Printed Spring 2011
By Schuyler Ingle
BOB KRAMER IS THAT LUCKY MAN WHO DISCOVERED EARLY ON WHAT HE MOST WANTED TO DO IN LIFE, and he has done it ever since. He's not just a knife maker, but a master Bladesmith-one of 122 worldwide certified by the American Bladesmith society.
He devotes himself to making chef's knives of ephemeral, exquisite, practical beauty and balance. A Kramer knife doesn't just fit the hand, it completes the hand. To chop an onion with a Kramer knife is to actively participate in art. What you then do with that chopped onion is another matter altogether.
After a rave review in Cook's Illustrated, Kramer was back-ordered for three years; he makes on 250 knives a year in his 2,500-square-foot shop in Olympia, Wash. The article (And test run on eBay, where frenzied bidding pushed the top price to $8,000) caught the attention of Shun Knives, the gourmet housewares division of KAI, a 100-year-old Japanese manufacturer of surgical tools and razor blades in Seki, Japan, famous for samurai swords and steel, and today the center of Japan's fine cutlery industry.
Shun fast tracked the Kramer knife, and Sur La Table brought out the complete Euro-style set as an exclusive. "They did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of my knives, but in the kind of high tech materials I can't even touch. And it's a hand made knife. No robot can produce the compound contours of my handles. Each blade is passed down the line through 150 workers. I saw it myself."
The Shun blade is built like a sandwich with a thin core of SG-2 steel, a powdered metallurgy stainless steel that's incredibly hard but flexible and easy to sharpen.
Chefs sing Shun's praises: "There are only a few knives that I keep in my kit, and they all are Shun!" says the celebrated Jet Tila, executive chef of Las Vegas's Wazuzu restaurant.