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Shun Classic

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

After months of trying out chef knives I finally found one that I consistently like, and that is the Shun Classic 10 inch. I tried it at a store and then ordered it online, due to the store only having it in an 8 inch. My question is, is there anything I specifically should know about taking care of Shun knives?

post #2 of 14

 

In order to get the most out of your knife you'll want to sharpen it yourself.  As a student you'll need to sharpen at least every two weeks if you want a truly sharp knife.  That's way too often to rely on sending the out to anyone -- including Shun USA. 

 

You should sharpen on waterstones or use a high quality rod-guide like an EdgePro Apex.  You can also get by with an electric Chef's Choice with "Asian" angles.  The ideal final polish for a Shun classic gyuto is what you'd get from Japanese waterstones in the 6000# to 10000# range.

 

You should not use any "carbide" sharpeners, or a diamond sharpening steel.  "V" sticks like the Spyderco Sharpmaker are so slow they're counter-productive.  The same thing is true about oilstones unless you're a proficient sharpener. 

 

If you normally use a steel as part of your regular maintenance, it's worth investing in a quality ceramic like the Idahone fine 12" ceramic.  It's not very expensive, anyway; around $30. 

 

The Shun factory grind for the edge angle is a 16* flat bevel.  Don't worry about maintaining it exactly.  15* will be fine.  You can probably go as acute as 10* without worrying too much about the edge collapsing. 

 

IIRC, despite the right-handed handle Shun ships with 50/50 symmetry.  You should probably take that to 70/30 asymmetry.  Speaking of which, If you know how to profile a knife go ahead and thin the heel. Shun's are pretty wide.  You may want to thin the entire length of the blade to around 10* and put a 15* primary or micro-bevel over that -- that should give you some longevity.

 

The first time the owner sharpens and adjusts a new knife to her (or his) preferred geometry is called "opening" the knife.  If you're not confident about doing it yourself, either find someone who really knows what they're up to or just stick with the factory set. 

 

The Chef's Choice electrics will reprofile the knife to 15*, which is not a bad thing.  A couple of them (I forget which models) have soft wheels which will also true the edge in the same way a steel would.  That said, although I like Chef's Choice machines for home use I'm hesitant to recommend one for a culinary professional.  Not that the machine would do a bad job, but you'll get so much mileage out of knowing how to sharpen.  I know I'm struggling to give you the right perspective, and might be confusing as a result.  If you absolutely refuse to use benchstones (for whatever reasons), and if an EdgePro is too expensive (~$165), a Chef's Choice is the least bad next choice.

 

Shuns can be a little chippy.  You can reduce that tendency by using wood or sani-tuff boards only; thoroughly deburring when sharpening; and avoiding cutting through bone, tough gourds, etc.

 

The outside layers with the "Damascus" pattern are made with very soft stainless and the pattern scratches easily.  While that won't harm the knife, it will obscure the pattern.  The pattern cannot be restored with buffing, but must be brought back in an acid bath (best done at the factory).  When you clean, try to avoid using anything very abrasive. 

 

I realize I've thrown a lot of technical jargon at you which you might not understand.  Don't feel like you should already know it, very few people do.  Feel free to ask about anything. 

 

Congratulations on your new knife.  Use it in good health.

 

BDL

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post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

How/where do I learn to sharpen a knife? The school made us buy a set of Mercer knifes (very cheap) and all they have taught us to do is hone.

 

By the way, I just got home today and finally got to open my new knife...its more amazing as when I tried the demo in the store. I grabbed a tomato, washed it and was able to make the best/effortless slices I ever have. The blade just went through it as if I was cutting air. I then put the slices in a ziplock for a snack later and washed off my knife and put it back into the nice box it came in (I need to buy an edge guard before I can put it in my knife case).

 

I suppose the next knife to look for is a pairing knife? (yes that's the question). I want to again state I still have the set the school asked me to buy so I'm not in any rush to get my new set complete.

 

I've been reading about santoku knifes, my question about them is what can it do that my chef's knife cant?

post #4 of 14

 

Let's start with the santoku.  If you have even marginally decent knife skills, a santoku can't do anything a chef's can't.  Basically, it's advantage is the combination of being  short enough to point withoug technique, and wide enough at the tip that it can still be used effectively as a scoop.  However, like all short knives it doesn't have enough length to be really productive.

 

"Paring" not "pairing." 

 

Instead of a paring knife, you might want to consider a "petty" as your primary short knife.  A petty is a 5" to 6" knife shaped like a slicer or ordinary petty.  But as you can see, the length falls in between. 

 

Don't let this bother you one way or the other, but I'm not a fan of any Shun chef's knife, especially not Shun Classic.  As it happens, the Shun Classic petty is certainly good enough knife. 

 

If you do a lot of technical cutting, like tourne, it's worth having specialty paring knives like a bird's beak and sheep's foot shape.  Otherwise, if you're thinking of a small utility knife for cutting string and so forth, your Mercer will be fine until you sharpen it down to nothing.

 

When you ask about learning to sharpen are you asking about learning to freehand sharpen on benchstones?  If so, you should take a look at: Fred's Foodie Forum essay; Chad Ward's pieceSteve Bottorf's article; and the sharpening entries on my blog.  Also take a read and look at the sharpening techique and recommendations on the JCK site.

 

It's no accident that Fred, Ward, and Bottorf all use the "burr" method, or that I do too.  You can safely assume that's part of the reason I chose them as example.  However the JCK site takes its recommendations from Murray Carter.  And while I salute his skills, I don't use the same methods.

 

After you've absorbed the idea that there's no one right way, or even one best way to sharpen, we can start refining your options.

 

If you can afford it, I urge you to strongly consider one of the EdgePro kits.  The learning curve is a lot easier, so you'll be productively sharpening a lot quicker.  At the end of the day, unless you plan on knife collecting or even making sharpening itself a hobby, you'll do as good a job with an EP as with bench stones. 

 

On the other hand there's more flexibility and choices with freehanding; and you can set yourself up with an adequate beginner's set of stones for a little more than half the price of an EP.   

 

Hope this helps,

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 7/15/10 at 7:08pm
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post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 

Again thank you for your response. Sorry if my questions seem random, I just have so many.

 

When should one invest in a butcher knife or a cleaver? What kind of knife would be good for cutting and deboneing fish?

 

Also a question about cutting:

What (besides the obvious) is the difference between rocking and chopping? Don't you get the same cut either way?

post #6 of 14

Once again, BDL is on point, but I'd like to add to some points of frugality for the sake student well-being.

 

If you're as strapped for cash as I was when I was a going to school, you shouldn't need to worry about buying any extra knives aside for your school set ...if it's a full set, that is.  There may be a few knives or tools that can make your life easier if it is not a full set, or you might just really want a more personal set.  If you feel strongly about it and can afford it, go for it.  An uncomfortable knife is a tragedy, but so is an unused knife.  If you end up replacing most of your school knives and do not think you will use them much anymore, at least try to find a good home for them.

 

The knives we were issued while I was in culinary school were Mercer as well, and I must say that they've held up pretty well.  I still have all of my Mercer knives from school (over a decade later).  They are certainly not the highest quality knives available, and I have long since bought other knives which I much prefer, but they are better than what I previously had, and they can still get the job done.  There are a few that I even use on a regular basis, though they are now regulated to tasks that can be rough on a blade. 

 

Use the Mercers for everything for at least a couple of years.  Practice sharpening with them, develop your maintenance techniques with them, get into good kitchen habits with them.  You will make mistakes, and you will be glad you made the mistakes with the knives you already have instead of more expensive or personalized ones that you would much rather to keep in prime condition.  Mercer makes some good knives, and until you really get to know your preferences, they will likely treat you nicely.

 

I do not own a cleaver.  It is not that I would be opposed to owning and using a cleaver, but I find that my old Mercer chef knife has plenty of heft.  Because I maintain all of my edges, the weight is more than enough to chop into and through most any primal, and because I do not have to break down large racks on a daily basis, my wrist hasn't yelled at me enough to cause me to purchase a decent cleaver.  So long as you don't have horrid aim and consistently chop straight into calcium, that Mercer chef knife can withstand a fair amount of chopping before needing some love on a stone or two.  On the off-chance that I do make contact with a bone, I'm not all that upset, since it just means a little more grinding down of the ol' blade.  The old Mercer boning knife still gets some action too, though I mainly use it for scraping presentation bone clean.  A cleaver is only really useful to those who do a lot of butchery, or to those who prefer to use an Asian style cleaver as their primary workhorse.  For most culinary students, a heavy chef knife is good enough.  It isn't as suited to the job, but it can manage with more wear and care. 

 

Fillet knives are specially made for fish butchery (and other fillets, of course).  They are extraordinarily flexible, and are either the same shape as a typical boning knife, or have more of an elongated scimitar shape.  I love my fillet knives and would recommend one to anyone who works with a fair amount of fish, but, again, it's possible to make due without one.  My next choice in the absence of a fillet knife would either be a boning knife or a good utility knife.

 

Chopping is when the knife is moved in a vertical motion, and if the edge makes contact with the board, it does so unilaterally on the flat end of the body.  Rocking is when the forefront of the blade keeps contact with the board, and the butt end of the knife is moved up and down.  There are variations on and combinations of rocking and chopping methods that can blur the definitions somewhat, especially when non-western style blades are introduced into the mix.  Keeping with the western theme, though, chopping tends to be a more vigorous action and is used primarily when more force is required, while rocking is used for more precise control and gentleness.

post #7 of 14


Zane,

 

Don't worry about the questions.  You were, after all, encouraged.  And still are, by the way. 

 

Let me start by saying I agree with every word of what iplaywithfire wrote. There are a few additional wrinkles to some of it, so I'm going to write about those.

 

iplay was was very good on the subject of his Mercers, wasn't he?  It reminds me that part of the reason you bought a new knife in the first place and part of the reason you're so enjoying the Shun is that you let the Mercers get dull, and don't know how to bring them back. 

 

Sharpening is everything.  You have to figure out whether you're going to freehand or use some sort of gimmick.  If the former, start buying and learning.  If the latter, buy and get busy.

 

In turn, that reminds me of something I wanted to say, which is that it's unlikey your school actually taught you to use a steel properly.   Almost everyone I've seen who's come out of cooking school slams the blade against the rod, and uses way too many strokes.  They also usually use rods which aren't fine enough.  The combination creates a very irregular edge, replacing actual sharpness with tooth.  

 

I agree with iplay that it's best to use your Mercer chef's as your heavy knife rather than running out and buying a cleaver or some other super heavy duty knife.  If you get a job where you have to split a lot of chicken backs, portion out racks of ribs, or anything else along those lines... we can talk then.  

 

Personally, I hardly ever even use my European style (desosseur) "boning" knife anymore; using a "petty" instead.  This leads me to two suggestions for you.  First, make a petty your next purchase after a sharpening kit -- and use it instead of a paring knife for anything too small for a chef's knife.  Except, use your boning knife for meat when the teacher's are watching as part of keeping a low profile.  If you want to do well in school be better not different.

 

As it happens, because boning knives have such narrowner profiles with fairly wide edges they dull easily and are difficlut to sharpen.  Keep yours sharp.  Well sharpened on stones sharp -- not 6 months on a steel sharp (aka "dull").

 

Western style, home and restaurant fish filleting is usually done with one type of flexible to very flexible fillet knife or another.  You may need a couple of sizes and flexes, depending on what sizes and types of fish you work with.  Professional fish mongers usually something along the lines of butcher's knives.  Japanese style cooks use the combination of a deba and yanagi, or some slightly westernize it for the combination of a gyuto/chef's and suji/slicer.  I've turned Japanese and use the chef's-slicer combo.  None of my knives are particluarly flexible.

 

If you want to do really good fish work, your knives not only need to be sharp but fairly polished as well.   

 

On the distinction between rocking and chopping, I completely agree with iplay but strongly disagree as well.  WTF?  Well, it's not a matter of techinque but language. To my mind rocking is just one kind of chopping that's usually imposed by the shape of the knife.

 

Chef's knives come in a couple of basic "profiles."  German profile knives have a lot of arc (belly) which goes all the way from the tip to the edge.  French profile chef's restrict the belly to the front half of the knife and the tip. 

 

To cut through food or a handful of food of any width with a German knife, the cook has to "rock" the knife from tip to heel by pumping the handle.  Knife guys call this rock chopping. 

 

An alternative is to move a very straight blade (Chinese cleaver, kiritsuke, nakiri, usuba) straight up and down in a movement called push cutting.  Because French profile edges are bellied in front and going straight about half way back to the handle, they can be used both ways -- or with a sort of hybrid action.

 

Pretty much everyone, at one time or another, does "rough mincing" (usually herbs, garlic, onions, etc.) or a "rough chop" by putting one hand on the back of the spine near the tip and using the tip's belly as a sort of fulcrum while using the handle to rock the blade through.  You can include this in the rock chopping column if you like.  

 

Your Mercer is very German, your Shun Classic, with its very high tip, is even more so.  The better your knife technique, the more likely you are to prefer the French profile.  Nota bene, that's an expression of likelihood not an absolute.   

 

Hope this helps,

BDL

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post #8 of 14

i have to wonder if people simply like to rock chop or they don't know better? when school was trying to force me into doing the rock chop, i could not do it very well. it still doesn't feel natural to me. eventually i cut how i felt comfortable and it turns out to be the push cut.

 

i actually converted a happy German profile loving rock chopper to the push cut and he sold his Shun Chef's (which he loved) and got a Tojiro. (which he loves more) he only knew what he was taught at school until i came along.

 

that said, I went to Sur La Table yesterday looking for a thermometer (lost mine) and saw they had something other than German shaped knives... it was the JA Henkels Miyabi Fusion Morimoto edition. I really like it, so I bought one. Out of the box it is very nice, but then i polished it up with a 6000 grit stone and it cut just as well as my MAC. (which is more expensive) really great knife for the money, very sexy, and it has the proper profile... so I hope more people will choose that and learn a better way to cut.

post #9 of 14

 

Quote:
(BDL wrote)   
 
On the distinction between rocking and chopping, I completely agree with iplay but strongly disagree as well.  WTF?  Well, it's not a matter of techinque but language. To my mind rocking is just one kind of chopping that's usually imposed by the shape of the knife.

 

I completely agree with you completely agreeing and disagreeing with me    I was debating with myself over deleting that part before I posted it.  Pulling an all-nighter does not help when attempting to pick apart fuzzy definitions.  Knife profile is certainly a defining factor in cutting technique, and I should have been able to communicate that more clearly.  In my attempt to separate the two terms, I probably muddied up their meaning some, even with noting the tendency for definitions to blur. 

 

 

Quote:
(Huy Bui wrote)
 
i have to wonder if people simply like to rock chop or they don't know better? when school was trying to force me into doing the rock chop, i could not do it very well. it still doesn't feel natural to me. eventually i cut how i felt comfortable and it turns out to be the push cut.

 

All of my knives have some German or French influence in profile.  I've come to prefer knives without a bolster, and I like a little weight to my blade, so some of the Asian-German fusion styles appeal to me as well.  A blade with a gradual curve has always seemed to work best for me, so even when I use a "push cut", there is always a slight rocking motion at the end to help ensure a clean separation.  I tend to push the blade away from me slightly as the knife moves downward as well, so my general technique could even be called a "slicing-push-cut-rock".  Eesh.  All of that depends on the material I am working with, and can even change according to the temp of the material.  In any case, I feel strongly that the less contact an edge has with a board, the better the technique tends to be.  For that reason, I'm not as fond of a typical rock motion, either.  If I have to do a rough chop, I break out the old Mercer again, or a 10" Wusthof that I picked up from a friend a few years ago.

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 

Can you talk a little more about opening a knife? I'm not sure I understand it.

post #11 of 14

"Opening a knife" is a phrase typically used to describe the process of the initial sharpening of a single beveled knife, where the final cutting edge is created.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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post #12 of 14

Whatever the historical or proper uses of the term, "opening," I use it to describe the first sharpening where the factory edge is altered in favor of the user's preferred geometry and new, flat bevels are created.  Not necessarily the first sharpening, but the first sharpening with bad intentions.

 

Some factories ship knives with optimally shaped and well sharpened edges.  Other makers, especially Japanese, do not.  Similarly, a few particular lines are notorious for bad factory edges, T-I's carbons for instance.  Even if the knife is shipped with an ostensibly finished edge, the blade may not be propertly thinned especially around the heel, and the bevels may not be flat.

 

T-I Nogents are a good example as they usually ship with what I call a "Christmas Morning" edge.  That is, the sharpener at the factory holds the knife at an estimated "half of a 45* angle, runs one side on a belt sander as quickly as possible until he has a burr, flips the knife over, and gets a burr on the other side and ... well that's pretty much it.  It's "Christmas Morning" in that it's just good enough to play with when you get it, but is going to require some work (not to mention name brand batteries) before getting serious. 

 

In order to make the Nogent work for you, you need to thin the knife, taking some extra time at the heel -- which might mean knocking down the finger guard a little; then continue profiling to the desired edge angle -- say 15*; and the desired symmetry -- say 60/40 righty; paying very close attention to establishing a flat bevel without any high or low spots; before going on to the normal sharpening processes of pulling a burr, deburring, and polishing.

 

Even when a "V" edged knife is opened there's a dramatic increase in sharpness and "sharpenability." 

 

Whether a knife needs to be opened or not depends on the knife and the user.

 

BDL

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post #13 of 14

A few notes:

 

Opening: When you buy a professional knife in Japan, as a professional, they basically hand it to you off the rack. There are exceptions to this, but the principle holds. What this means is that the knife has not in fact been sharpened: it has been profiled and shaped, and is ready to sharpen, but it is not in fact sharp. It will appear sharp to the average home cook who's never dealt with a truly sharp knife, but it's not. To open the knife is to give it its first true sharpening, starting on fairly coarse stones and working all the way up to the desired level of polish. This shapes the knife to your own preferred specifications. Some people get very wound up about this process, treating it as some sort of vaguely mystical thing --- mostly not Japanese people, though. At base, what's going on is that these are expensive and delicate knives, and the way they're sharpened can vary a good deal. If you're a serious professional, and will be sharpening your knives all the time, you have a way you like to do it, and if somebody else does it for you, you will find the knife a little bit irritating because it's not quite the way you like it. So you do it yourself. But if you're not an expert, or for whatever reason, you can have the shop do it for you, and there may be a fee for this.

 

My feeling is that opening a single-beveled knife is not something to approach lightly. It's a good deal of work, and it's precision labor, and if you don't do it well it's a lot more work to fix it. A double-beveled knife, on the other hand, is relatively easy to re-profile, so you might as well do the work yourself if you have some confidence with sharpening technique.

 

I don't know much about Shuns, but I was under the impression that they normally come sharpened, i.e. already opened. But if you don't like the factory edge, you end up having to re-profile. That's not technically opening the knife -- it's altering the profile. But I think BDL was using the term loosely to mean "grinding the knife to be sharp the way you like it."

 

Fish Knives: There are two basic choices here: French or Japanese. The question is technique, and the knife simply supports the technique in question. If you are going to learn how to fillet a fish French-style, you want a French-style filleting knife, which you should buy as soon as you think you're going to be doing much fish filleting and not before. If nobody is going to teach you filleting technique, you could consider teaching yourself Japanese filleting technique, using a Japanese fish knife --- a deba-bocho --- and there are many, many youtube videos and such to show you how to do this. But that knife will simply not work for the French technique, and vice-versa. Pick the knife based on the technique, and buy the knife when you expect to be employing the technique. Whatever knife you end up with, keep it really really sharp. A dull fish knife is even worse than the average dull knife, because it does horrible things to the fish.

post #14 of 14

Shuns are sold fully sharpened, and sharper than most new knives.  Of course, they can be made much sharper with some work.  BTW I've noticed that newer Tojiro DPs are sold with as good a factory edge as I've seen on a knife.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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