Anthony Bourdain partnered with whisky distillery Balvenie for his newest show exploring the world’s best craftsmen and artisans. Episode four of the Raw Craft series saw Bourdain at the metal workshop of master bladesmith Bob Kramer. With the camera rolling, Kramer set to work crafting one of his signature sharp creations: a world-class chef’s knife made from meteorite steel.
Kramer is one of only 122 master bladesmiths certified by the American Bladesmith Society, so it’s clear he’s one of the best. Kramer knives fetch exorbitant prices at auction as both world-renowned chefs and knife collectors hunt down his creations, which are handcrafted, beautiful, durable, and of course, insanely sharp. On the Raw Craft episode, Kramer incorporates a chunk of meteorite into the many layers of steel that will compose a finished chef’s knife.
The traditional stacking method Kramer champions was made famous centuries ago in Japanese samurai katanas. The process to go from slabs of metal to world-class knife is extremely dangerous and requires an incredible level of precision. First, Kramer incorporates the meteorite, or the “star stone” as he calls it, into the steel that is arranged into stacked layers. Through intermittent blasts of ridiculously high temperatures, Kramer hammers the layers flat, then cuts and refolds another set of layers, and hammers them flat again.
Steel is made of iron and one percent carbon, and that carbon element dissolves when Kramer tempers the blade in molten salt at 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The result is a sort of shadow moving through the steel — a transformation the samurai required in their heyday. After grinding down the details of the knife, shaping its edge, and attaching a handcrafted handle, Kramer’s knife is finally complete.
Bourdain and Kramer agree that the process from start to finish is “just like cooking”: it takes the perfect combination of time, temperature, and technique. And just as you can ruin a perfect cut of meat by overcooking it, the wrong temperature or the wrong technique can ruin a perfect blade. Because it’s Bourdain, the pair then proceed to use the meteorite knife to chop up lunch, which happens to be meteorite-smoked salmon. And regardless of who ends up owning the blade, watching a just-forged chef’s knife slice through a piece of paper as smoothly as if it were a stick of butter is damn impressive.