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post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I was at Sur La Table the other day (chain cooking store) and I had the opportunity to try out some knifes. The Shun classics really fit my hand well and gave me the best cut.

I'm a beginning culinary student and don't know much about knifes. Will Shun knifes be a good choice to get me through school and perhaps use in my first few jobs?
post #2 of 20
Shun is capable of doing what you ask though for the price there are those here who feel you'd be better buying other Japanese knives. Often the Shun handle feels weird to users so there's a plus for you in regards to the Shun as you like the handle.
post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by phatch View Post

Shun is capable of doing what you ask though for the price there are those here who feel you'd be better buying other Japanese knives. Often the Shun handle feels weird to users so there's a plus for you in regards to the Shun as you like the handle.

If I were a professional chef would Shun be a good knife to use?
post #4 of 20
I'm no pro and have no experience with the Shun. From what I've read though the answer is yes.
post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by phatch View Post

I'm no pro and have no experience with the Shun. From what I've read though the answer is yes.

Alright, thank you.
post #6 of 20
As always, it's a question of "compared to what."  Compared to Henckels or Wusthof Shun is pretty darn good.  Compared to other Japanese manufactured knives in a similar price range, Shun Classic chef's knives are not a good choice at all.  In fact I'll go so far as to say, they're Krap with a capital "K."  Other Shun are somewhat better than the chef's, but there are knives as good for less money, and better knives for a similar prices.  Unfortunately, you're not going to find them at Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma or Bed, Bath and Beyond. 

The Classics are made with a kind of three layer construction called san-mai.  Strictly translated that means, "three layers."  The outer layers (called jigane) are soft, stainless-steel made in a "Damascus" pattern.  The inner layer (hagane) is an alloy called VG-10.  Because the pattern itself is made with a single type soft stainless it is very susceptible to scratching, and the pattern subsequently fading. 

Note, no matter what the pattern looks like san mai knives are not "true Damascus."  The entire blade of a knife made by real Damascus construction, outside, edge and all, is made from a single piece of metal -- which itself was created by repeatingly folding two or more separate types of steel.

Note also, despite Shun's and Shun retailers' claims, the Damascus patterning does not do anything to improve knife performance.  It does not make the knife easier to sharpen, stronger, less sticky or anything else other than making the knife prettier (if you like that sort of thing).  

The hagane (core) of the knife is VG-10 hagane.  The hagane is where the edge lives.  VG-10 has very good edge characteristics; and is one of the better, stainless knife alloys.  So, that's certainly a strong point.

Unfortunately, the chef's knives are made with a lot of "belly" and have a very high point.  The belly is even more exaggerated than typical German knives.  People with good skills tend to find German profiles more awkward and less agile than French profiles (most Japanese chef's knives are French profile).    

Perhaps Shun's best point is their high level of fit and finish. 

The handle is a simple "D" shape.  They are not uncommon in inexpensive wa (Asian) handled Japanese knives, while octagonal handles to dominate the higher hand.  Many people, especially those who don't have trained grips, find the Shun D very comfortable.   

In your position I'd probably hold off on purchasing anything as expensive a Shun.  For one thing, once you develop some serious skills you probably won't be interested in it anyway.  If you want VG-10, you're probably better off with a JCK Kakayagi.

Bottom Line:
  Because of the high quality VG-10 hagane, it's a better knife than a mass produced German, but otherwise... not a good choice.

post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
Well then I guess my next question is what Japense knifes can you guys reccommend? I want a set that can get me through school plus last me a good few years in my career after. The price range I was quoted for the Shun Classic which i was interested in was about $800 so thats the budget I'd like to work with.
post #8 of 20
$800 is a healthy price for a student set.  Which shapes and sizes would that include?  Are there any idiosyncracies like really large or small hand size? 

I wrote something about Shun handles favoring untrained grips.  Is that true for you?  Do you pinch grip yet?

Offhand, my suggestion would be a set which includes the following:
  • Very good, stainless chef's knife/gyuto (Kakayagi VG-10? Kakayagi "wa"? MAC? Togiharu G-1?) -- I want to figure out whether you want or need a super-comfy handle, or whether you can get by with "Japanse normal." which are a little thinner and shorter than, say, a Wusthof.  I'm loathe to suggest a true wa handled knife -- but that might be the way to go.
  • Very good slicer (Misono Sweden?) -- even though you won't use this as much as your petty you want something you can keep incredibly sharp not just for carving but for portioning fish.  The better your technique the more you use a slicer.  If you can live with carbon (as opposed to stainless) you can really increase bang for the buck. 
  • Decent, inespensive boning knife (Forschner Fibrox) -- People who don't know how to cut think boning knives are incredibly useful and that you need one to take a chicken apart.  In truth, someone who does a lot of butchering probably needs a selection; but for most of us -- even in professional kitchens -- a petty is better and easier for most things.  On the other hand, most schools do require them.
  • Good to very good "petty" (Still thinking)-- Most schools don't require these, so you may want to put the purchase off.  This shape is fairly new as a standard within a pro's set.  It hasn't caught on completely -- but is very popular with the same sort of person who's moved on to Japanese knifes.  It looks like a large paring knife -- but really it's the knife you use for almost everything your chef's is too long for.  They are incredibly useful.
  • Decent, inexpensive, bread knife (Forschner Rosewood)-- Good for pastry work as well as bread.
  • Inexpensive small paring knife (couteau office) for garde manger (Forschner Rosewood) -- School will make you use a paring knife when you'll probably want to use a petty.  For a lot of reasons it's not worth investing in an expensive paring knife -- certainly not now.  
  • Inexpensive birds's beak paring knife for tourne (Forschner Fibrox, I don't belive Rosewood is still available in a bec d'oiseau) -- The shape helps.  Buy cheap, they're difficult to sharpen.  You want something cheap enough to throw away when difficult becomes impossible. 

Forschner Rosewood and Fibrox are good choices for all the inexpensive knives.  They're well made, comfortable and take an edge easily (but lose it quickly).   There are other choices almost or just as good, like F. Dick Eurocut, but they tend to be not as easily available.  Also, the Rosewood series handle is very nice. 

You're going to need a waterstone based sharpening kit.  A kit matching the quality of the good knives in your kit isn't going to be cheap.   Including a steel (aka rod-hone -- which, all things considered, should probably be ceramic), we're looking at $150 minimum for the kit, but we can do barely adequate for half of that. Cheaper is only possible by restricting the number of surfaces and consistency and quality of the stones.  However, your student years are the exact right time to learn to profile and polish as well as to sharpen.  

If we have to fit your sharpening kit into your $800 budget, it's a good idea to know it before falling in love with any particular knives.

Now is the time to accept the idea that sharpness is everything.  It doesn't make sense to buy a good knife without a realistic plan to sharpen it substantially better than it came from the factory, and keep it sharp.  The difference between a good knife and a bad one isn't so much the handle or geometry, but the ability for the knife to take and keep an edge. 

Buying knives if fun.  But get this through your head:  All dull knives are equal.  If you're going to use a dull knife you might as well use a cheap one. 

post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the response, sadly I'm no closer to knowing what I want.

The shun set I was talking about in my first post is here:

says discontinued but they still have a few sets

Shun Classic 11-piece block set includes 8" chef, 6½" santoku, 9" slicer, 8" bread, 6" boning, 6" utility, 6" tomato, 3½" paring, kitchen scissors, sharpening steel and 11-slot bamboo block. Catalog, website and select stores.

I don't know a lot about knifes if that has not shown yet, and the reason i prefer this set to some other ones I tried was it fit my hand nice and I got a nice smooth cut with them, it felt as if I was cutting air.

All I know about knifes is German knifes don't hold as long as Japanese knifes.
post #10 of 20
It's an interesting set, but a lot of knives you won't need and probably don't want at least for school.  It's also a lot more oriented towards a home kitchen than designed for a student or a professional.

Other Japanese knives will cut even better than the Shuns -- at least after they're properly sharpened. 

There really isn't much comparison between Japanese and German knives.  Although made to serve exactly the same purposes, they do so in very different ways.   Japanese knives reward sharpness, high skills and penalize poor skills (especially sharpening), while the shape of German knives provides a degree of power which helps a dull knife crush through what it won't cut cleanly. 

However, Shuns are a little unusual in that their Chef's knives use a distinctly German style shape.  So German, you might even call it exaggerated.  Because Shuns have so much belly ("belly" is the curved part of the blade) and have the tip so high, the cook needs to pump the handle quite a bit in order to make clean cuts.  That's called "rock-chopping," by the way.  Whether you "rock chop," "push cut" (chopping straight up and down, common with cooks using Japanese knives), or use a shearing, French style that's somewhere in between is either imposed by the blade geometry or a matter of personal taste.

In my experience, most good knife technicians prefer French profiled blades and choose absolute sharpness and agility over the power inherent in rock chopping. But some people with very good technique love their Shuns, wide LamsonSharps, Wusthofs, etc.  As I said, in the end it's just individual choice. 

IMO, as a pro, you should be looking for longer knives than those in the set.  It's not so much that you can't get buy with an 8" chef's and a 9" slicer, but they inhibit productivity; and once you learn how to handle a knife and manage your board an extra couple of inches won't inconvenience you in the slightest.

If I were buying a new set of knives to go back to a professional kitchen, my roll would include:  240mm - 270mm gytuo; 300 mm slicer; 150mm petty; 270mm bread -- and that's it, unless I was doing a lot of meat work, fish work, decorative cutting, splitting large foul, or other specialized stuff. 

As a cook at home, I have a lot more knives that that in my block and on my bar.   But as a home cook I'm not so pressed for time that choosing the theoretically best knife for the task, or just indulging my pleasure with them is a handicap.  Even so, I still do about 75% of my prep with my 10" chef's, and maybe 20% with three other knives similar to the ones described. 

If you've already chosen your cooking school, you may want to get in touch with them and see what they recommend for their students.  They often have a choice of preferred sets.  It would certainly be a good idea to find out which  profiles they require. 

If you're really interested in the first few years after cooking school and want to choose better knives than the student sets, I'll be happy to help you make your own choices.

post #11 of 20

Shun's probably do have potential if you were to reprofile them... I'm thinking of doing that to the Santoku I own. I definitely agree with what you said though BDL, as my Gyuto is now sharper than the Shun after I had it sharpened. I'm starting to prefer my 210mm Gyuto as I am using it as a paring knife, boning knife, chopping veggies, etc. Its a bit light and I have to adjust my style accordingly, but that is why its so versatile. (i jump around between the gyuto, chinese cleaver, and santoku... my German chef's never gets to play, lol)

Cooking schools will likely emphasize techniques like the rock cut, which work best with German profile knives. I personally don't like that technique and that was how I was taught to cut. They also make you buy a lot of knives you probably will rarely/ never use outside of school. Personally, I only spend money on knives I use a lot... and I get Forschner/ Victorinox for the others. (cheap but good) Unless you really want some pretty knives to worry about, I'd just get a set of Forschner/ Victorinox. Although theft hasn't been an issue for me, it is common that someone will knock your knife off the table or someone will do the unmentionable and use your nice knife improperly and damage it.

post #12 of 20

I think if a man or boy wants a Shun Knife then they should not be dissuaded like which happens a lot in my brief readings of these topics. A shun may not be of the quality of the knifes we own and inferior in performance but I dont think they are a bad knife. I will say that yes they are accessible and may be the first Japanese styled knife one tries but some may just like the shape of one, be it the handle or the bigger belly than a normal Gyuto that people try to recommend instead. I dont think you can tell someone that likes the shape of a Shun to try X brand knife instead because its more authentic and better value because  there isn't a Japanese Knife that has the same shape of a Shun but better pieces. Sometimes it reads like people ask of a Shun and in response are told to go on this endeavor of buying this "better knife" then get this other thing to go with it and all the tools to sharpen this new different knife they didnt know about before reading here. Not everyone may want to be so involved in there knifes like myself or others here. They may just want to buy a Shun Knife and thats it, cook in the house or in schooling, sharpen it occasionally or take it to shop. A shun does not need to be put through elaborate processes with multiple stones, taking it up to 6000, stropping, etc... for someone to use it frequently. Let some people be with their choice.

post #13 of 20
I was also going to buy shuns until I discovered this forum, I'm fresh out of culinary school so I was looking for some better knives then the crap they gave us at school. had my mind set on shuns for the longest time but after a lot of research I ended up getting fujiwara and tojiro knives from chefknivestogo. they are excellent first knives, and the prices are great.
post #14 of 20

I would also look at the Tojiro DP line as some are a fusion style knife with good reviews.  I would have tried one, but got a killer deal on my Shun Classic 8" chef knife.  ($99) so the extra bling factor was a bonus and it cuts very, very  well - almost effortless compared to my old Sabatier.


For what it's worth I own three Shun Classic knives.  8" chef, 7" Santoku and a 4" paring.  They are a great fusion of Western and Japanese design which I believe is their marketing idea.  The F&F is superb and they hold a very sharp edge that requires very little to touch up.  I also own two Tojiro #2 white steel knives - an 8" Deba and a 300mm Yanagi.  Both of those also have the soft V or  "D" handle as it's called which I like.  (same profiles I like on my guitar necks)  I'm a home/hobby chef and use my Shuns every day and I don't see having to take them to the stone more than once every six months if that.  When I can't shave arm hair after honing then they need sharpening.  I just took delivery of an 8" heavy VG10 cleaver today so we'll see how that performs when the time comes.


I also have some Lamson and Sabatier knives that are good utility knives, but the edges need much more attention than the Japanese steel does.  (those are now my wife's knives) 

Edited by Mike9 - 7/13/12 at 8:16pm
post #15 of 20



You have a pretty good budget to start with, all I can say is "amen" to what BDL wrote to you, and my personal 2 cents... Go Mac instead of shun on the gyuto. If you look at my very first posts you'll see that I was going to buy a Shun but got almost the same pointers that were already mentioned to you, and I got the mac (Even thinking that Shun were much better looking, but with the years I've learned to listen to people with much more experience than me, and I went with the "not so cool" Mac)


All I can tell you is that once that I got the knife, it looked very cool too (You don't see that in the pics) and now that I have more than a year with it, I can tell you that it rocks, and now a few friends and colleagues have Shuns... And they recognize that my mac is better and they love to cut with it, it outperforms any of their knives in sharpness and edge retention any day.


But something that is more than 90% of the secret lies in the sharpening, get some good stones (Chefknivestogo have a great deal, 3 stones, deburr block and a magnifier glass for less than 140 USD) learn to use them properly and you'll be a happy chef.




post #16 of 20

The idea is to acquaint a possible buyer with the strengths and weaknesses of particular knives, and not trying to dissuade anyone from anything.  As far as I know no angel gains or loses her wings based on a knife purchase.



post #17 of 20

BDL and I agree, there are literally 100 companies that make knives in hundreds of different sizes and shapes, no one bit of advice will suit everyone, and more to the point, it's your hands they will be in.


Go to a store you trust, buy a new cutting board there, buy a few potatoes, and try a bunch out...always remember, it's just a knife...

post #18 of 20

Ah you see right there Luis - "Go Mac instead of shun on the gyuto" , "get some good stones (Chefknivestogo have a great deal, 3 stones, deburr block and a magnifier glass for less than 140 USD) learn to use them properly and you'll be a happy chef." you have adviced someone to get a Mac instead of a Shun and the two are not alike in profile or fit at all, the Mac may in some eyes perform better but that opinion is subjective. I think you all overrate the Mac very much so and those of you advicing people to buy a Mac bread knife should be ashamed, there is no point to spend that money on a knife that is barely used. Unless you are a baker, master sandwich maker or official bread cutter of a business there is no reason to spend money on a pricey bread knife. Also you have this person now spending 140 dollars on sharpening equipment, maybe they dont want to get into that and starting them at buying 140 dollars worth is a lot when they could start for way cheaper with stones. What is they dont like it, what if the sharpen poorly and ruin knife, scuff it up, ruin it. What if they find it easier to take to sharpener, it costs around 1 dollar an inch and in a non professonal manner may need to sharpen once a year. It is just a knife.


post #19 of 20

Advising someone that there are lot of different knives and the big differences are matters of taste doesn't add much to the quanta of knowledge.  I'm not sure if anyone's still in this thread for knife advice, but it would help your case to flesh out your opinion in the next one.  And if your opinion is that there's no real difference other than cosmetics, say that.


Also, we disagree about how much sharpening is necessary to keep the "go-to" knife appropriately sharp in a home kitchen.  At minimum, a knife should fall through an onion without pressure and cut a tomato without any sawing.   Trips to the sharpening stones at least every three months -- bi-weekly use of a rod (if appropriate for the knife) -- and a yearly ride on the thinning stone are about right to keep a knife that sharp or sharper. 


The knife and stone set Luis suggests is excellent for people interested in their first very good knife, or their first good, Japanese knife. Not taking anything away from Shun, I think most people with good skills or an interest in developing them would find a MAC Pro better than a Shun.  I also think that if a person is interested in complete kit of high-quality stones, it's hard to beat the CKtG set.  That said, I don't think that freehand sharpening on bench stones is the best method for everyone. 


I own a MAC SB105 bread knife and am very happy with it.  Worth $80?  Yes.  Worth $45 more than the Forschner 10.25?  Harder call, but still yes.  If squeezing a dollar was important, I'd go Forschner -- but only the 10.25"  The curve of the blade and set of the teeth on these knives makes them hugely better than the cheapos.  



post #20 of 20
Originally Posted by boar_d_laze View Post


Also, we disagree about how much sharpening is necessary to keep the "go-to" knife appropriately sharp in a home kitchen.  At minimum, a knife should fall through an onion without pressure and cut a tomato without any sawing.   Trips to the sharpening stones at least every three months -- bi-weekly use of a rod (if appropriate for the knife) -- and a yearly ride on the thinning stone are about right to keep a knife that sharp or sharper. 



BDL, just as a term of reference, if that's your idea of "minimum", what's "normal" and "maximum"?

Not being ironic here, it would help me understand.

I thought that when you get the blade to fall without any pressure whatsoever through an onion (yellow external layers on?) or a tomato (I hate cherry tomatoes...) as in an effortless push-cut you're pretty much there, next thing would be a laser beam or a gaze from my mother-in-law.

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