The knife arrived yesterday, and after an acquaintance period, and a long and thorough day of prep and service, 80% of the verdict is in!
The fit and finish of the knife is excellent, right on par with my DT ITK which it will be directly compared to throughout the next couple weeks. The Zwilling is an appealing knife, and not flashy at all like the Kramer Shun of yesteryear; this is a good thing as I don't care for bling on my blades. Out of the (enormous) box, the Zwilling immediately drew attention. The knife carries with it a sort of functional beauty, this can be likened to Lady Gaga (The Kramer Shun) vs. Adele (Zwilling Kramer). Spine is rounded and the knife is extremely comfortable to hold, with no signs of discomfort or fatigue showing that can't be attributed to my own personal preferences. For the size the blade is agile and balanced in a way that every inch of the blade can be utilized. My two issues here are in the handle, which at first felt a little awkward to me (Meiji handle would have been excellent to see in this one), and the shape of the blade, which also took a little getting used to. The curve in the front had me accidentally making accordion style cuts every few slices. These issues disappeared after a half hour or so of use however and now the knife actually does feel like an extension of the hand. I can see why Kramer's design is revered now; I never experienced this sort of comfort and intuitiveness with blade design on the previous Kramer replicas. At the price point (and especially if you can get 40% off) the F & F is unbeatable.
The edge and the steel are astounding, and blew expectations and doubt out of the water. OOTB it literally slid through the skin of a bell pepper on its own weight and passed the tomato weight test. After a pass through a case of the aforementioned peppers, a few #s of carrots, parsnips, napa cabbage, onions, yukon golds, and redskins, the knife still made it through the various sharpness tests we use. This sort of performance makes it by far the best knife I've ever purchased in a standard American retail cookware store and confirms Dean's findings. This is also the only (mass produced) knife that I've seen in stores that has a wonderful distal taper on the spine. With the Birchwood, Shun Elite, Shun Kramer, etc the spine appeared relatively uniform until the last 1/4-1/6 of the blade. I am not going to try to force any patina, I will just let nature take its course. It seems that this knife is less reactive than my Suisin WD, Hiromoto, and Suien VC. It is starting to show a mild discoloration that is neat; I will try to snap some pictures this weekend. I have nothing to report on how this one behaves on the stones yet however for the reasons seen above, thus the 80% of the verdict statement.
I am a skeptic when it comes to anything that comes out of SLT (I worked there for about two years), and I am normally against branding for mass market appeal. I had disappointing experiences with the previous Shun Kramers, and will probably never purchase a real Kramer. The Zwilling Kramer however is dollar for dollar hard to topple especially if you get any discount on it at all. This is a knife that whether directly intended or not, had knife nuts in consideration when it was produced. I have to give respect to Bob Kramer on this one, how often does a mass produced knife actually back up even a fraction of the the claims that are made about it? How many people will get a chance to own a real Kramer? The selection of 52100 is a risk as well, especially for a place that has a basically open return policy (some of the knives that used to come back when I worked there would make even Bobby Flay cringe).
While this knife may not be perfect, and certainly not for everyone, it is a significant step in the right direction for mass produced knives. For a knife that I was both wanting to and expecting to hate, I am dumbfounded. This one is staying in the kit, at least until Dave's knife appears at my door
Cliffs notes: If you have the money and have wanted to give a Kramer style knife a shot, this one appears to be it!
**This "review" is highly subjective and may be over-bloated with bias and incorrect statements, no responsibility is assumed if your experience with this product varies! One cannot step in the same river twice, as such it is possible that the opinions expressed within may change at any given time.
*** Here is a clip that I made just for fun while I was getting "acquainted" with the knife, I apologize for the oil burn on my left arm, the terrible knife skills, and the lack of any cinematography knowledge at all, its the first I've ever made and will potentially be the last you'll ever see. (It was also taken from a Droid X, which kept falling over when I went to do the parallel cuts)