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Which Shun Knife Series Is the Best? (Pros & Cons of Each)

Are you considering Shun knives but can’t decide which series to buy?

In this guide, I provide an in-depth comparison of the best Shun knives.

You’ll learn the pros and cons of each series, including Classic, Premier, Kanso, Sora, Dual Core, and Seki Magoroku.

I also provide a comparison chart so you can see the differences side by side.

Use the links below to navigate this guide:

Best Shun Knives: Comparison Chart

The chart below provides a quick comparison between the various Shun series. In the following sections, I’ll go into more depth about the pros and cons of each.

Swipe to view the entire chart on mobile.

ClassicPremierKansoSoraDual CoreSeki Magoroku
Blade SteelVG-MaxVG-MaxAUS10AVG10 (cutting core), 420J steel (upper blade)VG10 & VG2 steelVG10 (cutting core), 420J steel (upper blade)
Blade FinishDamascusHammered top, Damascus bottomFine-grained pattern  Traditional Japanese with a San Mai edgeDamascusTraditional
Handle MaterialPakkaWoodPakkaWoodTagayasan (Wenge)PP/TPE Polymer BlendPakkaWoodPakkaWood
Handle ColorEbony or blondeWalnut, blonde, or grayWalnutBlackEbonyBlonde
Edge Angle16-degree angle per side  16-degree angle per side16-degree angle per side16-degree angle per side16-degree angle per side16-degree angle per side
Rockwell Scale Score616161616161
Number of Knives/Sets3727201258
Top Reason to BuySuper steel blade; traditional Japanese designHammered blade finish; walnut-colored handlesAffordable; rustic lookAffordable; low-maintenance handle materialStunning arrow blade patternSimple and natural design
Top Reason to NOT BuyD-shaped handle is uncomfortable for leftiesExpensiveTang digs into your handSynthetic handle lacks the elegance of woodMost expensive seriesLimited selection and availability
Price$$$ (Amazon)$$$$ (Amazon)$$ (Amazon)$$ (Amazon)$$$$ (Amazon)$$$$ (shun.kaiusa.com)

Shun Classic

Shun Kitchen Knives Review
Shun Classic Chefs Knife

Shun Classic is the brand’s most extensive series with a range of traditional culinary blade shapes. You can choose between over 30 different knives and knife sets.

The Damascus-clad blades are made of Shun’s proprietary VG-MAX steel with D-shaped PakkaWood handles. You can choose between ebony and blonde handles (both have subtle wood grains).

Shun PakkaWood handle
Shun Classic ebony PakkaWood handle

Damascus-clad blades are made by layering different metal alloys together and forging them into a single piece. The inner core of a Shun Classic blade is made of VG-MAX stainless steel — one of the brand’s proprietary “super steels.”

Shun blade pattern
Shun Classic blade pattern

VG-MAX has a higher ratio of chromium and vanadium, which improves edge retention and corrosion resistance. These alloys also allow Shun to harden the steel even more than VG10 steel, creating an incredibly sharp edge.

Pros of Shun Classic

High-quality steel core: VG-Max is considered one of the best steels available. It’s one level above VG10, a common steel used to make Japanese knives. It includes additional carbon, chromium, tungsten, molybdenum, and vanadium content. These metals improve strength, durability, and corrosion resistance without sacrificing sharpness and cutting performance.

Curved belly: Unlike many Japanese knives, Classic chef’s knives have a curved belly (similar to Western knives like Wusthof). A curved belly allows for the rock chop technique, which is when the blade maintains contact with the board as you rock the knife over the ingredients. This method is ideal for chopping herbs and other aromatics. It’s difficult to rock chop with a flatter edge.

Traditional design: Shun Classic knives have a beautiful Japanese Damascus blade finish. The knives are elegant and traditional, with minimal adornments or decoration.

Knife offerings: The Classic series offers the widest range of blade shapes. It includes every type of knife you need, from paring and chef’s knives to cleavers and bread knives. You can start by purchasing a single knife and then invest in additional knives over the years.

Cons of Shun Classic

Expensive: Shun knives are an investment. Classic prices are mid-range compared to Shun’s other series but expensive compared to other knife brands, such as Dalstrong and Cangshan.

Within Shun’s lineup, the Classic series is more expensive than Sora and Kanso but less expensive than Premier and Dual Core. The chart below links to the Shun Classic 8-inch chef’s knife and other Shun knives so you can compare the cost of each collection.

Shun Classic 8-inch Chef’s Knife$$$
Shun Sora 8-inch Chef’s Knife$$
Shun Kanso 8-inch Chef’s Knife$$
Shun Dual Core 8-inch Chef’s Knife$$$$
Shun Premier 8-inch Chef’s Knife$$$$

D-shaped handles: D-shaped handles favor right-handed users. While Shun claims its knives are suitable for left-handed users, the grip doesn’t feel natural. The round edge of the handle is positioned to nestle into your right hand while using the knife.

Shun D-shaped handle
Shun Classic D-shaped handle

Difficult to sharpen at home: Shun Classic knife blades are hardened to 61 on the Rockwell Scale. While hard steel makes it possible for knife makers to grind the bland to an incredibly sharp edge, the hardness makes the edge brittle, with a high risk of chipping. As a result, the Shun Classic knives can be difficult to sharpen at home.

Learn more about Shun Classic in my in-depth comparisons:

Read dozens of reviews and check the current prices of Shun Classic on Amazon.

Shun Premier

Shun Cutlery Premier Grey Chef's 8”, Thin, Light Kitchen Knife, Ideal for All-Around Food Preparation, Authentic, Handcrafted Japanese Knife, Professional Chef Knife

The Shun Premier series is similar to the Classic series, with a few key differences. Most notably, the blade features a striking hammered Damascus finish, with a swirly pattern near the edge and a hammered finish on the top half.

Shun Cutlery Premier 5.5", Ideal Chopping Vegetables and All-Purpose Chef, Professional Nakiri, 5.5 Inch, Handcrafted Japanese Kitchen Knife

Remember, Classic blades have subtle Damascus waves throughout the blade without any hammered patterns.

This hammered finish, inspired by traditional knife-making techniques in ancient Japan, is known as tsuchime (Tsoo-CHEE-may). It’s made by hammering the steel and provides a rustic yet sophisticated appearance.

The handles are contoured from the blade to the butt but rounded at the grip for increased control and stability. They feature a brass ring and steel end cap.

Shun Premier Handle Details
Shun Premier Handle Details (photo credit: Shun.Kaiusa.com)

Unlike Classic D-shaped handles, Premier handles are symmetrical, ideal for right-handed and left-handed cooks.

The handles are available in gray, natural, and blonde wood tones.

Pros of Shun Premier

Hammered blade design: The main advantage of the Premier series is its gorgeous hammered finish. The dimpled pattern at the top half of each blade not only looks elegant but creates air pockets between the knife and food, so the food slides off the blade easier.

Handle variety: The Premier series features PakkaWood handles in walnut, blonde, or gray. PakkaWood is a hardwood impregnated with resin, which makes the wood moisture- and fade-resistant. It has the look of wood but the durability of dense plastic. Premier’s walnut handles are much lighter in color than Classic’s ebony handles. The walnut looks more like natural wood since the grains are more visible.

High-quality steel core: Like the Classic series, Premier blades are made of VG-MAX steel, which is considered one of the best steels available for kitchen knives due to its edge retention and resistance to corrosion and wear.

Variety of Options: With nearly 30 knives and knife sets available, Premier is Shun’s second-largest series (only behind Classic). You won’t have trouble finding the shape and size knife you need in this series.

Cons of Shun Premier

Expensive: Premier is one of Shun’s most expensive series, typically 25% more than the Classic series.

Prone to chipping: Like Classic, Premier blades are extremely hard, scoring a 61 on the Rockwell Scale. As a result, the edge is prone to chipping, especially if you try to cut through bones or other hard ingredients. Shun advises using a gliding cut and wood cutting board to reduce the risk of chipping.

Read dozens of reviews and check the current prices of Shun Premier on Amazon.

Shun Kanso

Shun Kanso Santoku 7 Inch Hollow Ground Premium Stainless Steel Blade and Wood Handle Traditional Asian Design Handcrafted in Japan, Multi-Purpose Kitchen Knife

Kanso is one of Shun’s most affordable knife series; only Sora can beat it on price.

Kanso design is based on a Zen philosophy principle of simplicity and focusing on the essentials. It’s often used in the context of interior design — a simple, minimalistic, and clutter-free approach. But with cutlery, it means focusing on what matters: quality steel, sharp edges, and balance.

And that’s what you get with the Kanso series. Instead of dozens of options, this series only includes 17 essential shapes and sizes.

The blades are forged from a single piece of high-grade AUS10A steel. This high-carbon steel is rust-resistant and retains its edge well when sharpened correctly.

The knives are full tang, which means the steel extends through the wood handle. The wood is sanded and polished to show the natural grain in a traditional ergonomic design that fits easily into the palm of your hand.

Pros of Shun Kanso

Affordable: While Kanso knives are still an investment, it’s one of Shun’s more affordable series. On average, it’s 23% less expensive than the Classic series and 35% cheaper than Premier.

Exposed tang: The Shun Kanso handles feature exposed tang, which is the part of the blade that extends through the butt end. Full tangs add a nice contrast against the wood and make the knives more balanced since the weight is more evenly distributed.

Kanso Shun 3pc 3.5" Paring, 6

Easy to use a “chef’s grip”: The Shun Kenso series doesn’t have a bolster (rim on the blade-side of the handle to prevent your hand from slipping), which means you can do a chef’s grip on the knife. A chef’s grip (when you pinch the blade with your index finger and thumb) provides more control and stability while slicing or chopping.

Rustic look: Kanso blades feature a sponge-like, fine-grained pattern. That pattern is designed to hide scratches and nicks while creating a more rustic look.

Shun Cutlery Kanso Asian Utility Knife 7", Narrow, Straight-Bladed Kitchen Knife Perfect for Precise Cuts, Ideal for Preparing Stir Fry, Handcrafted Japanese Knife

Natural wood handle: Kanso handles are made of contoured tagayasan (wenge) wood. Tagayasan wood is sometimes called iron sword wood and is known for its beauty, density, and durability.

Cons of Shun Kanso

Lower-quality steel: Kanso blades are made of AUS10A steel, which is a good quality high-carbon steel, but it’s one step down from VG10 and VG-MAX. AUS10A contains less chromium, manganese, molybdenum, silicon, and vanadium, which aid in hardness and corrosion resistance.

Wood handles: While the natural wood handles provide an elevated rustic look, some people consider wood handles a con as they can harbor bacteria and are more prone to fading.

Tang sticks out: A common complaint about Kanso knives is that the handle is uncomfortable. The exposed tang is not completely flush with the wood, so you can feel the steel when you grip it tightly.

Read dozens of reviews and check the current prices of Shun Kanso on Amazon.

Shun Sora

Shun Cutlery Sora Chef's Knife 8”, Gyuto-Style Kitchen Knife, Ideal for All-Around Food Preparation, Authentic, Handcrafted Japanese , Professional Chef Knife

Sora is Shun’s entry-level series, designed for budget-conscious cooks.

Sora blades are made of VG-10 on the cutting edge and 420J stainless steel (a softer, less expensive steel) on the upper blade. The blend of metal creates a unique wave design where the metals fuse.

Sora’s handles are made from a textured black plastic, which doesn’t provide the elegant look of other Shun series but offers a secure grip — even while the handle is wet.

Pros of Shun Sora

San Mai edge: The traditional Japanese method of fusing metals for the upper blade and cutting edge creates a distinct and elegant wave pattern known as a San Mai edge. This technique adds visual interest to the blade and makes Sora knives more affordable since softer, less expensive steel (420J) is used for the upper blade where edge retention doesn’t matter. 

Shun Sora blade design
Shun Sora blade design

Functional handles: The PP/TPE polymer blend handles are fade-resistant, easy to clean, and hygienic, and the textured plastic provides extra grip. While the PakkaWood handles used in the Classic and Premier series are traditional and beautiful, their glossy finish can become slippery when your hands are wet or greasy.

Affordable: Sora is Shun’s most affordable series. On average, Sora knives are 40% cheaper than Classic and about 50% less expensive than Premier.

Cons of Shun Sora

Lower-quality steel on the upper blade: The upper blade uses 420J, a softer and lower-quality steel, so the top of the blade isn’t as strong. However, the most critical part of the blade is the edge, and that’s made of VG10 steel, which is hard, corrosion-resistant, and has excellent edge retention.

Limited knife offerings: Sora is one of Shun’s most limited series, with only 12 knives and knife sets available.

Lacks elegance: Compared to other Shun series with elegant wood handles, Sora looks cheaper due to the black plastic handle.

Read dozens of reviews and check the current prices of Shun Sora on Amazon.

Shun Dual Core

Shun Cutlery Dual Core Yanagiba Knife, 10.5", Traditional Design, Glides Through Cuts of Fish with Ease, Handcrafted Japanese Kitchen Knife

In 2014, Shun Dual Core won BLADE Magazine’s award for Kitchen Knife of the Year, and it’s easy to see why.

The blades are crafted with 71 alternating micro layers of VG10 and VG2 stainless steel, creating a long-lasting and high-performance blade with a razor-sharp edge. According to Shun, making Dual Core knives is a 161-step process (primarily by hand), and each knife takes months to complete.

The octagonal ebony Pakkawood handles provide a secure and comfortable grip with a modern, streamlined appearance.

Dual Core knives also have a rabbet tang, meaning the metal is pushed into the handle and secured with a durable adhesive. This construction provides excellent balance and handling without increasing the knife’s weight.

Pros of Shun Dual Core

Unique blade design: The main reason you’d splurge on Shun Dual Core is its stunningly gorgeous blade pattern. Each blade features an arrow-like pattern with straight lines on the lower half and a swirl pattern on top.

Shun Cutlery Dual Core Santoku Knife 7", Asian-Inspired Knife for All-Purpose Food Prep, Chef Knife Alternative, Handcrafted Japanese Knife

Octagonal handle: The Dual Core series features octagonal handles, which are common for Japanese-style knives. This shape is ergonomic and allows you to rotate and angle the knife without sacrificing grip. It complements the unique blade pattern well.

Shun Cutlery Dual Core Kiritsuke Knife 8”, Master Chef's Knife, Ideal for All-Around Food Preparation, Authentic, Handcrafted Japanese Knife, Professional Chef Knife

High-quality, alternating steel blade: The Shun Dual Core series uses both VG-10 and VG-2 in its blade, creating a durable and razor-sharp edge. Both steels are high-carbon and high-chromium, but VG10 contains additional manganese, molybdenum, silicon, and vanadium to increase hardness and durability.

Wooden sheath: These knives come with a wooden sheath to protect the blade while you aren’t using it.

Cons of Shun Dual Core

Expensive: The main downside of Shun Dual Core is the cost. It’s the most expensive Shun series, ranging from $329 to $750 for a single knife.

Limited knife offerings: The Shun Dual Core series includes only five knives and no sets. For comparison, the Classic series consists of 37 knives and knife sets, and the Premier series has 27.

Read dozens of reviews and check the current prices of Shun Dual Core on Amazon.

Shun Seki Magoroku

Shun Seki Magoroku
Shun Seki Magoroku

Shun Seki Magoroku blades feature a San Mai edge with SUS420J2 steel protecting the VG-MAX cutting core.

SUS420J2 is a softer, less expensive steel, while VG-MAX is Shun’s proprietary super steel. Because of this combination, you can expect excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance with these knives.

Unlike other Shun series, Seki Magoroku blades are mostly smooth (no Damascus or hammered patterns). A thin line delineating the upper and lower steel is the only adornment.

The handles are blonde PakkaWood and are mostly straight with a round, smooth grip. The gradual bolster centers the knife’s weight, improving these knives’ balance.

Pros of Shun Seki Magoroku

Natural appearance: The blonde handle and understated blade give these knives a natural, sleek appearance. The knives have a more minimalistic look than other Shun series.

Clean design: Unlike the other series, Seki Magoroku knives don’t have an intricate blade design. Instead, the blades have a smooth texture with a subtle line that separates VG-MAX cutting edge and SUS420J2 steel on the upper blade.

Cons of Shun Seki Magoroku

Blonde handle: The blond handle is light, showing scratches and wear more than Shun’s darker handles.

Straight edge: There’s little to no curve in the edges of Seki Magoroku knives, making it almost impossible to rock chop with these knives. They’re designed for up-and-down chopping or thrust cuts. While these motions work fine for more ingredients, rocking is ideal for mincing herbs and dicing small ingredients like green onions.

Limited offerings and availability: The Seki Magoroku series only includes eight knives and no knife sets. And based on my research, it’s only available on Shun’s website. All other collections are sold at retailers like Williams Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, and Amazon.

Read dozens of reviews and check the current prices of Shun Seki Magoroku on Shun.KaiUSA.com.

Bottom Line: Which Shun Knives Are the Best?

Now that you know the pros and cons of each Shun knife series, it’s time to decide which is best for you.

Before I offer my recommendation, let’s quickly recap:

Shun Classic is the best-selling series with the widest selection of products. The blades are made of VG-MAX steel, which provides excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance. The D-shaped handles are made of ebony or blonde Pakkawood with a unique but secure grip.

Shun Premier has an elegant hammered blade design with a dimpled pattern. Its Pakkawood handles come in walnut, blonde, or gray colors. It is one of Shun’s most expensive series.

Shun Kanso knives have sharp and durable edges with full tang handles surrounded by natural-grained wood. The knives have excellent balance and handling, although they’re made of lower-quality steel than other Shun series.

Shun Sora is the brand’s most affordable series. With blades made from VG-10 and 420J stainless steel and PP/PTE polymer blend plastic handles, these knives offer excelling grip and handling. The fused edge of the metals also creates a beautiful and waved San Mai edge.

Shun Dual Core is the most expensive Shun series due to the high-quality blades made of 71 layers of alternating VG10 and VG2 steel. The knives also feature ebony Pakkawood handles in an ergonomic octagonal shape.

Shun Seki Magoroku knives combine SUS420J2 and VG-MAX steel, providing excellent edge durability and corrosion resistance. Seki Magoroku knives have smooth unadorned blades and blonde Pakkawood handles.

So which Shun knives are the best? Which should you buy?

Shun is one of the most respected cutlery brands in the world. They use high-quality materials and employ expert artisans to hand-craft each knife using traditional Japanese techniques. So you can’t go wrong with any series.

That said, my recommendation for most home cooks is the Classic series. It uses high-quality steel with an elegant Damascus blade design and beautiful blonde or ebony Pakkawood handles. It’s not the most affordable Shun series, but it’s significantly less expensive than Premier and Dual Core.

The Shun Sora collection is an excellent option if you’re on a budget and don’t care about wood grain handles. Its VG10 cutting core provides almost the same performance as the steel in the Premier and Classic series but at a much lower price.

All Shun knives are available on Amazon, where you can read hundreds of reviews and compare current prices.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He began his career in marketing, managing campaigns for dozens of Fortune 500 brands. In 2018, Andrew founded Prudent Reviews and has since reviewed 600+ products. When he’s not testing the latest cookware, kitchen knives, and appliances, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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