When it comes to chef, author, and professional foodie Anthony Bourdain, you never know quite what to expect, but you can bet your lucky stars it will make you feel inferior in every way. His latest blasé dive into cool, titled Raw Craft With Anthony Bourdain, is a collaboration with the The Balvenie Distillery that aims to dig up some of he world’s best-kept craftsmen (and women). In the latest episode, he heads to a workshop in Olympia, Washington to meld two of our favorite things: food and space rocks.
Knife maker extraordinaire Bob Kramer is one of just 122 recognized master bladesmiths in the U.S. His creations can fetch astronomical (no pun intended) prices at auction, in part because of the incredible detail that goes into making them, and because they’re made of meteorite. “When you think about it, they represent man’s first encounter with a solid chunk of iron – these star stones,” he says.
Kramer uses the same Japanese stacking method that has been used to create katanas for centuries, and as you can see, it’s extremely effective. The meteorite is incorporated into the steel, which is folded into stacked layers, hammered flat, re-folded, and hammered again. From there it’s simply a matter of cutting the blade into the right shape, and grinding down the edges.
“At this point, the magic happens,” says Kramer. “We have to harden the steel by bringing it up to temperature. Like baking a cake – only at 1500 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Kramer explains that steel contains about one percent carbon, and the process of heating and cooling (also known as tempering) allows that carbon to dissolve into the solution it’s treated in, like the molten salt you see in the video.
“Something very interesting happens when the carbon dissolves into solution,” he says. “It not only changes changes color, but there’s a shadow that moves through the steel. This is what the samurai were looking for. That’s the steel transforming.”
This is the very same technique Japan’s foremost sword smith, Yoshindo Yoshiwara, used to create and temper the “Sword of Heaven,” a katana forged from a four-billion-year-old meteor.
“Bob Kramer is clearly out of his mind,” says Bourdain. “This process is so difficult and so long, it’s insane to work this hard to improve something as utilitarian as a knife, you’d think. But at the end of the day, what comes out is so unique and so beautiful, all I can say is that I want that kind of crazy.”
IMAGES: Bob Kramer/Kramer Knives