Friday, December 3, 2010

The sharpest thing I have ever seen, period.

Well folks, I found a new love in the kitchen. No, it is not Risotto, although I am enjoying this also. Rather, it is the Shun Bob Kramer replica knives. Just what the hell are they? The world's finest kitchen cutlery... so far as I know it.

Just how did I discover these knives? I saw them on the the wall at Sur La Table more than a year ago, but thought they were more decorative than functional. I never favor cosmetics over functionality, ergo I was not particularly interested. Nothing that pretty could be sharp or effective.

A week or two ago, whilst participating in a discussion on one of the many cooking forums, I advocated Miyabi & Misono as the two best production knives in the entire world. That got a mild round of applause. However, someone quickly rose to advocate the Shun Bob Kramer series.

I mentioned that I had a couple of Shun Classic knives, and didn't think much of them. "They are mid-range pieces of cutlery; better than CutCo, but not much".

Surprisingly, the advocate agreed with me. He didn't particularly like the Professional, Classic, Kaji, or Ken Onion lines himself. The only Shun line he wanted to advocate was the Bob Kramer line. He directed me to a particular video, shot by CBS's Sunday Morning news magazine, that provided some insight into the life and work of Bob Kramer.

Just to summarize the stunning facts of that video:
  1. Bob Kramer is one of only 114 (current) master blade smiths in the world today. 103 of those reside in the United States.
  2. He is the only master knife smith who is also a fully certified and qualified chef.
  3. He is the Stradivarius of kitchen cutlery.
  4. He makes blades that bend 90 degrees without snapping or warping.
  5. His blades can hack through 2x4 wood beams without damage to the edges.
  6. After hacking the 2x4, the edge remains sharp enough to shave hair off your arm.
  7. Most impressive of all, he whacked a dangling 1 inch diameter rope with his blade, and severed it clean.
  8. His blades can also slash through a row of water bottles with a single swipe.
  9. His blades cost $300 per inch. An 8 inch chef's knife cost $2,400. A 10 inch costs $3,000.
  10. He has an 18 month waiting list of customers who want one.
Most incredible of all is this fact: Shun, one of the big 5 knife makers of Japan, has licensed Bob Kramer's designs. Shun sent their master blade smiths to the United States to learn Bob Kramer's process. The objective was to produce the most precise replicas they could muster. Now we have the Shun Bob Kramer line, the most expensive knives made by Shun. Mr. Kramer gives a full hearty endorsement to these blades. He feels they are very nice replicas of his work.

Now, if you understand anything at all about Japanese culture, this fact should cause your mind to boggle. There is no craft closer to the Japanese soul than blade-smithing. You would be hard pressed to name another industry which is more an object of national pride in Japan than blade-smithing. Japan is commonly accepted as the world's leader in blade manufacturing. The fact that Shun would license Bob Kramer's designs, and send their master craftsmen to learn from him, is nothing short of mind-boggling. I am still flipped out over this fact.

I have to admit, that video really put the hook in my mouth. I had to take a closer look. Last Wednesday I went to Sur La Table in Thousand Oaks with this objective in mind. I purchased a nice hard turnip over at Bristol Farms (across the street) and walked in the door asking to try the 6 inch Bob Kramer.

Let's say I was astounded. I diced the turnip as you would an onion. I made lots of cuts too: 3 horizontal cuts and 6 vertical. The turnip fell apart with easy. It was more than easy. I want you to know it has never been that easy to cut a hard turnip. Needless to say, I had to have the knife. That beautiful bastard set me back almost $290 with tax. I am very glad I did it. I have already belted out several projects with it, and it makes prep an easy joy.

I want you to know, I have not given up on my Miyabi 600D knives. I still love those knives, and they aren't much less sharp. Still, I have to say that the handles on the Bob Kramer are sensational, and the edge is even better.

I regret to say this, but... it looks better also.

I would never buy a knife for that reason, mind you.

The Shun Bob Kramer signature line is--without question--the sharpest and best knife I have ever tried. I am astounded. Don't confuse these knives with the Bob Kramer Meiji line for sale at Williams-Sonoma. That is a different line up. Those may also be very good blades, but they don't have the same handle. I haven't tried the Meiji line yet, so I can't endorse them.