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Shun Classic Santoku Knife 178mm(7")
Japanese Kitchen Knife Review

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Shun Santoku Knife 178mm(7")

I think this is the last Shun I will be reviewing this summer, that is 2009. Although, I can't really be sure :) I am not buying Shuns myself for sure, not that they're bad knives, just there are better knives that I can pick up. I wasn't planning to get my hands on this Shun Classic Santoku either, but so it happened I was asked to sharpen it and the owner was kind enough to leave it with me for a few months. Jumping ahead, I'll tell you that I kept it just about a week, that was more than enough to sharpen it, use it for a little while to get the feel, sharpen again to restore the edge, just touchup, and return it. Besides, this wasn't the first santoku knife I have used. All in all, I've played with half a dozen different santokus and if you are curious, then you can check out my santoku knife reviews on this site.

General

- Just like the rest of the Shun kitchen knives reviewed here, this classic santoku was a loner, you already know that. As such, and unlike the other Shun knives, I had not had a chance to inspect it brand new, out of the box. Obviously the box and overall packaging would be the same as with the other Shun knives. Thus, it's safe to say, Santoku comes in a nice, typical Shun packaging, granted that you're buying it new, or someone who took good care of it. Now, let's get back to the knife I got for reviewing. As 99% of the knives used by non-knife enthusiasts this one was in a baaad shape too. Multiple rolls, dents and chips on the edge. No sharpness whatsoever to speak of. Whatever I could determine about its original quality was that the fit and finish were still good, despite of all the abuse this poor knife apparently went through. Well, it was still in one piece. No gaps developed between the handle and the blade/bolster/buttcap. Grind lines were still even ;) Overall, this is a good, quality knife and if you favor santokus and are not too fussy about the steel and want something to show off, it'll do. I personally, think that there are better knives available on the market that outperform Shuns for less money. Just browse though the Kitchen Knife Reviews on this site.

Blade

- Shun Classic Santoku Knife features 178mm(7") long blade, which also has Granton Edge. Nice addition for the knife designated for veggie cutting. TO be strict, santokus are multipurpose knives and are used as such in Japan and in western world as well, but about that later, in usage section. Blade is made using traditional San-Mai or Warikomi technique, where soft, stainless steel jacket or Jigane covers hard steel core - Hagane. Hard steel in this case being good old VG-10 steel hardened to 60-61HRC, which is pretty close to its maximum hardness 62HRC as far as I am concerned, Tojiro being the only kitchen knife maker I know of that hardens VG-10 to 62HRC, and to be honest, a lot of knife nuts complain about the edge on Tojiros being overhardened and chippy. I didn't encounter any chipping problems on mine, for details see Tojiro Knives reviews. Anyway, back to Shun santoku, the cladding is 32 layer damascus stainless steel, protecting the hagane from aggressive elements, in other words rusting. Plus it gives extra protection to the hard core. Still, I know several cases when people have broken the tips of their Shuns simply by dropping them on the floor. So, you be careful ;) Jigane does offer extra strength and flexibility, but it's not bulletproof either. As for the rest of the blade, it's 47mm wide at the heel and 2mm thick pretty uniformly, except for the very tip where it is thinning down.

Damaged edge on Shun Classic Santoku knife Damaged edge on Shun Classic Santoku knife

Somehow, I like examining the edges under microscope, especially the damaged edges. Nothing sadistic either, just scientific curiosity. One can learn a lot about the steel by its damage pattern. Obviously, to have a better picture, one would need to know how exactly the damage was inflicted, but with those borrowed knives and occasionally even with my own knives that information is missing. Still, it's interesting and valuable info. So, attached here are two photos showing different sections of the santoku edge. There are more photos in the Damaged Edge Macro Photo Gallery. As you can see we have both major types of damages, chipping is present, and I'd say it is prevalent over rolling. Which itself isn't surprising, granted that the steel is really hard. Although, as it was, I mean the blade, I can surely conclude that chipping wouldn't be so prominent if the knife was maintained properly. As the edge dulls, more and more force is required to make the same cut. More force means a lot more stress on the edge, which is still very thing stripe of metal, and few lbs extra force on the knife translates into thousands of lbs of increased forces on the edge. And there you have the result. The edge looks more like a saw. Ok, under significant magnification all of the edges look like saws, but the photos you see are 55x and 210x magnification, and I have taken photos at 300x magnification that show smooth edge line. So... Take care of your knives and they will serve you a lot longer and more importantly, a lot better.

Handle

- Not much to say here. Same Pakkawood handle as on the rest of the Shun Classic Series. Same D shape handle, which means the same issues with ambidextrousness. On the other hand, you can always order a lefty Shun classic, but unfortunately you pay the lefty penalty, it costs extra. Other than that not much to say, that is in addition to what I already said in other Shun Classic Kitchen Knife reviews. Specifically to this knife, the handle felt really good and proportional. Matter of fact, the only time I strongly disliked the D type handle on the Shun knives was that Shun Classic Chef's Knife. For all other Shuns the handle was pretty much alright. Reasonably comfy, secure and proportional to the size of the blade.

Sharpening

- Sharpening procedure was identical to the other Shun knives I've sharpened, As with the other three, I could describe the edge as REALLY messed up. I've examined the edge under the microscope, took some photos, you already know about those ;) Damage was especially severe mid blade, but the whole edge was in a bad shape. Given the damage to the edge, it was clear that I had to cut new bevels as with the other Shuns. By now I already knew I wouldn't need neither DMT D8XXC diamond benchstone, nor the Shapton 220 grit Glassstone. I've started with Beston(Bester) 500 Grit Whetstone, then Bester 700 grit whetstone, followed by 2000-3000 grit Aoto Natural Whetstone, then Kitayama 8000-12000 synthetic whetstone, which concluded stone part of the sharpening. Stropping on the 0.5µm and 0.25µm diamond crystal loaded strops followed by stropping on plain leather strop was the finale. After test cutting session, the edge was dulled, but not significantly, stropping on the 0.5µm and 0.25µm restored is quickly.

Usage

- Although, officially in Japanese Santoku is a knife of the three virtues, I hardly see any of those three virtues for myself. Mainly because of them being too short. Interestingly, I love using Usubas which are somewhat similar to santoku, well, at least Kamagata Usuba-s are, and I love my nakiris, but don't like santokus that much, even though I used them mostly for vegetable cutting. May be the slight curve, might be thicker edges, I don't know for sure. Somehow, they all feel more clumsy compared to usubas and nakiris. Even though Usubas are thicker, still, somehow I feel they are more nimble and powerful for cutting than santokus.

As for the actual use, that was limited to my usual salad cutting routine and for the sake of the testing cleaning a little fat and slicing a piece of stake I was preparing for the weekend. Although, veggie cutting session wasn't all that limited, considering that I was cutting 15 or more different types of vegetables and the whole cutting session lasted well over an hour. Granted that the edge was razor sharp the blade still underperformed compared to my other knives, because similar job takes me exactly 55-60 minutes using one of my 270mm gyutos or 210 mm long Takeda Chukabocho(Chinese cleaver). Arguably, or without arguments, alternatively, we can say that it was me, underperforming with Shun classic santoku and that statement will have its merits too :) I don't claim to be the top notch knife expert with all knives, or with any knife for that matter. Whatever the reason, my performance with this knife was worse than with either gyuto or chukabocho, simply because I am a lot more accustomed using those two types of knives than the santoku. With harsher ingredients like broccoli stems and carrots I had to be more careful and apply greater force as well. Another reason was that since the knife wasn't mine and I knew already it wouldn't be treated too gently I've had to grind thicker edge on it. Closer to 20° per side. That's way too thick for most of the kitchen knives, especially for general purpose medium size cutter like santoku. Slicing with a shorter knife and rocking motion cutting is obviously more complicated. So, all those factors combined were the reason for the lack off efficiency. Simple as that :) For soft ingredients it did more or less good. Main deficiency being the thick edge, but I hope it'll last a little better upcoming abuse.

Conclusions

- If you are santoku fan, or like them then consider that there are better price/performance knives. Togiharu, Misono, Even handmade Moritaka and Watanabe standard line, they all perform better ay a comparable price. Some of those are made of non stainless steel, but others are stainless. if you want Shun specifically, then go ahead. By itself it's a good knife, a little overpriced, but then again, if that's what you like, problem is solved.

Specifications:

  • Blade - 178.00mm(7.01")
  • Thickness - 2.00mm
  • Width - 47.00mm
  • OAL - 318.00mm(12.52")
  • Steel - VG-10 60-61HRC
  • Handle - Pakkawood
  • Weight - 202.00g(6.83oz)
  • Acquired - 06/2008 Price - 150.00$

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Last updated - 09/01/11