View Full Version : The Shun Experiment

Pensacola Tiger
01-17-2013, 10:22 PM
I've read a lot of pejorative comments about Shun knives, both here and on other forums, so I decided to try an experiment to see how valid the criticisms are - I undertook to use only Shun knives for a month. I assembled a kit of six knives, both my own and some lent to me for the duration of the experiment (thanks to daveb and my friend Pamela). There were six knives - a 3½" Classic parer, a 4¾" Kramer Euroline utility, a 6" Classic utility/petty, a 7" Kramer Meiji santoku, a 9" Premier bread knife and a 9½" Elite slicer/sujihiki. Missing from the lineup was everyone's least favorite Shun, the Classic chef's.

I embarked on the experiment the day after Thanksgiving, and completed it the fifth day of the new year.

Now, keep in mind that I am a home cook, not a professional, so I may dice two onions where others may dice two bagfuls, or trim two steaks instead of two dozen.

Now the results.

Shun Premier Bread Knife.

A VG10 core clad with hammered stainless, the Premier bread knife was the least used of all the knives. I used Dave Martell's suggestions for sharpening a serrated knife and restored it to better than OOTB condition prior to the experiment. So much so that it cut a groove in my maple board the first time I cut a baguette. From then on out, I used an old bamboo board if I wanted to use the bread knife, which was not often, since the Elite slicer did a great job on bread.

Shun Kramer Meiji Santoku

The Kramer Meiji santoku has a core of SG2 steel surrounded by some very nice stainless damascus cladding. Unlike the Classic line, the etch is much deeper, and the pattern can be felt as well as seen. The handle is perhaps the best part of the knife, as it tapers dramatically at the ferrule, and is very comfortable to hold in a pinch grip. Those of you who have had a chance to use Marko Tsourkan's pass around knives with his D-handle will know what I mean.

I expected that I would feel hamstrung having to use the 7" santoku as my primary knife, since I use a 24 cm gyuto normally, but I was surprised to find that I was not. There were a few times I felt that a longer knife would be useful, but for the most part, I did not feel handicapped in any way. It handled every task I would do with a longer gyuto very well. When Eamon Burke developed the 19 cm utility with Will Catcheside, he made this comment, "The design is my own, I created this to be the most useful knife possible in a small package. It embodies everything I want to see in a knife like this, from ease of maintenance to knuckle clearance. I could use a knife like this exclusively in a kitchen, and not want for anything but a slicer." I feel the Shun Kramer Meiji santoku is another such knife.

There is a moderate amount of convexity to the grind of the Shun Kramer Meiji, and food release was very good. Potatoes had little tendency to stick to the side of the knife. The SG2 steel held a good working edge for the entire time of the experiment, requiring neither sharpening or stropping.

Shun Classic Paring Knife

The Classic parer has a VG10 core clad in stainless damascus. Many describe it as "faux damascus", as it has little in common aesthetically with the damascus produced by any of the custom knife makers on this forum.

I can now appreciate how the Classic parer has earned a place in the the kits of so many forum members. The knife performed well, needing only minimal touch up during the six weeks it was used. The handle is well-suited for in-hand work.

Shun Classic Utility/Petty

The Classic utility/petty was the second least useful knife of the six, as it had insufficient height at the heel to be used on a board, yet was long enough to feel clumsy for in-hand use when compared to the Classic parer. I found myself searching for tasks for this knife, and used it primarily to trim steaks or chicken breasts.

Shun Kramer Euroline Utility

The Euroline utility has a core of SG2 clad in stainless damascus, in a pattern similar to the Meiji santoku. It has enough depth at the heel to be used on a board.

I fully expected the Kramer Euroline utility to be the least used knife, but I found it to be the second most used blade in the kit. Slicing lemons, dicing shallots and mincing garlic were just a few of the tasks I found myself doing with the knife. Not unsurprisingly, this was the knife my wife reached for most of the time. Now, nothing this knife did could not have been done with the santoku, or with a gyuto, but it just seemed to fit the smaller tasks a bit better. The handle was a bit too full for my liking, and the quillion point was sharp enough to bite my hand a few times, though no blood was drawn.

Shun Elite Slicer/Sujihiki

The Elite slicer has a core of SG2 steel surrounded by stainless cladding which has been bead-blasted to a matte texture, almost like the Nashiji finish on some Teruyasu Fujiwara knives.

The slicer did exactly what a slicer should. It made short work of the Christmas ham as well as the several roasts that I used it on. The lack of 30mm of length when compared to a 27 cm sujihiki was not very noticeable. The SG2 steel did not require any sharpening nor touch up the entire time of the experiment, even though it made contact with a ham bone several times. The handle is neutral, unlike the Classic D-handles, so the knife is suitable for both right-handed and left-handed users. A pity the Elite line is discontinued.

In conclusion, I found that the reputation that Shuns have is probably due more to profile than any other aspect of the knives.

Okay, let the rebuttals begin!

01-17-2013, 10:37 PM
That's gonna be fun... :knight:

01-17-2013, 10:39 PM
In conclusion, I found that the reputation that Shuns have is probably due more to profile than any other aspect of the knives.


01-17-2013, 10:44 PM
Wow, nice write up Rick! I think its awesome you took the time to evaluate and inform! Thank you!

01-17-2013, 10:46 PM
Any sharpening notes?

01-17-2013, 10:47 PM
No experience with these knives...but nice write-up, thanks!

01-17-2013, 11:28 PM
I'm agree with you ,Rick! I'm not Shun lover or hater, I do own few Shun knives & still use them now. In my opinion, they are not any better or worse than other VG10/sg2 knives! F/F is very good, actually better than some of $200~$300 J-knives. however, Shun's retail price is way too high. if you can find one with good price; I think they are OK knife to buy!

01-18-2013, 12:30 AM
Thanks for the write-up. Any pics of the specific blades used?

01-18-2013, 12:31 AM
My biggest beef with the Shun line is the sharpening. I have come quite a ways in my skills on the stones since I purged my kit of all of them. Therefore I cannot dis them as wholeheartedly as before.
I would not equate the Shun VG10 with all VG10. I happen to love the Tojiro DP knife(in VG10) I own and find the steel to be great. I still happen to shy away from it and would never buy a knife with VG10 again.
I'm happy you did this Rick, it was quite a commitment on your part(especially given the overall awesomeness of your collection) and quite a thorough writeup to boot!
I still say "Leave the Shun, take the cannoli."

01-18-2013, 12:47 AM
I have used others' Shun knives, specifically the oft-panned Classic Chef's. Each time, I thought it was ok, nothing special but certainly not deserving of the derision often heaped upon it. Though I have not used any of them for as long as you did, I found it adequate to most tasks and I am told by the owners that they hold their edge fairly well. The part i didn't particularly care for was the belly (I think this is the right term?), which had almost a rocker-shape. That said, I did just buy the aforementioned Classic 8" Chef as a secret-santa gift for one of my employees, who has a nasty habit of buying $20 hand-me-downs off of the internet and having to take half the blade off just to get a straight edge. The other knife I had in mind for him was the same size Global, which I had a good experience with but found the metal handle slippery and therefore dangerous; it also burned me once when some idiot pushed it over a burner by mistake. 1st time for that one... Since he isn't especially knife-savvy, doesn't know how to sharpen very well yet (I try to show him what little I know), and loves taller-bladed, round-bellied (again, ??) knives, this seemed like a good fit, and I was sick of seeing the house waterstone get abused by knives that collectively were worth less than the stone itself. I got it for $120 with a professional discount at the mall (chuckle). He LOVES it and uses it constantly, and as far as I know hasn't had to sharpen it yet- I checked the blade today, it is still quite sharp after about a month of steady and not very gentle use. The items I know he has used the knife to prepare have been consistent with my requirements too, specifically things like negi which I want very thin and feathery. So- my verdict would be that Shun Classic is a good entry-level professional-use knife, with the caveat that paying what is normally asked for them is a bit absurd; I felt that with the 25% off I received it made it an acceptable price for a decent knife that would be able to take a beating and still cut super-thin onions with minimal upkeep:)

01-18-2013, 01:12 AM
Wow, nice write up Rick! I think its awesome you took the time to evaluate and inform! Thank you!


I still have no interest in buying one, but will think better of them from now on!

Pensacola Tiger
01-18-2013, 08:38 AM
Thanks for the write-up. Any pics of the specific blades used?

Here's a group photo, minus the Classic petty/utility:


Pensacola Tiger
01-18-2013, 08:41 AM
Any sharpening notes?

I didn't do anything special to them. I used a Shapton Pro 5k to touch up the parer during the experiment. Anything specific you want to know?

mr drinky
01-18-2013, 09:09 AM
Interesting test run Rick. Thanks. I bet it felt good to go back to your numerous other more-awesome knives though ;)

For the record I have one shun, and there is something about the classic handles that has always appealed to me. Do I use my Shun? Rarely. The last time I used it was when I thought my knife might get damaged during cutting and I didn't want to risk one of my nicer knives. Regardless of how they cut or perform, I just have no emotional attachment to it, don't enjoy sharpening it (though it isn't particularly difficult to sharpen), and I can't say that cutting with it brings any joy. It's like taking a bus -- sometimes you might have to use it and it gets the job done, but it also sort of sucks.


01-18-2013, 09:12 AM
I legitimately think the suji and parer are nice looking knives.

Thanks for the write-up, Rick! Now all of your DT sales are making sense. HEY, EVERYONE! RICK IS CHOOSING SHUN OVER DT!!! :D Just kidding.

I think the shape, reputation for being chippy and the fact that deep down, we don't want to be using the same knives as all of those Martha Stewarts out there has really negatively affected our opinions of Shun knives. They aren't the sexy choice, so we turn our noses at them. I see the whole situation as being given a choice between Halle Berry and Olivia Wilde. Halle Berry is everything "Hollywood", while Olivia Wilde is still somewhat unknown to many, and she has that exotic thing going, which doesn't hurt. Deep down, we'd rather some people go, "man, he scooped that before many even knew who she was...". In other words, ego comes into play.

Are Shuns and Globals as good as the "sexy" knives of late? No, not really. However, they sure aren't as bad as we like to pretend they are, either.

Thanks for doing this, Rick!

Don Nguyen
01-18-2013, 09:50 AM
we don't want to be using the same knives as all of those Martha Stewarts out there

I think this is a big, big part of it. I also like the Olivia Wilde analogy.

01-18-2013, 12:09 PM
Interesting. I've never used a Shun. I talked to a local cook a little about knives when I first started on this slippery slope, and he thought Shuns were the end-all, be-all. This sounds like they can be very nice, but there is so much more out there.

I prefer a George Clooney/William H. Macy analogy. One is pretty & entertaining enough and will do in a pinch. The other is a real performer, quirky, and continues to look better and better as time passes. (Olivia & Halle don't do much for me.)

01-18-2013, 01:17 PM
Love the write up. If you are interested in completing it with 2 other shun knives, I can loan you a Sheeps foot parer and Shun Classic Chefs knife. If interested you can PM me.


01-18-2013, 01:28 PM
I must say, I have handled the Kramer Meiji line, and the handles are great. If they made a 10in chefs, i would have bought it.

01-18-2013, 02:44 PM
Nice write up!! I feel the same way, the shuns for what they are, are a descent knife. Shuns for the price you pay for them..not soooo much. You can get a knife twice as good and still have $100 in your pocket for later. As a entry level knife it is actually a good start, cause it has a comfortable handle and it holds a decent edge long enough to get the job done. They were great knives to start out with, because I got a lot of practice sharpening and fixing chips and tips,and I loved that , but if your not into sharpening or knife work its annoying!As for a professional knife for everyday use I wouldn`t suggest it to any one, but for the home cook who just likes a pretentious knife get it !! :D.
I have a classic 8" and a classic 12" chef I had to work with for a year or so, they chip easy, the edge is only so-so and for retention I was sharpening it every week just so I didnt struggle cutting apples. I felt proud when I bought my first one and went into work with this new knife! ( also got a sweet discount for being a student and a "professional" so $140 became $100 :lol2: ) but like whats been said the "Martha" complex comes into play and every one soon has one. My entire kitchen now carries shuns and it makes me crazy cause they don't know how to sharpen them and they are always duller than a butter knife! I am thankful for my morning prep guys who actually do the bulk of cutting they all rock some cheap work horse carbon steel knives and know enough to take care of them and when they need it I give them a crisp new edge ! Over all feel for shuns thumbs down......

01-19-2013, 04:11 AM
Thanks for doing the review.

There has been a bias against Shun on the forums, for as long as I can remember. I've wondered why people have such a strong negative reaction to it.

My first Japanese knife was a Shun. I was blown away by that knife. It was so light, thin, and sharp. Was it ever sharp, I shaved a finger nail off, with it. After that knife, my expectations were so high, that I never had the wow experience again, with a new knife.

It was easy to think that Shun was the ultimate and end all. Then I found the forums, and learned there was a whole world of Japanese cutlery and Shun was only a small part of it. Add to that Shun was even considered to be a high end maker. It was quite a shock to the system. I wonder if that shock, is one of the underlying causes of the bias?

I've got a fair idea what Shun is all about, so I am not interested in trying any more knifes from them. When a person asks about Shun, it's easy to say try something else.

Prices on knives, have risen over the past few years and Shun is no exception. When compared to other VG-10 knifes, their prices seem to be in line with the rest of the market. A common criticism has been that Shuns are over priced and there are better options for the same money. Hiromoto or the Carbonext line, are nice knives for less money. But those lines can be compared to lot of knives, and a case could be made that they are better knives for the price.

Since Shuns were the first Japanese knives for many of us, how many of them were the knives that we learned to sharpen on? How many of us would recommend sharpening VG-10 to a newbie? Especially with the wire edge? Once a person has learned to sharpen, would they still feel the same way about them? Dave has mentioned more then once, that on the belts, Shuns take the keenest edge, out of any of the stainless knives.


01-19-2013, 05:44 AM
I'm sure most would cringe at the site of my knife bag. I remember when Kramer switched to German and the blades went on sale. I currently have the classic (which I use daily) the classic euro style and a Premier which I got on sale $100) Yeah the Premier is on display but the other two are dailies.

Cadillac J
01-21-2013, 03:08 PM
I legitimately think the suji and parer are nice looking knives.

Agreed, was just going to comment that I could get down with that suji...nice profile and overall look.

I LOVE my Shun paring knife -- thinned mine out and it really can take a ridiculous edge, not to mention its blade shape and handle are perfect.

We all know the knocks on Shun are due mostly to profile and mass-market notoriety, and to a lesser extent, their price point versus other comparable less-known knives...but they are still pretty good overall -- except for the Ken Onions -- those are butt ugly.

01-21-2013, 04:49 PM
I still use the Shun Classic Chef's at work from time to time. Even at half height by now (think 200mm petty), and with no considerable thinning, it's still thinner and more nimble than anything else in the restaurant.

01-21-2013, 05:35 PM
Thanks for the write up, Rick!

Profile and price point are why I steer clear of Shuns. Most of what I've used and seen are the classic VG-10 8" and 10" chef knives. In pro kitchens, for some reason, from my experience, the people that use them ride them hard and put them away wet. Dull and abused, always. Pro cooks/chefs don't always know about knives (options in brand, steels, availability, price points, geometry, sharpening); it's a tool related to the craft but not a subject many pro food ppl are informed on. Culinary schools don't teach about it, most cooks don't talk about them. I mean, every now and again knives will come up and the discussion goes something like this,

Cook/chef #1: Hey, what kind of knife do you got their?
Cook/chef #2: Just this <xyz brand> I have.
Cook/chef #1: Nice! Can I see it? Hotdamn it feels good! Where did you buy it? How much?

Almost every decent pro kitchen has a few knuts, but even that can sometimes create a rift as it can be seen as pretentiousness. I've seen a lot of the mentality "The more a knife costs, the better it is, so the less I have to take care of it."

KKF is a place for kitchen knife enthusiasts, and a lot of its members are honest, helpful and well informed. Which is why I think options and alternatives are often suggested. THIS is not directed at you, Rick, as you have exquisite taste in knives. I see what you buy in the BST haha :) I wish I could own a custom, but it's financially not in the cards these days. Instead I bottom feed on price/performance knives at the >$150 range. It's taught me even a modest knife, with modest steel can be a performer in the right hands with proper maintenance.

That said, at the Shun price point, I can always find something I fancy more now a days. They can def get sharp, I could work a full shift with one, and are totally functional. Just not my taste. Full disclosure, I've owned a Shun parer, chefs 8" and 10", 12" yangi and used many others. This is just my opinion lol.

01-21-2013, 10:02 PM
Great thread! Thanks to Rick for starting it with his precise observations. I've been wondering as well about the emotions getting involved in the past when Shun was concerned. Just as with Global and santokus. Guess some snobism is there. How could my neighbour have a decent knife without knowing anything about it? The aggressive marketing by Shun amongst the general public did certainly add to that.
That said, Shun has contributed heavily to the mixed reputation of VG-10. This might be due to poor HT, but as well in spreading it amongst that same general public - users who would have been better off with a good old Wüsthof.
The price point: I've seen excellently treated VG-10 by JCK at almost the half of the price. And, with Cadillac, I won't advice a novice sharpener to start with VG-10.

labor of love
01-22-2013, 12:50 AM
nice review. i wouldnt mind an unbiased review of the shun blue steel kiritsuke gyuto. anybody?

01-22-2013, 05:05 AM
Any reviews on the shun yanagi? Seems to be the only cheap stainless readily available option around that has garnered at least somewhat good reviews.

01-22-2013, 09:53 AM
I've used a few Shun blades on the line and when they are treated properly they work just fine, but I will never own one (aside from my shiney allergy). Each time I had to sharpen one I would go insane trying to get a good edge, or die a little trying to thin one down from belt sander sharpenings... took me a week to fix one and it was my last never to be touched again...

So for me they cost way to much for the pain in my ass that they are :p

NO ChoP!
01-22-2013, 10:25 AM
I thank being left handed for never going down the Shun path....

Macs are where I started.

I've rehabbed a few Shun, unfortunately most I've handle are beat to hell.

01-22-2013, 10:53 AM
nice review. i wouldnt mind an unbiased review of the shun blue steel kiritsuke gyuto. anybody?

+1 to this

01-22-2013, 11:00 AM
nice review. i wouldnt mind an unbiased review of the shun blue steel kiritsuke gyuto. anybody?

they are pretty new...