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Shun Classic 200mm(8") Chef's
Japanese Kitchen Knife Review

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Shun Chef's Knife 200mm(8")

Shun brand which is made by Kai Kershaw cutlery was first introduced to me in 2006, when a friend of mine picked up a set of Shun knives. I was asked for an advice, but I didn't really recommend it. Besides at that time I wasn't that much into kitchen knives. Anyway, when those arrived I had a chance to play with them a little, and few months later I was asked to sharpen them, which I did, as it was interesting to check them out and guesstimate the edge holding and handle them for longer than a few minutes. So, in the end, I never bought Shun knives for myself. Their Classic line is made of VG-10 Steel, and their top of the line Pro knives are made out of SG2 steel. By the time I got into kitchen knives seriously I wasn't really interested in neither of those two. That's not to say either of those steels is bad, to the contrary, both are very good kitchen knife steels, far better than X50CrMoV15 steel. Just I already had some of the VG-10 knives already, and wanted better steels to try out, and there's better choices than SG2 too.

General

- Shun knives are typical Japanese kitchen knives in terms of their making. I discussed the differences between Japanese and Western kitchen cutlery schools in the article Western Vs. Japanese Kitchen Knives. What is interesting about Shuns, is that they quite successfully married western and Japanese styles. In that, Shuns are made using Japanese school style, thin, lightweight, hard steel, thin edges, 16° per side vs. 20°-25° on western kitchen cutlery. At the same time, the blade geometry on Shuns is closest to western knives that I've seen from most of the Japanese knife makers. So is this chef's knife, or gyuto. Shun's chef's knife is as close to typical German chef's knife as it gets. Not my favorite blade geometry in particular, but German chef knives have enough fans without me. May be you're one of them too. Then you should probably consider Shuns, unless you are extremely demanding on performance. No worries though, they'll outcut mainstream western kitchen knives many to one, any day.

As for the general features, well made knife, fit and finish are very good. Neither of those 3 knives had any visible defects. Grind lines were smooth and very even. Everything fitted together very well and there were no gaps either. So, no complaints in the department. As you'd expect from rather expensive knife it comes in a nice packaging too.

Blade

- As mentioned above the blade geometry it of a typical German chef's knife. Because of that the blade starts curving upwards somewhere in mid blade. Therefore, you have lots of belly on the knife. Lots of belly means ease of cutting in certain applications, especially with slicing and rocking motion cutting. On the other hand the blade is rather narrow, which doesn't help at all with rocking motion cutting and in general pinch/claw grip. Like I said I prefer French style gyutos more, with more straight edge on them, but that's just me. 200mm long blade is made using traditional san-mai technology. Therefore, we have a VG-10 cutting core clad with 32 layers of SUS410 stainless steel. Cladding obviously, is much softer and more stainless than the hard cutting core. Providing protection from both, elements and external forces. Damascus pattern on those knives looks very nice. One more important thing is that the blade is really thin, ~2mm thick. Compared to western knives and many Japanese knives as well it's considerably thin knife and pretty lightweight at that.

2mm thick blade combined with the factory edge sharpened at 16° per side, i.e. 32° included angle makes a terrific cutter. However, another thing is obvious too, you can't really abuse this knife as you'd abuse average western chef's knife. It's most likely chip badly or break if you try to split lobsters with it or drop from sufficient height. Matter of fact, I know at least 2 Shuns that ended up with broken tips due to accidental drops to the floor. That part is kind of strange, because I was assuming the cladding would protect the hard core from the damage, but on the other hand, it was the tips that were broken and at any rate, dropping the knife of that type is strictly prohibited :) On the other hand, few other Shuns survived drops just fine, but that's not something I'd risk. As far as the cutting performance goes, it is very good. Out of the box sharpness is also very good. Mirror polished edge, very sharp. Rarely you'd find those kind of edges on the factory knives.

Handle

- Handles on all Shun knives, except their stainless line, are made of Pakkawood, which is black and quite dense. From the blade side there is a bolster and from the other side its covered with the steel pommel. The pommel typically is flat on Shuns. So, it's kind of convenient to use it as a crusher for smaller item,such as garlic. The other significant feature of those handles is the D shape. Well, it's more of a pointy D. There is a slight ridge on the right side of the handle. As you can gues, that type of the handle is not ambidextrous, so lefties either have to pay leftie panelty and special order left handed knife, or deal with right handed handles as is. In theory that shape and ridge help with the grip and stabilize the handle in hand. In practice I hated that handle. Felt really awkward to me, even though I've handled and used bunch of the D type handled knives. Aritsugu 270mm A-Type Gyuto has identical style D handle, Tadatsuna Kamagata Usuba also has D type handle, although the ridge is less pronounced compared to Shun. I can't say what was so specific about Shun handles that I disliked so much. Something personal I guess :) Overall, I didn't like the blade width/handle thickness combination is not the best to me. The space between the blade heel and the handle is smaller compared to other gyutos knives I have. May be because this Shun is just 200mm long, and the shortest gyutos I have are 240mm long. Anyway, it's narrow compared to Kumagoro Gyuto and Akifusa Gyuto, let alone Aritsugu mentioned above, or Sanetsu Gyuto. Watanabe Honyaki gyuto is 15-17mm wider than Shun chef's knife, but that's the widest I've got, not so typical width. In the end, if you prefer wider chef's knives then this isn't the one you want. If the width isn't that important to you, feel free.

Sharpening

- I haven't had a chance to use this knife brand new. However, this time when I have resharpened it I had couple days to play with it. The edge was REALLY messed up when I got it. I haven't seen this knife for almost 3 years, and it received quite some use and abuse apparently. I've examined the edge under the microscope and overall, there were 38 chips, nicks and dents. Unfortunately I was unable to take photos. Although, this wasn't much worse than any other chef's knife I've handled after 3 years of use :) Considering the damage to the edge it was clear that I had to cut new bevels. At some point I was pondering to use DMT D8XXC diamond benchstone. Then I've decided to skip that and Shapton 220 grit Glassstone too. Considering that this chef's knife is made using VG-10 steel, hardened to 60-61HRC I've decided it wouldn't give me troubles with grinding.

Therefore, I've started with Beston(Bester) 500 Grit Whetstone. Luckily I was right and the new bevels were ready in approximately 30 minutes, even less. After al the super hard alloys I was grinding lately in my kitchen VG-10 was a breeze. Next step was the usual Bester 700 grit whetstone. Another 15 minutes or so. And then I've switched to 2000-3000 grit Aoto Natural Whetstone. That one too another 20-25 minutes and I went to Kitayama 8000-12000 synthetic whetstone. With that stones and major sharpening was done. Last 3 steps were, consequent stropping on the 0.5µm and 0.25µm diamond crystal loaded strops followed by stropping on plain leather strop. The result I got was very satisfying, mirror polished, super sharp edge. Overall, that was pretty easy sharpening job.

Usage

- I haven't had a chance to really use this knife until now - 04/2009. Although, after handling and sharpening it, I was already predisposed against it. I didn't like neither the blade geometry that much, nor the handle to blade width ratio. Nevertheless, I went through standard cutting chores with it. That included various vegetables. Julienned carrots, minced broccoli, sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, well I've peeled cucumbers first with the same knife too. Plus julienned red radish and basil. After that I've diced a few white mushrooms and that was pretty much it. I didn't have larger fruits like pineapple to cut, so cutting tests were done. Overall, I wasn't impressed with the knife performance. Cutting ability obviously was very high. Also, on the positive side I have to mention that the food wasn't sticking to the knife too much. Mainly my problems were relatively short length, 200mm is clearly short for the chef's knife and rather narrow blade. I already mentioned that few times. However, this is just my experience and preferences. Not too long ago I was pretty happy with my Global G-61 Granton Edge Chef's Knife and Global GF-33 Forged Chef's knife. Later on, once I've started using longer blades, I started to prefer first 240mm(9.5") long blades, like Akifusa(Ikeda) Gyuto and Kumagoro Hammer Finish Gyuto. And I felt 240mm was perfect :) Until I've tried 270mm Aritsugu A-Type Gyuto. Since then, 270mm long chef's knives or gyutos are my favorites. Sanetsu ZDP-189 Gyuto, Watanabe Honyaki Gyuto, Tadatsuna White Steel Gyuto, they are all 270mm, and even when I use 240mm gyuto I feel it's not as convenient, but I still keep them for the occasions when I have to take my knives somewhere else, besides I still love my 240mm gyutos.

The point is, any knife you use has to feel comfortable for you. So, if 200mm(8") is what you like then may be this is your perfect knife. A lot of people dislike larger knives anyway. On the other hand, longer knives do slice better and you don't have to raise your shoulder as high as with the shorter blades. In the end, it's up to you to decide. However, narrower blade with thick handle is a drawback for pinch/claw cutting. If you do a lot of that type cutting, then I don't really see that getting better with this knife.

That's pretty much it about Shun 200mm chef's knife a.k.a. gyuto. I think it's a bit overpriced compared to performance and what's available at that price out there, Ikeda, Yoshikane and few others are at a better price/performance point, but it's a quality knife, very good cutter and keep in mind a delicate knife too.

Specifications:

  • Blade - 200.00mm(7.87")
  • Thickness - 2.00mm
  • Width - 45.00mm
  • OAL - 340.00mm(13.39")
  • Steel - VG-10 60-61HRC
  • Handle - Pakkawood
  • Acquired - 06/2006 Price - 120.00$

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Last updated - 08/26/13