise toxic element is bound into a compound, things like toxicity can be eliminated. In this case, it's bound into and chemically part of the metal, and thus stays with the metal.
This is a great design but...I've heard rumors of a knife that is sharpened to a 1 molecule edge.
Finally, a knife that works to divvy up the Cokes. Why hasn't someone thought of this before?
Re Opina knives - there's no such thing as a "pure carbon" blade. They use carbon steel, which is soft and easily sharpened but - for the same reason - doesn't hold an edge. (You'd be hard-pressed to do that rope trick more than once, if you could in fact pull it off the first time.)
The ideal blade calls for a very hard steel alloy with very small small grains, such as the low-chromium alloy that Kramer specifies. It's not particularly exotic, but it's difficult to sharpen and it's not stainless, and therefore not a good choice for a mass market knife. For those who know how to maintain it, however, it does make for an impressive blade. His prices reflect the many hours he puts into hand-forging a single knife. The Henckels knives should be equally good (for a "mere" $300 or so.)
Modern bladesmiths have had a lot of fun, but limited success, replicating the legendary "Damascus steel" -- even with today's amazing analytical tools, nobody's been able to figure out the lost secrets. Was it a trace of vanadium? Was it the carbides? A secret annealing process? Nobody knows. They've been able to recreate the look, but not the performance, of those old blades. So long as collectors are willing to pay top dollar for his art, Kramer will enjoy continued success. I wish him luck experimenting with the old methods.
Damascus is a fantastic work of art as a pattern welded steel. Although, there are other experts in the most unexpected places. Steve Rollert creates some of the best knives I have ever used. Being in the United States Army Cavalry and the Engineers and having served 2 tours of combat I know and lived the importance of knives that your life may very well depend upon. Mr. Rollert's dedication to perfection and perfomance is beyond reproach. 2 websites which are http://www.doveknives.com/index.html and
http://www.keenedgeknives.com/ and it is for all civilian professionals, military personnel, hunters and more. I am fortunate to own the knife in the 2nd picture on the doveknives website of the Damascus knife. It's AMAZING!!
Normally I'm perfectly happy to let people argue in comments without my involvment but since im currently in technical training to be a welder I thought I'd point out a few things.
Chromium in its own right is not toxic. Its used in stainless steel to polish it and in some "older" types of paint. When chromium is super heated Ex. when burned or when welding the chromium becomes a hexavalient compound.
Hexavalient Chromium is extremly toxic and can cause ulcers, cancer and other serious medical conditions if exposed to high levels. This has caused OSHA to recently change their guidelines so welders and other manufacturers know of the danger. My instructer welded for 40 years without knowing about the danger of hexavalient chromium.
ok im done :P