We’ve been fans of master bladesmith Bob Kramer and his cult-favorite knives for years. We’ve even been lucky enough to team up with him on a few cutlery collections, including Meiji — our latest. So we recently caught up with Bob in his Olympia, Washington studio to talk about late-night snacks and cooking via meteorites, among other things.
Hi, Bob! So, if you weren’t making knives, what would you be doing?
That’s a stumper, right off the bat. I want to think about this for a second. [Long pause.] You know, I think if I weren’t a bladesmith, I’d probably be making something else. Building something — I don’t know if it would be sailboats or furniture or houses. I just like working with my hands. It’s the thing that makes me feel most comfortable in the world.
How did you become interested in knife making in the first place?
I got interested in knife making through knife sharpening. I was sharpening knives all over Seattle for different restaurants and different chefs, and I felt like that was my job. I saw myself as the expert in sharpening, and so I felt like I should be able to answer any question that anyone would have about their knives — like, what kind of steel is this? What hardness is this? Why this kind of steel or this shape? And so the more I got into it, the more I found it really very satisfying. It was a rabbit hole I started to go down into, but I felt really comfortable there.
And so the opportunity to actually make a knife, from start to finish, to hand-forge out a piece of steel, to treat it and put a handle on it, was pretty seductive. And once I had tried it, once I had made a tool, I was just hooked. Somehow, knife-making was going to be incorporated into my life, whether I did it at night or on the weekends or as a full-time job.
How does your training in restaurant kitchens affect your knife-making philosophy?
I think my background of cooking in kitchens gave me an appreciation of what a knife should feel like, how it should perform in your hand, how big the handle should be, the kind of taper on the blade.
I think that if someone had never had any wine to drink and then suddenly wanted to become a winemaker, they’d be a little bit lost. Making kitchen knives without having some experience in the kitchen, you might miss the mark a little bit. I think that background gave me a really solid foundation.
What are you most proud of?
You know, 30 years ago, I made this crazy decision and said “I’m going to be a knife sharpener.” And then later I said, “Now I’m going to make knives for a living.”
Making a living doing a craft like making knives was a longshot at best, and so I’m really proud that I just stayed on this trail — way off the beaten path, for the most part — and that I trusted myself and believed that if I kept doing this, it would pay off. I’m really proud that I just kept my nose to the grindstone.
When you aren’t working with knives, what are you doing?
Listening to music — I love music. Or working on my house or my cabin. Or you know, just hanging out with my wife.
It’s late. You’re peckish. What do you reach for?
Chocolate. Something really dark — maybe like 70%. No butter, no milk, just chocolate.
What are some of your favorite things to cook right now?
[Editor’s note: This answer was so good, words alone couldn’t do it justice, so we made a video!]
So that’s it for now. Are you lucky enough to own a Bob Kramer knife? And do you ever cook food on objects that have fallen from space?