One of Bob Kramer’s gorgeous custom Damascus chef’s knives.
There were many highlights at the 2008 Blade Show in Atlanta, including dinner with Murray Carter and an intimate group of his colleagues and supporters. The biggest surprise of the show, however, was the announcement of Shun’s collaboration with ABS Mastersmith Bob Kramer to produce a commercial version of his most popular chef’s knife. The prototype won Kitchen Knife of the Year at the Blade Show.
Bob Kramer custom on top, Shun’s version in Damascus-clad SG2 below.
Kramer’s knives have been favorites among kitchen knife fanatics and design junkies for a while, but it was a very favorable mention in Cook’s Illustrated that brought him to more mainstream attention. His straight carbon (52100) chef’s knives start at $475 and the Damascus versions can run well over a thousand — if you can get one. Kramer is now so backlogged with orders for his hand forged knives that he is not taking new orders for the foreseeable future. So the timing is perfect for a mass market Kramer chef’s knife. Shun has licensed Kramer’s design and produced a knife that will up the ante for design, performance and price among commercially available kitchen knives. Kitchen knife enthusiasts have long been used to high-octane edges and superior performance from boutique makers. Now the general public gets a chance to see what that can feel like.
The biggest difference in the Shun version is the steel. Kramer’s knife is made from thousands of layers of hand forged Damascus steel. It is not stainless. The Shun version is high-tech SG2 powdered steel clad in a softer stainless Damascus jacket. It is stainless, so a little more tolerant of typical conditions in a non-fanatic’s kitchen. If Shun follows the pattern of the Shun Elite series in the same steel, the edge should be right around 64 on the Rockwell C scale. Nice. In our conversation, Kramer said that he was very impressed with the SG2 steel. The feel of the knife is very close to the original. Heft and balance are spot on. The handle slabs are a little chunkier with a more pronounced palm swell than the elegant Kramer handle. These are just my impressions from a brief fondle at the show. I hope to get a knife in for review at some point in the near future.
The Shun-Kramer chef’s knife will be a Sur La Table exclusive for the first year. Pricing has not yet been announced. I’m guessing $450 MSRP with a street price in the $325 to $350 range.