Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Dec 1, 2008 01:50 PM

Does my Kramer knife need its own steel?

I'd been thinking about getting a Kramer for a while now, and the New Yorker article pushed me over the edge (not to mention that my teenager just got a set of Shuns from her godmother and now her knives are better than mine!).

So I just bought a Kramer chef's knife at Sur La Table, and the salesperson told me that I had to buy the Kramer steel because I wasn't supposed to use my Japanese ceramic steel on it. Is this true?

I can't wait to use it tonight and compare it to my Global and Shun Classic knives. I'd like to hear how any of you like your Kramers, and how they fare against your other knives. TIA.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You need a steel but I don't know that there something magic about Kramer's. When it's time for sharpening, Kramer recommends a couple of professional sharpeners if you don't have someone local you can trust.

    Good luck in your ams race with your daughter!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Zeldog

      LOL! Thanks, Zeldog - I'll need the luck!

    2. Kramer says they use a tool steel with a HRC of 64-66. That's some very hard steel. Many Japanese knives have a HRC of 62-64. They can be successfully touched up on a ceramic steel but better to put them to the stones when needed for touch ups and resharpening.

      4 Replies
      1. re: scubadoo97

        Interesting ingo - thanks, scubadoo. I bought the Kramer steel because I figured after spending that much for a knife, it's best to do the right thing for it.

        What do you mean by "better to put them to the stones when needed for touch ups and resharpening"? I use steels only for honing, and sharpen my German knives on my Japanese stones, but was told that Japanese knives needed to be sharpened professionally. (I have a great sharpener guy 20 miles down the road.)

        1. re: Claudette

          Claudette, those are beautiful knives. Enjoy it!!

          You were told wrong.

          Sharpening a Japanese knife is no different than any other knife except, Japanese knives more often than not have asymmetric bevels like 70/30, 80/20 and some that look like single edges are really 90/10 with just a small back bevel. Real single edged Japanese knives have a single bevel on one side and is hollow ground the the other side.

          Some people like to maintain the asymmetry and others feel a 50/50 symmetric bevel is just as good and on first sharpening reprofile the edge. Shun Classics are very much a Germanised Japanese knife with European profiles, like a lot of belly on their chef knife and symmetric 50/50 bevels. They do have very good core steel of VG 10 stainless.

          And please don't be fooled into thinking that the steel is just aligning the edge. All but smooth steels will remove metal and are essentially sharpening the edge. Nothing really wrong with that. Most often you are creating a small primary bevel or a compound bevel when you steel. Sliding that edge down a 1200 grit ceramic steel is no different than sliding the edge over a 1200 grit waterstone. Grooved metal steels are the worst. They in a sense create a serrated edge.

          You are luck to have someone so close who I hope if very knowledgeable but since you have stones and obviously know how to use them on your German knives, you could do your Japanese knives at home as well if you wanted to.

          1. re: scubadoo97

            Wow, scubadoo - this is great news, and I'll put it to good use. I really appreciate your sharing so much info.

            The down side is that after using the Kramer last night, I'm not as keen to use my Globals and Shuns any more. (But a mother shouldn't play favorites w/ her children, no?)

      2. Color me jealous. I've long wanted a Kramer knife. Maybe now that you can get one from a store I'll pick one up some day.

        If you have a ceramic hone, you should be ok. The one by Idahone in fine ceramic seems to be the most popular for fine Japanese cutlery, so it should work on your Kramer.

        That said... with a knife that expensive and pretty... I'd take a different route. I wouldn't steel at all - ever. The steel is exceptionally hard as Scuba mentioned. I'd get an Edge Pro Apex (which would be good for every knife you have in the house) and just use a high grit stone (over 1000) with very *light* pressure every once in a while. That would make sure you don't take off more metal than necessary and is closer to how the Japanese maintain their knives. They don't use steels, either.

        1. I don't know about the sharpening, but I received a Kramer chef's knife from Bob Kramer today and it is a beaut. Been waiting over two years to get the real deal handcrafted by him. Amazing piece of work.

          14 Replies
          1. re: edwinjohnster

            If you just bought a Kramer then thick twice about some of the advice on this thread. Sharpening a knife made with hard steel like this is very different from sharpening a standard knife.
            The teeth on a steel can chip and destroy the edge of a knife made with hard steel. They should be sharpened on stones only. A 1200 grit whetstone may well be the same thing as a 1200 ceramic rod however those are both fairly abrasive for hard steel.
            A 5-6000 grit water stone would be far more appropriate working your way up as high as 12,000.
            BTW When you use a steel properly your intent should be re-aligning the edge. If you are trying to "sharpen" a knife with a steel then you are miss-using the steel.
            I'll leave you with a snippet from the Global web site since IMO it relates back to the OP.

            "Stone sharpening is the best way to sharpen any knives, not just GLOBAL knives"

            1. re: Fritter

              What you say about "sharpening" and "honing" is true. A Steel is used to align the blade. However, I've never seen a ceramic steel with teeth. and the rule is, the steel needs to be harder than the knife. So a ceramic steel should be ok. Just 1-2 strokes.

              1. re: Soop

                A ceramic rod may not contain "teeth" but it's still abrasive. There is little reason to put a high end knife like this that is maintained properly on something as coarse as a ceramic rod. Many ceramic rods are the equivalant of 1000 grit or less.
                Kramers are not similar to Nenox. Even the standard off the shelf Kramers from Sur la Table are Damascus. :)

                  1. re: Soop

                    The style of that top Nenox S1 YoDeba Honyaki is a lot closer than I had expected. It's interesting how deep they make the blade on the 165mm. The Nenox is a bit more than the off the shelf Kramer but I wouldn't be suprised if the finish is superior.
                    Interesting comparison.

              2. re: Fritter

                <"A 1200 grit whetstone may well be the same thing as a 1200 ceramic rod however those are both fairly abrasive for hard steel. A 5-6000 grit water stone would be far more appropriate">

                Wouldn't a harder steel need a more aggressive grit to remove metal compared to a softer steel?

                Even very hard steels may need some thinning or have chips removed and you aren't going to do that on a 6000 grit stone. The harder steel should hold it's edge better but if you get micro chips you aren't going to take them out with a high grit stone. All knives will need to be sharpened with a series of stones from lower grit to higher. The effect of going higher will be better appreciated on the harder steel as your hard work will last longer.

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  "Even very hard steels may need some thinning or have chips removed and you aren't going to do that on a 6000 grit stone"

                  That's true however the idea is NOT to get chips. The very last thing I want on a knife with an HRC over 62 is micro-serrations or chips from a steel.
                  The only reason you should ever need to put a high quality knife made of very hard steel on a stone as course as 1000 or less is if you round off the bevel. That's not nearly as likely with a knife this hard if it's given proper care. If you do need to re-set the shoulders this could indeed be accomplished by starting with a 1000 grit stone. Not a steel.
                  Simply put, a steel in this case is just the wrong tool for the job.

                  1. re: Fritter

                    Hard steel with HRC over 62 is known to sustain micro chips during normal service over time. This is not an oddity. If you are using very light touch and Japanese techniques this may not happen as often but using classic French knife skills you will certainly get some micro chips from chopping herbs or the like.

                    Forget sharpening steel. I think we both agree this is an inappropriate method of maintaining this type of knife. I have never endorsed its use even on crappy knives. Ceramic steel okay unless you've polished your edge with a high grit stone and then polished on leather. It would not make sense to then use a 1200 grit ceramic which will rough up the edge from where it was. Actually you should be able to get hair popping edges with a 1000 grit stone if your technique is good. That is all you need for a serviceable edge in the kitchen. Like many knife nuts I take my harder steel knives to 30,000 grit not because I need to but because I am obsessed.

                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      "I take my harder steel knives to 30,000 grit "

                      I just realized I've only fallen half way down the knife looney well! :)

                      1. re: Fritter

                        Haha. The 30k grit is a final stropping on leather with chromium oxide compound which is .5 micron particle size. I have yet to go to diamond spray which is finer but hear it's amazing. This is what I use to polish and hone

                        1. re: scubadoo97

                          It depends what you use it for. I've heard of people going as far as that, but for different cutting techniques I heard it doesn't automatically mean better just becasue it has a mirror edge.
                          Like tomatoes :D

                          1. re: Soop

                            Oh no. After a good sharpening and polishing, assuming you don't round the edge it will float through a soft tomato like nothing else.

                            1. re: scubadoo97

                              I learned a lot from reading this guy - he's as bad as you! (in a good way)

                              Here's the bit I referred to:
                              Regarding the edge - For a while I've kept the edge mirror polished, convex ground. Convex edge is a strong one, and withstands chopping better, however for slicing standard V edge is better, which is what all of the kitchen knife sharpeners will produce. Mirror polished edge performs very well for chopping and push-cutting, but for slicing it isn't the best choice. The fine, polished edge simply slips on certain mediums, such as tomato skin and alike. Of course if you apply slightly more force it will cut through, (if your knife is sharp), but still, performance is worse. Later, that is month ago I've decided to switch from mirror polished edge to rougher, more aggressive one. So, if before I was starting from 220 grit sandpaper and then gradually went to 600, 1000, 2000, 3000 polishing tape and the stropping, last time I've stopped on 600 grit. The difference was immediately noticeable. The edge become more "grabby" and slicing got a lot easier. Since the improvement in cutting was more evident in slicing vs. chopping I decided to keep it that way. For that matter, the only knife in my kitchen that still has polished edge today(that was until summer 2008) is the White Whale Santuko, which is used exclusively for vegetables, minus rough ones. At least when I was using it :
                              ) As for the later findings about edge polish, finish grit and cutting effifiency I guess you should also read Akifusa(Ikeda)Gyuto review, Conclusions section. Short summary is that very hard(62HRC+), thin edges work much better even at 30000 grit edge finish, than relatively thicker edges like I've had on this knife at 600 grit. Yes, 600 grit feels more aggressive, and for softer knives perhaps it's better left at that, but for really hard knives, super thin and super sharp edges do cut significantly better. Simple physics, edge that thin generates a lot more pressure using equal force, and hard steel ensures the edge will stay sharp long time.

                              Incidentally, I wonder what 1 grit is?

                              1. re: Soop

                                Re: Incidentally, "I wonder what 1 grit is?"

                                Perhaps the stones in your front... or back yard?

                                Just thinking....

            2. Just did a google image search. Looks like a Nenox, no?