When it comes to innovation, Japan is one of the leaders globally, and the very same applies to kitchen knives.
Professionals and connoisseurs will tell newbies it’s a good idea to go for Japanese ones.
If you’re not entirely comfortable around these incredibly sharp tools, owning just one piece in your block will do wonders for you.
Interested and wondering where to start your search?
When you find the top ten lists of the best blades from the land of the rising sun, Shun is always mentioned.
And under this brand are numerous highly-acclaimed series, two of which are featured here: Classic and Edo.
One of Seki’s Icons
At one point in history, the country outlawed the samurais and banned the use and creation of their legendary sword, the katana.
Saijiro Endo was one of the Seki locals who were suddenly out of job. But just like numerous metal craftsmen in town, he turned to knife-making.
For decades, he created different well-honed tools using traditional forging methods and sold these to different parts of the country under the name Shun.
In the early 2000s, one of his descendants felt that it was time to introduce their high-quality blades to the rest of the world.
In the year following their American debut, Shun won the prestigious ‘Knife of the Year’ in the 2003 Blade Show.
Shun’s Pride: The Classic Series
When the company first came to the United States, this is the variant they presented.
The Hollow Ground Santoku in this line is the specific blade that won the top award in the aforementioned Blade Show in Atlanta.
It has already been two decades since that time and this is still Shun’s bestseller – proof of the series design genius and unmatched performance.
Formulating the Steel, Crafting the Knife
The company makes use of different kinds of steel: high carbon ones, AUS10A, VG2, SG11, and so many more.
The Classic series, an undeniable smash hit, used to be made of VG10. But the designers knew that this line deserves to have the best so they shifted to VG Max.
This steel blend is hard, resistant to corrosion and wear, and has a long-lasting edge. VG Max has essentially answered the problems of traditional Japanese steel blends.
But VG Max is merely the Classic’s core. It has been given 68 alternating layers of steel creating the Damascus waves on the blade’s face, making this a real beauty.
Although Shun has not completely shunned 21st-century technology, they have maintained the 100-step traditional process of making all their knives.
There are over two dozen different types of knives in the Classic series which includes both Western models and traditional Japanese ones.
All have these basic characteristics:
• Damascus waves on the blade indicating the several layers of steel forged.
• The edge is sharpened to a 16-degree angle on each side. All Classics are double-beveled, although Shun has a Classic Pro series which have single-beveled edges.
• A partial bolster is added, shaped the same way as, and then welded to the handle. It gives a good balance to the knife while maintaining the Japanese appearance of the whole piece.
• It has a full composite tang. This means that the tang is full, running the whole length of the handle, but the steel used is different from the blade.
• The handle is the traditional ‘Wu’ or round one made of Pakkawood. This is a special veneer used on regular wood to make it more beautiful and durable.
Edo: The Interrupted Series
Compared to other cutlery makers, Shun only has a few series. They only have eight, currently.
Edo, unfortunately, is not part of these existing variants as it has been discontinued a few years ago.
However, you will still find some sets and pieces sold on other websites like Williams Sonoma and even on Amazon.
And if you’re interested in its attention-drawing design, read on.
Formulating the Steel, Crafting the Knife
This one is made from VG 10 steel, a blend that contains Carbon, a good amount of Chromium, some Molybdenum, Vanadium, and finally, Cobalt.
This results in a hard material that can be made extremely thin – characteristic of Japanese steel – but has the qualities of the stainless type.
Again, all Shuns undergo the tedious 100-step process so you can be assured that this one has been forged, cooled, ground, and polished mostly by hand.
But the Edo has its specific design details which some find curious while others consider bizarre and outlandish.
Here are its most important features:
• The single layer of VG 10 has been hammered from the spine halfway down to the blade. The rest is smoothened, mirror-polished, and tapered to the beveled edge.
• The edge is sharpened to a 16-degree angle on each side.
• A partial bolster is added. Half of it is shaped and welded to the handle. The inner curve of the bolster is ergonomically flattened to fit the thumb on one side and the folded index finger on the other for that perfect knife grip.
• It has a full tang but most of it is sheathed in the handle. The end of the handle is the exposed tang, polished as well to a mirror finish.
• The handle, also made of ebony Pakkawood, is a mix of the traditional ‘Wu’ and the flatter Western-style. Just like the bolster, this is ergonomically designed for that tight yet comfortable grip.
Price, Warranty, and Other Perks
If there is one complaint about Shun, particularly with these Classic pieces, it’s the price.
Depending on the specific type you got, this variant can go from $80 (3-inch paring) to over $200 (7-inch tools).
Edo is (or was) mid-priced. The other variant in the Shun line made from VG 10 is Sora and these start at less than $50 a piece.
All in all, Shuns are quite pricey.
But you are paying for quality.
Also, they have great perks.
All Shuns have a limited lifetime warranty.
The company also offers free re-sharpening services. Just send a blunt piece to them and you’ll get it back incredibly sharp – like it’s brand new.
And yes, even though Edo is discontinued, you can still get the same perks that the company offers for its contemporary styles.
The Nihongo word ‘shun’ has two English translations: fast and talented.
These two seemed to be the company’s main aim when they are crafting their products.
And these have allowed the users to be efficient while working on their chopping board chores.
Again, the Edo is not available anymore.
If you’re into the hammered finish, Shun’s Premier has that as well.
If you like the VG 10 steel, the Sora is your next best bet.
The Classic is, as the name implies, a classic. Compared to the Edo, this is a better option. It’s expensive but it’s worth it.
Last Updated on July 21, 2021 by Andy Wang