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Bob Kramer Knives

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Since 1990 I have used the same Sabatier 10" shallow blade knife that my Grandfather gave to me as a gift when I became an apprentice and I cherish that knife and use it regularly, but I want something new with a deeper blade that is better balanced and more comfortable.  I have been doing some research and want a knife that is going to last but can be a work horse, keeps an edge, is balanced and finally is comfortable.  Kramer's new line that was released this year with Zwilling looks promising, and while they arent cheap his reputation is one that is built on quality craftsmanship.  Has anyone used a Kramer?  Either the Zwilling's or the Meiji's? Any experience you may have would be very helpful and much appreciated.  I am not so much looking at an Asian design, more of the classical French style of knife kind of guy.  Thanks in advance.

 

H-

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Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
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post #2 of 14

They're well made, beautiful and vastly overpriced from a "bang for the buck" performance standpoint.  I won't put a value on their beauty -- that's up to you.

 

If you like a light, agile French profiled knife ala Sabatier, a Kramer is probably a horrible choice.  They are "deep," yes, but like most deep knives have a lot of belly; in other words, their profile is German and not French, and they have enough arc to force you to adjust your action (if you have one).  

 

What advantages do you think you'll get from a "deep" knife? 

 

Kramer by Zwilling knives, fwiw, are made in Seki City, Japan; but of course they are not at all typical of most Japanese made, western style knives (like gyutos).  Those usually have a French profile.


Sabatiers are among the most comfortable and adaptable knives.  That you find yours uncomfortable is reasonable (no accounting for taste) but unusual.  That said, there's no reason you can't own and love two "go-to gyutos."  I certainly do, and one of them is a Sabatier.  

 

Without knowing the actual facts, I suspect that the knife's profile has either been ruined from over sharpening and/or the knife is dull and requires too much force to be comfortable. 

 

In the first case, you certainly need to replace it with the recognition that knives -- especially those used professionally -- do not last forever.

 

If the second -- and most likely -- we need to address sharpening before moving on to purchasing anything nearly as expensive as Kramer by Zwilling.   

 

Don't take my guess about sharpening as a criticism.  Not only do lots of people not sharpen well, the vast majority (including many kitchen professionals) have never experienced a truly sharp knife.

 

It doesn't matter how good or expensive the knife, all knives dull eventually and any dull knife is a dull knife.  If you want good sharpness, you'll probably want to sharpen after no more than twenty hours of professional use.  If you think you can maintain a good edge on a steel and sharpening every few months or so -- you either don't know or don't care about real sharpness.

 

FWIW, most western handled, mid-length (8" - 10-1/2") chef's knives with bolsters balance about the same; i.e., in front of the bolster, right around the pinch point. Very few good knife technicians think of balance as being at all important.  They accept that a longer knife will be more balance-forward than a shorter one and choose the right tool for the job, regardless of balance. 

 

If you have excellent grip and knife skills, your best choice might be one of the new, western-handled lasers, like a Gesshin Ginga, Ashi or Konosuke.  If not, you might want something stiffer and more robust.  There are lots of wonderful choices -- and even narrowed down to "best choices for you" you'll have plenty to choose from.

 

But before moving on to particular recommendations, let's look at the more basic questions and at sharpening.  In addition to the questions posed above:

  • What's your current sharpening routine? 
  • What kind of steel do you use?  How fine is it?  How long?  How often do you use it?
  • How much money and/or time are you willing to invest in a top quality sharpening kit and learning to sharpen?
  • How would you rate your knife skills? 
  • Do you slide your knife forward or back as part of your chopping action?
  • Do you cut brunoise as a matter of course, or does it take thought and effort? 
  • Do you hold your knife with a firm or soft grip?

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 12/31/11 at 12:25pm
post #3 of 14
post #4 of 14
post #5 of 14

What I'm getting from the threads Racine posted is reactions from knife hobbyists, but not reactions from skilled users.  It's a well made, well-designed knife, made from 52100 -- a good, if old school alloy.  It certainly takes and holds a great edge.  At it's price it should be and do all of those things.

 

At the end of the day though, performance is not entirely measurable by the "objective metrics" knife hobbyists talk about, like hardness or choil thinness, although they can certainly give you some insight into what to expect.  Rather it's a gestalt which very much includes profile geometry, and is limited by the user's preferences as well as knife and sharpening skills. 

 

I spent five or ten minutes using the Kramer by Zwilling chef's in a competitive "chop off" with the knife demonstrator at the Santa Monica SLT, and didn't hate it, but didn't like it much either.  Admittedly it wasn't a lot of time, and not enough to really get used to the Kramer, but it was sufficient to reach some conclusions.  My feeling was that if I were buying a non-laser, yo-handled, mass produced, carbon knife, I'd still choose the Tadatsuna White #2 first, the Masamoto HC second, and the Misono Sweden third; all three by a wide margin over the Kramer, even if all four were identically priced.

 

With regards to what ChefHow said, I want to know what he wants or expects from a wide blade with so much belly.  Perhaps it's also important to ask why he wants a knife with a profile as idiosyncratic as a Kramer's.  I also forgot to ask why he's interested in a regular carbon steel knife when modern semi-stainless and stainless performs so well. 

 

If you open the categories of choice to yo and wa; carbon, semi-stainless, and stainless; merely thin and actually laser, I can think of a lot of knives I'd rather use -- especially in a professional context -- than the new Kramer if for no other reason than it's not it's profile is inherently more awkward and less agile. 

 

BDL

post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 

In the 20+ years I have spent in the kitchen I have had some problems with my right hand and it has caused some permanent swelling in my right knuckles. Because of that when I decided to finally retire the Sabatier after being the ONLY chef knife I have owned I bought a cheap wide bladed Dexter Russel to see how I liked it. With a minor change to my grip and motion I have found the wide blade to be extremely comfortable and easy to use.

 

So in my search for a replacement a friend suggested I look into Kramer knives, I know that they can be VERY expensive but if its the last chef knife I buy its worth the $350 one of Zwilling's seem to be going for. I am NOT looking at the Damascus blades, while that are beautiful I am not going to spend $600 on a blade, its just way out of my budget. From what I understand they are designed by Bob, but forged by Zwilling in a combination of Carbon and Stainless Steel, if I am wrong please let me know. I know how difficult a full carbon blade is to maintain and I'm not looking for that at this point, and I am very confident in my sharpening skills, I take great pride in how sharp I keep my knives so that isnt an issue either.

 

What I am looking for is a knife that will last me a lifetime at a reasonable price, and as a professional who uses his knife quite a bit I understand that a $350+ dollar knife isnt cheap but I'm not a hobbyist.  I like the more traditional handle of a European knife and the width of a French Blade but dont want a full carbon blade.  I also realize that with the purchase of a Kramer knife I will need to buy a new set of stones with a MUCH higher grit but I can get them for a lot less than he sells them so that isnt much of a concern at this point. 

 

Again, thanks for the insight and happy new year.

 

H-

Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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post #7 of 14

The alloy is 52100, which is a carbon steel.  Unlike the Shun Kramers which were more of a collaboration, the Kramers by Zwilling are pure Kramer except mass-produced by Zwilling in Japan at (I think) their Miyabi factory.  There's no question that the Kramers by Zwilling are very high quality knives, and I don't want my lack of enthusiasm over their profile to get in the way of that particular "insight."  

 

Yes, they're expensive.  But sadly, $350 is not really out of line for a really, really good, Japanese made chef's knife.  Exchange rates alone... 

 

I get that you're having an ergonomic problem, and would like to help you solve it in the best possible way for you.  Dissecting a problem is usually the first part of the remedy.  So.. you're having problems with your knuckles clearing the board?

 

I still suspect -- for a lot of reasons -- that a big part of your problem comes from a dull knife.  Principally, because dullness puts so much pressure on the hand.  Also, unlike a German profile which has more arc (aka "belly") the Sabatier's French profile doesn't do anything to supply extra power to compensate for a blade which is not very sharp.  It's very likely that your Sabatier has never been thinned, and over the years enough material has been taken away so that the edge is in a relatively thick part of the blade -- which makes (good) sharpening a lot more difficult.  Also, you didn't respond to what I said and asked about sharpening -- so I'm guessing it's a relatively unfamiliar topic. 

 

A friend of mine who has some hand issues just bought an antique Sabatier with a "Nogent" style handle and finds it uncomfortable -- but he's an amateur who also has an overly strong, naive grip.  Worth saying to you, that one can do a lot for comfort with some grip adjustment.  But a soft grip depends on a very sharp knife, so it's a two-prong project.

 

Getting back to German vs French (and Japanese) profiles:  In my experience, most skilled cutters who've had the chance to fool around with both of them prefer French.  But it's a matter of taste, and nothing set in stone.  If a German profile design like Kramer's better suits, then you should have it.  My initial impulse is to direct you towards something high, French and very thin (to maximize perceived sharpness), with a substantial handle -- perhaps a Tadatsuna western gyuto.

 

In any case, Kramers get dull just like any other knife.  If you can't or won't sharpen at a relatively high level, get something cheaper. 

 

Finally, know that SLT offers a 15% discount on nearly all merchandise to professionals (10% on electronics and food).  If you aren't signed up, you should be.

 

BDL

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks BDL, I did very briefly answer your question as to sharpening, I do and ALWAYS have sharpened my own knives and have great confidence in my abilities to do so.  At home currently I use a 3 stone system with a 1K, 3K and 5K finishing stone.  I have never really gotten into the science of sharpening, materials or styles I just did it. 

 

When I was an apprentice my instructor took me to the side, handed me a box with various shaped and sized knives and said dont come back until they are all as sharp as this one, his knife.  He showed me how to do it, watched me for about 1 minute, said good and walked away, that was how I learned.  Cruel, maybe, but I was a 19yr old apprentice and he was an ass.  He was however happy enough that he gave me the job of spending hours every Sunday night sharpening all the kitchen knives for the entire resort and I did it for my entire apprenticeship

 

 

Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
post #9 of 14

Well, if they're sharp they're sharp; and so much for the dull knife hypothesis.

 

Do you hit your knuckles on the board with a narrow knife like your Sab?

 

BDL

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 

I had a bit of a temper in my younger days and broke my hand a couple times beating up walls and other inanimate objects rather than people, along with some minor arthritis that has developed from that my knuckles are quite swollen on a regular basis.  I started to hit them every now and then and when its the end of a long day the last thing you want is a stinger that shoots a pain thru your forearm from hitting knuckles, so yes I was starting to.

 

A couple of years ago when I started to have problems I moved from using the front to middle part of the blade to using the back to middle so I could hang my hand over the board and make more room for my hands but it wasnt the same and was never very comfortable.  When I bought the Dexter I was able to move back to my original and more comfortable position but just modify my grip a little and go with a wider sweep.

Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
post #11 of 14

Which Dexter Chef, the DuoGlide?

 

I have one of those and while able bodied I can out cut that with a conventional chef but with a compromised grip the DuoGlide comes into it's own. I can julienne without using my thumb to grip.

 

Jim

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

Its a $20 10" chef knife I picked up in a small supply store.

Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
post #13 of 14

The MAC Pro is fairly tall.  Not as tall as a Lamson wide, but tall.  It's an excellent all-round knife, and under $200.  Pretty much everyone likes the handle, but I'm not sure you would given your issues.  Also, the profile doesn't have much belly -- and that's another issue.

 

Definitely go into an SLT and try out the Kramer by Zwilling carbons -- and whatever else looks good.  They'll let you do some cutting, but call in advance just to make sure you come in at a good time.  Last time I did it, I brought my own produce -- they thought it was funny but allowed me more use than the usual half an onion or potato.  Normally, knife store testing is more misleading than helpful but your issues are so specific you should be able to find out if the grip and height are comfortable.

 

I think you should give Mark at Chef Knives to Go a call and talk to him for a few minutes.  He can help you find high-end knifes which suit your needs -- heaven knows he has a wide enough selection.  Jon at Japanese Knife Imports is also very good, but I'm less sure you'll want anything he sells.

 

There are some "ergonomic" handles designed to work for people who have your issues; but I don't know enough about any of them to recommend or comment. 

 

Another possibility is adjusting your grip so that you're "coming over the top" with your pinch, and barely holding the handle with your finger tips.  I call it a "soft pinch," it's my everyday chef's knife grip, and it allows me to use a slicer for regular chef's knife duty without any knuckle busting at all.  On the downside, because the grip is so soft it transfers very little power and requires an edge sharp enough to do all the work.  Even then it may or may not be comfortable for you.

 

BDL

post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the help and leads BDL, I do appreciate it.

Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
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