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
- Shun Classic
- Shun Premier
- Shun Kanso
- Shun Sora
- Shun Dual Core
- Shun Seki Magoroku
- Bottom Line: Which Shun Knives Are Best?
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.
|Classic||Premier||Kanso||Sora||Dual Core||Seki Magoroku|
|Blade Steel||VG-Max||VG-Max||AUS10A||VG10 (cutting core), 420J steel (upper blade)||VG10 & VG2 steel||VG10 (cutting core), 420J steel (upper blade)|
|Blade Finish||Damascus||Hammered top, Damascus bottom||Fine-grained pattern||Traditional Japanese with a San Mai edge||Damascus||Traditional|
|Handle Material||PakkaWood||PakkaWood||Tagayasan (Wenge)||PP/TPE Polymer Blend||PakkaWood||PakkaWood|
|Handle Color||Ebony or blonde||Walnut, blonde, or gray||Walnut||Black||Ebony||Blonde|
|Edge Angle||16-degree angle per side||16-degree angle per side||16-degree angle per side||16-degree angle per side||16-degree angle per side||16-degree angle per side|
|Rockwell Scale Score||61||61||61||61||61||61|
|Number of Knives/Sets||37||27||20||12||5||8|
|Top Reason to Buy||Super steel blade; traditional Japanese design||Hammered blade finish; walnut-colored handles||Affordable; rustic look||Affordable; low-maintenance handle material||Stunning arrow blade pattern||Simple and natural design|
|Top Reason to NOT Buy||D-shaped handle is uncomfortable for lefties||Expensive||Tang digs into your hand||Synthetic handle lacks the elegance of wood||Most expensive series||Limited selection and availability|
|Price||$$$ (Amazon)||$$$$ (Amazon)||$$ (Amazon)||$$ (Amazon)||$$$$ (Amazon)||$$$$ (shun.kaiusa.com)|
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).
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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