The $26,000 Kramer Knife

Who on earth would pay $26,000 for a kitchen knife? A lot of people would – if it was a hand made Kramer. You can’t pick it up in any shop. And you have to win a lottery to own one. That’s right. The company has such a backlog of orders that it picks five people at random every year out of a list of submitted prospects. There is no guarantee that your name will ever come up. All you can do is enter your email address and hope for the best. Which means you may never own one in this lifetime. But what’s so special about a Kramer? It’s a kitchen knife, after all. How was it elevated into something that the best chefs across the world lust for?

Bob Kramer realised after 10 years of working in a kitchen that he could never hope to reach the top as a chef. He quit and traveled across the country, asking chefs to give him their most damaged knives to breath fresh life into them. In the process, he found his true calling. He joined the school of Bladesmithing and is now one of the 120 Master Bladesmiths in the US. From the New Yorker article – Kramer underwent five years of study, culminating in the manufacture, through hand-forging, of six knives. One of those was a roughly finished, fifteen-inch bowie knife, which Kramer had to use to accomplish four tasks, in this order: cut through an inch-thick piece of Manila rope in a single swipe; chop through a two-by-four, twice; place the blade on his forearm and, with the belly of the blade that had done all the chopping, shave a swath of arm hair; and, finally, lock the knife in a vise and permanently bend it ninety degrees. The combination of these challenges tests steel’s two chief but conflicting capabilities: its flexibility and its hardness.

The Kramer can cut cleanly through a folded magazine, or grab the skin of a tomato. It can even slice through a soft drink can, in a single arc. Made from a carbon steel alloy that can be sharpened for years, unlike regular stainless steel knives that grow dull with use and never regain the edge. The high-end knives called Damascus blades are made from a technique originally used for making swords. The steel is folded and forged upon itself until it acquires a unique wood grain texture with layers. With usage, the grains develop a pattern like a fingerprint and a patina that grows richer with time. All of this coming from a single minded desire, as Kramer puts it – “I decided I wanted to make something that lasted longer than a meal” And the world is a richer place because he devoted himself to the passion

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