Shun Classic Vs Wusthof Ikon: Which One Is Better?

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Two of the best cutlers in the world are Shun and Wusthof, the makers of Classic and Ikon, respectively.

Shun’s Classic and Wusthof’s Ikon are pretty similar in profile – clean lines from tip to tang. Both forged, these are also priced the same. The difference is in the core which is quite obvious in the patterns on the blade. Ikon, made from a basic steel blend, is shiny and spotless. Classic has a VG Max core + 34 layers of stainless steel, creating the wavy Damascus style on the blade.

Shun Classic Wusthof Ikon
Place of Origin Seki, Japan Solingen, Germany
Steel Used VG Max + 68 layers of

micro steel cladding

X50CrMoV15
Construction Method Forged Forged
Blade Profile and Edge Floral Damascus pattern Clean and polished
Bolster Half bolster Half bolster
Tang Exposed full tangs Full tang
Handle Ebony Pakkawood

Round, with stainless steel cap

African Blackwood

Flat and curved,

flared towards the end

Price Good value for money Good value for money

Which deserves a spot in your kitchen?

The Seki Superstar

Seki is the home of katana makers since time immemorial. When the samurai period ended and their swords were banned from use, craftsmen created knives instead.

Saijiro Endo is one of many Seki locals who forged new blades for the new world.

In 1908, he started making and selling folding knives and razors. Soon, he shifted to cutlery making. And that has proven to be a lucrative decision.

His sons and grandsons continued the business in the decades to come.

One of his descendants, Koji Endo, decided to introduce a newly renamed company to the West.

As soon as they made themselves known in the US in 2002, Shun started earning accolades from all over and has become one of the must-haves in a professional chef’s kit.

Formulating the Steel, Crafting the Knife

Just like any modern Seki cutlery company, Shun has adhered to traditional forging processes.

But they did not completely ignore the wonders of new technology, specifically precision forging. This, after all, greatly helped them to get rid of a big problem in Japanese high carbon steel which is breakability, and maintain consistency for all their products.

The company makes use of different steel blends: VG10, VG2, AUS10A, and AUS8A are just some.

However, they use the proprietary VG Max for their best series.

Like all Japanese steel, this has a high carbon content which makes the steel incredibly hard.

However, it has been enriched with Chromium and Vanadium which help prevent corrosion and give the knife better edge retention.

The Best of Shun Classic: The 8-inch Western Heavy Duty Cook’s Knife

Shun Classic, the highly acclaimed series from the company, consists of several types of knives, many of which are traditional Japanese pieces.

But we chose the versatile tool above because that is one of their best sellers and for better comparison with the other brand.

  • The steel is made from VG Max and then clad with 34 layers of stainless steel on each side, creating the Damascus wavy design on the blade’s face.
  • It has a partial, round bolster that is polished and smoothened.
  • It has a full tang which is sheathed around the handle. The butt is the exposed steel end of the tang.
  • The Wa handle (round) is made of Pakkawood.

Specifics about the featured knife:

  • The spine is straight most of the way until it slopes down a bit to the tip.
  • It has a relatively high heel that starts a few centimeters from the bolster.
  • The belly isn’t that curved. It just meets the tip in a graceful arch.
  • This particular piece has a 22-degree cutting angle (the rest has 16) adding to its strength so it can be used on tougher and heavier ingredients.

The Big Shot of Solingen

Like Seki, Solingen is the go-to place for swords in the medieval era. As centuries went by and times became more peaceful, the craftsmen of the city turned to cutlery making.

Johann Abraham Wusthof was one of those craftsmen.

In 1814, he began making shears in his small cottage with the help of just one employee. At that time, he didn’t sell his wares himself and just and merely worked on commission for other companies.

Johann’s sons continued the trade and made it even more successful.

In 1836, one of his sons made pocket knives. In 1869, they added different cutlery pieces to their product line – daggers, forks, cleavers, penknives, etc. At the turn of the century, they joined the industrial revolution and automated their factory. In 1881, another son brought their wares to New York.

Wusthof is now globally available, with offices in major cities all over the world.

Owned and operated by Johann’s descendants, the company never moved and still calls Solingen home.

Formulating the Steel, Crafting the Knife

It would seem that the company has found its soulmate in X50CrMoV15. They understand this steel so well, they use it in all of their series.

The X is stainless steel. The 50 refers to 0.5% carbon content for sharpness. CR means Chromium, used because of its stain resistance. MO is for Molybdenum, also an anti-staining agent. V refers to Vanadium, added to the blend to make the steel hard, resistant to corrosion, and maintain its edge. 15 is the percentage of Chromium in this alloy.

Wusthof knows that forging is the way to go.

Most of their variants are precision-forged. This just means that the process is mechanized and laser-assisted for speed, efficiency, and consistency.

However, the finishing is done manually because they know that human touch is necessary.

Take note though that they have stamped blades so that they can serve people who can’t afford forged pieces.

The Best of Wusthof Ikon: 8-Inch Cook’s Knife

  • The steel X50CrMoV15.
  • It has a partial, flat bolster.
  • It has a full tang that is exposed. The steel butt is also exposed.
  • The triple-riveted Western-style handle, narrow from the bolster and flaring into a curve at the end, is made of African blackwood.

Specifics about the featured knife:

  • The spine is flat halfway, curving slightly down to the tip.
  • Its heel is slanted from the bolster.
  • The belly isn’t that curved. It just meets the tip in a graceful arch.
  • All Wusthofs are sharpened to 14 degrees per side.

Related: Best Wusthof knife sets

In Conclusion

Shun’s Classic and Wusthof’s Ikon are both award-winning.

They’re completely different primarily because these come from completely different origins but you can be assured of quality.

The feature that isn’t mentioned above is the price. If that point is very important to you (and that’s understandable and quite common), then you should know that the former is a little less expensive than the latter.

In the case of the two featured pieces above, there is a $30 difference between the two.

To be sure of your choice, hold the knife in your hand and see which feels more comfortable.

At the end of the day, that’s the most important feature of all.

Last Updated on September 2, 2021

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.