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I've had different experience than you with Shun. Not to diminish any one else's experience (just sharing my 50 years of cooking experience including about 5 in a professional kitchen) but let me just say that I've used Shun for years without the chipping some report. i know I'm not alone. You might want to also consider how you use knives as part of your needs assessment. I've used them extensively in home kitchen but haven't in professional kitchen as I've been out of them for a while. But I know several pros who do. Different strokes for different folks, eh? When they dull they really dull and need sharpening. I sharpen them myself rather effectively and sent one out once after I dropped it. I was not dissatisfied with the result... Actually more happy that it was repairable at all. But your not happy with them and that's all that really counts. Good luck finding the knives of your dreams!
 

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When answering Ricks great questions, also say if you are thinking of exchanging at a specific store. If so, what else do they offer. If not then other options may be possible.

My gut feel from your post, however, is that you might be happier with a German knife and a ChefChoice electric sharpener. Not state-of-the-art steel, but proven over many decades. Not popular with everyone, but nothing except sex really is... And even that exhibits fairly broad diversity of opinion and experience. That (the knives, I mean) is a reasonable approach for a home kitchen and not too unusual for a pro kitchen either... And may be the closest you'll get to a "buy it for a lifetime" option if your not too aggressive with the sharpening. For context, I still have and use my first set of decent knives - Henkels four-star bought in 1980.
 

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Thank you, Rick and Brian!

...

I'm eager to hear what you have to say.

ps. we are both 5'5" with small hands, so the 7inch santoku was the largest we felt comfortable with, aside from the bread knife and the carving knife.
Well I can't fault your logic. The German knives generally aren't as sharp as the Japanese knives. So you thinking that the Shun is lighter and sharper than the Wustof/Henckel is correct. That, in fact, is why I bought Shun after years of using Henckels. BTW, the diff between Wusthof and Henckel may be more of a Ford vs Chevy and Nikon vs Canon kind of thing. I've used both and find them rather equivalent. :)

Perhaps what you may want to think about is sharpening solutions for the Shun and getting a heavier knife for breaking down your squash. Chef Choice has a sharpener that does angles for both Eastern and Western knives, but I've just looked at them and have no idea if they are really usable. On this forum there have been pro chefs who use them so I trust they aren't complete junk. The only time I used a Chef Choice was in 1982 or so and the coarsest slot ground the crap out of the knife (which may help if the edge is totally destroyed) but the finer slots seemed to do a decent job of sharpening. But it was a loaner so I tried it, returned it, and didn't buy one of my own. BTW, that was borrowed from a world-class chef, a name you'd certainly know and respect, who also recommended the Henckels. I know he use those Henckels but not sure if he really used the sharpener.

I sharpen with stones (Arkansas stones rather than the water stones that are more popular these days) and find that getting Shuns back into sharpness to be not really very difficult or time intensive. Sometimes it seems like more effort is required to get the Henckels back to decent sharpness. It does take some practice but if one is careful about the worst thing that can happen is scratching the side of the knife and not getting it really sharp. The former diminishes the appearance a bit and the latter is completely correctable.

How often the various knives needs to be sharpened depends on a wide variety of things... among them usage and expectations. I expect a knife to be sharp enough to effectively cut my food with ease so I can cook and eat/feed. Others expect their knives to be scalpel sharp at all times. That alone, how sharp is sharp enough, drives big differences of opinion and is essentially an unanswerable question. We all know what too dull is, but...

I'm not too much taller than are you and find that shorter stature is more a problem with counter height. Normal counter + thick cutting board = awkward posture when cutting sometimes. But I still find a 8 or 10 inch chef knife best for most veg and meat.

I'm pondering your statement of "durability and low maintenance over looks" and not sure I know the right answer. In some ways the German knives would win in that respect but in other ways maybe not. In terms of durability I'd tend toward German. In terms of maintenance, though... the bottom line is that at some point all knives will need to be sharpened.

One point of correction on your question #2, "... because of the softer carbon steel." The knives you are looking at are probably all STAINLESS rather than carbon steel. Carbon steel knives are really nice to work with - they sharpen easily and get blazingly sharp - but can rust.
 
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