Sunday, May 8, 2011

Identical copies of Bob Kramer straight carbon knives from Zwilling J.A. Henckels

Bob Kramer is to the knife what Antonio Stradivari is the violin. He's the best of the best of the best. How good is he? He can charge $300 per inch for his knives, and there is an 18 month waiting list to get one. A good solid 10 inch French Chef's knife will set you back $3,000, if you can wait 18 months for your investment to mature.

A Bob Kramer original 8 inch Damascus Steel Menji knife recently sold on for $9,200. That was the price of just one knife folks... and it was used. Someday, there will be databases that keep track of the location and ownership of every Bob Kramer original knife just as there are with Antonio Stradivari violins. Rich people will compete fiercely at auctions to buy them. No bullshit folks.

What's so great about these blades? Watch the video folks. This video is still contains the most outrageous blade demo I've ever seen.

Believe me, I am a highly critical dude. I don't impress easy. You better be damn good if you want to impress me. Bob Kramer impresses the hell out of me. He's a big genius. These are the ultimate Ferrari blades on planet Earth.

So what is a guy like me supposed to do? If you are a big fan and non-millionaire, you could purchase one of the two close-copy series made by Shun of Japan. We're talking about a close-copy as in close but no cigar. The Shun blades are marvelous, and my 6 inch chef's knife is a joy to use, but it is no original.

Oh yeah? Well what's wrong with it?

Let me tell you about that. In the video above, you saw Kramer chop through a 2x4 plank of wood and then shave the hair off his arm. Chopping through wood did no appreciable damage to his edge. Folks, it didn't take me long to develop three little chips in the edge of my Shun Bob Kramer copy. I did not chop through a 2x4 either. I was cutting celery, carrots, onions, parsley, garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc. I use a very nice rock-maple cutting board from Boos also.

That just doesn't sound right, now does it? What's the problem?

The problem is that the Shun copies are made from SG2 steel cores. Bob Kramer does not use SG2. Zwilling J.A. Henckels just revealed that Bob Kramer uses 52100 high carbon steel. These are not the same folks, not by a long shot.

SG2 is essentially a powder-pressure formed version of VG-10 steel. It is otherwise chemically identical to VG-10. Because of the pressure-forming, SG2 can increase in hardness from 59 to 64 on the Rockwell hardness scale. Rockwell hardness predicts both how much you can sharpen a blade, and how long it will hold that edge.

Unfortunately, Rockwell Hardness says nothing about longitudinal and transverse toughness. These two measurements of a steel predict how much a blade will resist denting and chipping. If you score high on these tests, you blade will resist chipping and denting extremely well. If you score low on these two tests, you blade is likely to chip and dent.

SG2 steel does not score well on longitudinal and transverse toughness tests. 52100 steel scores very high on longitudinal and transverse toughness tests.

The explanation is simple: my Kramer copy from Shun chips because it is made out of SG2 steel. The real thing does not chip because it is made out of 52100 high carbon steel. It's just as simple as that folks.

Because I happen to be a smart guy with some skills, I was able to fix my Bob Kramer copy. I broke out my belt-sander along with an 80-grit belt, and I ground out the chips. I went through a full sharpening process after that. My copy is now sharper than it was when it came fresh from the factory. I am very happy about this, but I know that further chipping awaits me in the future.

Well, I have good news for all you people who have not yet purchased a good set of knives. Zwilling J.A. Henckels has decided to rescue us all by providing identical copies of Bob Kramer's original high-carbon blades.

Just how identical are we talking about here anyhow? Bob Kramer was pretty emphatic that they have cloned every part of his process and they are using exactly the same materials. These are not close approximations inspired by the originals, as is the case with the Shun blades. These are identical copies that should perform exactly as the originals do.

You can hear it straight from the horse's mouth right here folks. We have it all on videotape.

I have to say, I am pretty excited about this development. A guy like me can finally afford something that performs just like the original. If you are insterested, you can buy these knives at Sur La Table.