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Bob Kramer Chef Knife is one of the Best Chef Knife around. It has a comfortable handle and a large blade profile. Just a single knife can cost into the thousands. But even then, knife collectors are willing to wait months just for a chance to buy it. Luckily Kramer has teamed up with Zwilling to make a more affordable version so that average cook can afford one. The problem is that there are too many different version. Making sense of it can be confusing, with the cost being at least a few hundred dollars, you dont want to make the wrong choice. This review will talk about the difference between these knives and how it affects cutting performance, durability and comfort.
Bob Kramer Chef Knife Review Quick Summary
|Ice Harden 61
|Best Value, Great for home cook.
|Asian Style and Pretty, light but dulls fast.
|Most Resembles Kramer Original Design, Rust though.
|Most expensive but it doesnt rust. Has chipping issues.
|Bob Kramer Essential 8 Inch
|Meiji 8 Inch
|Kramer Carbon Steel 34941-203
|Bob Kramer Damascus 34891-203
History of Bob Kramer
Bob Kramer was born in 1958. In his early career he was a cook at the Four Seasons Olympic Hotel. He then proceeded to take a two week course in blade smithing. Eventually in 1997 received a Master Bladesmith recognition from the ABS.
Initially he sold his knives for around 150. As time went on, so did the price. It got to a point where he had to create a waiting list for his knife. In 2015, one of his new handmade knife sold for 30,000 dollar.
Sponsorship with Manufacturer
While his hand crafted knives were his main business. He eventually went on to sponsor knives by other manufacturer. One of his first was the one made by Shun. However, reports were that they were not a true replication of his design. You can still find examples of these knives on Ebay.
Currently, he has a partnership with Zwilling. These knives are more of a true representation of what he currently makes. According to the adverts, he personally puts the finishing pins on the knives himself. Ensuring that each knives get his own seal of approval.
Different Bob Kramer Knife Versions
The knives that are sold by Zwilling comes with four different model. The Essential, Meiji, Carbon Steel and Damascus line. What sets them apart is how the knives are configured. The Essential and Meiji line for example uses a fc61 steel. While the carbon steel uses 5201 carbon steel. The Damascus line is the most expensive of all and that one uses a powdered SG2 metal.
Each of these steel have their own unique properties. Mostly importantly is the hardness of the steel. If for example, you get a softer steel, it is less prone to chipping. However, it will also dull faster. If you get a harder knife, the edge is retained better but this also results in microchip.
Bob Kramer Chef Knife Design
This section will discuss how the knives are designed and constructed. We will segment each section on the different characteristic you should look for. We will also discuss how each knives are different.
The handle is a very important part of choosing a knife. What might be comfortable for one person will be different for another. They affect how well the knife is balanced and how heavy it is. Typically, you want a knife that is balanced at an area where you grip the knife. This way it will feel like an extension of your hand. If you have a knife that is too balanced forward, it will be a blade heavy knife. While some people might like that, I personally don’t.
Most of Bob Kramer Chef Knives are balanced really well. The knives are usually built to have a balance point of where you pinch the knife with the index and thumb. The Essential, Carbon Steel and the Damascus line all uses the same type of handle. It is large but also very ergonomic. The Meiji line uses a more Japanese style of handle. It is more suited for those with smaller hands.
Interesting enough each of these knives uses a different type of material for the handle. The essential one uses a Brushed Polymer, the Meiji uses a Pakka Wood, the Damascus uses a Linen Micrata and the Carbon one uses African wood. While the other synthetic one typically has no known issue, there are reports that the African Wood will shrink with use. While you can apply for a warranty, I doubt it will change much.
All of Kramer knives are full tang. What this means is that the blade runs through the length of the handle. Poorer quality knives will have the blade end at the hilt. This ultimately saves money for the manufacturer. To be fair, some high end Japanese knives are done like this. But for these commercially available knives, they are usually junk. Full tang knives are usually more durable and less likely to fling out randomly. Trust me, it happens.
Other things you should consider will be the hardness of the blade. All of Kramer knives have a relatively high Rockwell hardness rating. This hardness rating will determine how you will go around cutting things. Things with a rockwell hardness of 58 and below can cut harder stuff like squash or even chicken bone. However, knives with hardness of 60 plus will chip and possibly break. The reason why some chef wants a really hard knife is because it holds an edge really well. While most home cook will not need this, a professional will spend his whole day cutting. They do not always have the time to constantly sharpen their knife.
You should find the knife that suits your need the most. If you plan on cutting harder stuff, get a softer knife. However, expect for it to dull fast. However, if you do not want to sharpen it often, then get a harder knife. Below, you will find the hardness of the different knife. All the line except the Damascus have a hardness rating of 61. The Damascus has a hardness rating of 63.
While the Damascus holds the edge really well. I have multiple microchip across my blade. This was done when I was only cutting vegetables. Another thing you should be aware of is how fragile it is. I accidentally smacked my blade against the oven and the tip chipped off.
The shape of Bob Kramer Chef Knife is something that shocks most people. Most notably is the size of the blade. While most other manufacturer uses a relatively short blade height, Kramer knives are giant in comparison. While its not the size of Chinese Chef Knives, they are still considerable for a western knife.
Kramer knives have a bit of a belly to them. This means that in order to get a full contact with the board, you need to use a rocking motion to cut. This type of cutting is more common in western type of cutting. While Japanese knives have a more straight belly. Those type of shape are more designed for chopping.
I usually prefer my knife to be 8 inch long. It has the best control while at the same time gives me enough length to cut things. Professional chef usually like 10 inch or longer. They are experts at using knife and would not settle for anything smaller. While I do not recommend the 6 inch version, some might benefit from it. Especially those with smaller hand. You get a lot more control than the bigger knife. However, once you get adept at the bigger knife, you wish you hadn’t got smaller.
Kramer knives uses a 15 degree angle on both side. This type of angle usually means that it is more sharp and precise. However, this edge means that you need a knife with a hardness of 60 and above. If not, it will dull rapidly. European knives uses a 20 degree angle. They can get away with this because their hardness rating is usually at 58 and lower. If you try to change the profile of a German knife, it just means that you have to sharpen it more.
Caring for Your Knife
High end knife usually means there are certain things that you need to do to care for it. For one, these knifes are typically high in carbon content. As such, they can and will rust if you leave it wet. While the carbon steel one is the one you should really worry about. I would not stick any of them in the dishwasher. For the carbon steel one, I recommend at least drying it with a paper towel after use.
Sharpening Your Knife
Sharpening a knife is an art. It takes a lot of practice to be able to get a good edge on the knife. As such, some even send their knife out to sharpen. I do not recommend using the free service that Sur La Table provide. When I was there, I watched them use a knife grinder to sharpen the knife. Those take out too much metal and I highly advise against it.
What I recommend you do is buy a cheaper knife and learn how to use a wetstone. After you get good at it, then sharpen your expensive knife. Since I am not an expert, I recommend that you watch the video that Bob Kramer himself made. While there are a lot a of so call internet expert out there criticizing him, he is an expert. They are not. I recommend that you follow his advice.
For the whetstone. I recommend the dual 1000/6000 whetstone by king. The 1000 grit will bring back the sharpness and the 6000 will polish it. You can then finish it with a leather strop to really hone the edge. If your knife is only slightly dull, I recommend getting a honing steel by Victorinox. This will realign the edge making it sharp again. Do this only if it is partially dull.
Who Makes the Knife?
This is something that is quite funny. Bob Kramer is an American Knife Maker, but the company that makes it is German. The place where its manufacturer is in Seiki City Japan. I guess you can argue that you are getting the best of each country. But You can also argue that switching hands so many time loses its quality. Its still a good product, just a little weird how it gets ferried around.
Bob Kramer Chef Knife Flaws and Issues
Since these knives are hand made, there are a lot of variation from one knife to the next. I personally have dealt with quite a bit of issue with the knife. One problem is the thickness of it will vary from the center to the tip. Another is that quite a few of them will taper to one side. The cause of this is most likely due to the sharpening process, but since its handmade it should be expected. Considering the cost, there is a lot of quality control issue with these knives. I recommend you inspect each knife you get and make sure you get one that is acceptable for you.
Which Model Should You Get?
You should get one that fit your needs and preference the best. The cheapest option is the essential version. Those are rust resistance and great for most casual cooks. The Damascus and Meiji Line are really pretty but you pay a premium for it. I personally would choose the Carbon Steel model as they are the one that is closest Bob Kramer original design. The problem is that they are prone to rust and you do need to keep up with maintenance.
Bob Kramer Chef Knife Thoughts
These knives are some of the best that you can buy. They are comfortable, hold its edge well and will cut just about anything. The issue is that they are expensive and riddled with quality control problems. While I do think they are worth the money, for your average cook Wusthof knives will probably suit you better. They are a third of what Kramer cost and designed with the home cook in mind.
If you can afford the price, I recommend you stick with the Carbon Steel Model. They are great at retaining the edge and looks great to boot.
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