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Shun Classic vs. Sora: What’s the Difference?

Are you in the market for new kitchen knives but can’t decide between Shun Classic and Shun Sora?

Knives in both collections are high-quality, razor-sharp, and handmade in Japan.

So, what’s the difference? Which knives are better?

In this comparison of Shun Classic vs. Sora knives, you’ll learn how they differ in materials, design, performance, price, and more.

By the end, you’ll have the key facts necessary to decide which kitchen knife collection is right for you.


Use the links below to navigate the comparison:


Shun Classic vs. Sora: Comparison Chart

If you are in a hurry, the chart below provides a quick side-by-side comparison of Shun Classic and Sora knives.

Shun Classic Shun Sora
Price $$$$ (view on Amazon) $$$ (view on Amazon)
Blade DesignDamascusTraditional Japanese with a San Mai edge
Blade Construction69 layers3 layers
Blade MaterialVG-MAX steelVG10 on the cutting edge and Japanese 420J stainless steel on the upper
Handle DesignD-shaped with steel end capTextured for grip with a slanted butt and a medallion inlay
Handle MaterialEbony-colored PakkaWoodPP/TPE Polymer Blend
OptionsOver 40 knives and sets12 knives and sets
Sharpness16-degree angle per side16-degree angle per side
Edge RetentionExcellentDulls quicker than Classic knives
Where It Is MadeJapanJapan
Lifetime Warranty and SharpeningIncludedIncluded

Differences Between Shun Classic and Sora

In this section, I take an in-depth look at everything that separates Shun Classic and Sora knives.

Blade Materials

The Shun Classic blade is constructed from VG-MAX steel, while the Sora is made with VG-10 and 420J stainless steel.

VG-MAX steel is Shun’s proprietary super steel. It is similar to the VG-10, but it has more carbon, which increases its strength and durability.

VG-MAX includes chromium, which resists stains and corrosion. It also contains tungsten for a sharper blade and trace amounts of molybdenum and vanadium, which fight corrosion and improve cutting performance.

Shun Classic versus Sora_blade steel
Shun Classic (top), Shun Sora (bottom)

Sora knives are made with two types of steel: Japanese 420J on the upper blade and VG-10 on the cutting edge.

VG10 steel features a complex blend of elements. In addition to iron and carbon, these blades have silicon, manganese, molybdenum, chromium, and vanadium. All of these elements add to the steel’s ability to hold an edge and resist wear.

420J steel is soft and lower quality than the VG super steels. It dulls quickly, but since it’s only used to protect the upper part of the blade, 420J steel won’t affect the Sora collection’s performance.

That said, the VG-MAX is of higher quality than VG10, so Classic knives are made with better quality steel than the Sora collection.

Blade Design

Shun Classic blades are made with a 68-layer Damascus process. That process of layering and folding steel creates a distinct wave pattern along the side of the blade.

Damascus pattern on Shun kitchen knife blade
Damascus pattern on Shun Classic kitchen knife blade

The Sora collection features a San Mai edge. This traditional Japanese construction method leaves a more distinct wave pattern where the two types of steel are fused.

Shun Sora blade design
Shun Sora blade design

Both are classy and elegant, but Classic blades have a softer, more subtle design, while Sora blades are bolder.

Handle Material

Shun Classic knives have handles made from ebony Pakkawood, which is wood impregnated with resin to make it strong and moisture resistant. A solid wood core is wrapped in thin layers of more precious wood veneer, making the handles durable, comfortable, and stylish.

Shun Classic PakkaWood handle
Shun Classic PakkaWood handle

Shun Sora knives feature handles made from a textured PP/TPE polymer blend. The bumpy texture gives the handles a superior grip (especially when the handles are wet), which makes the Sora knives great for heavy use.

Shun Sora handle material
Shun Sora handle

Handle Design

The Classic collection handles have a D-shaped design, which allows them to nestle into your fingers.

Shun D-Shaped Handles
Shun Classic D-Shaped Handles

They are comfortable for both right and left-handed use, although left-handed people may need a longer adjustment period to get used to the shape.

These handles are a dark ebony brown, but Shun offers lighter handles with its Classic Blonde collection.

The Classic handles feature a wood grain detail, although it’s subtle due to the dark color. A steel cap rests on the butt, which adds to the sleek aesthetic.

Shun Classic handle
Shun Classic handle

Sora handles are made from black plastic, so they lack the sophistication of the Classic handles.

They also feature a more contemporary round shape instead of a D-shape, so they feel familiar in your hand. The butt end is angled at a slant, and there’s an embossed Shun medallion in the heel for some added flair.

Shun Sora handle design
Shun Sora handle

Edge Retention

Because the Classic Collection uses VG-Max steel, the blades will hold their edges better than Sora blades. The extra elements in the VG-Max steel give it better edge retention than VG10 steel.

Options

Both the Shun Classic collection and Shun Sora collection feature individual knives and knife sets.

The Classic is Shun’s original and most popular collection; therefore, it’s much more extensive, with over 30 different individual knives. This collection also offers over 10 different knife sets.

The Sora collection has far fewer offerings in both individual knives and sets. This collection has just 9 knives and 3 sets, including a 5-piece student set, 6-piece knife block set, and 3-piece knife block set.

Price

Shun is a high-end brand, so all of its knives are expensive. However, the Classic collection is significantly more costly than the Sora collection.

Classic knives are pricier because they feature higher quality blade steel (VG-MAX vs. VG-10/420J) and handle materials (PakkaWood vs. PP/TPE polymer blend).

The Sora collection is the brand’s entry-level collection. It’s good quality, but it’s designed so cooks on a smaller budget can still experience the brand.

Although Classic knives cost more than Sora, they’re far from Shun’s most expensive knives. The Premier and Dual Core collections come with an even higher price tag.

For more information about the prices of individual products in these collections, please see the chart below.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Similarities Between Shun Classic and Sora

Now that we’ve reviewed how these collections are different, let’s look at their similarities.

Sharpness

The blades in both the Classic and Sora collections are sharpened to 16 degrees per side for a total cutting edge angle of 32 degrees. Because the edges feature the same sharpness, you should get a similar cutting performance with either collection.

You can find sharper Japanese-style knives (for example, Miyabi knives are sharpened to a 24-degrees total angle), but Shun Classic and Sora knives are sharp enough for every task.

Making thin slices with a Shun kitchen knife
Making thin slices with a Shun kitchen knife

Plus, a sharper edge is more prone to chipping, so Shun does a good job balancing cutting performance and durability.

Blade Hardness

The Rockwell scale is used to determine the hardness of different metals. Knife blades tend to fall between 56 and 62 on the Rockwell scale.

A lower rating than 56 means the steel is too soft and the blade will dull too quickly; higher than 62 means the blade is too hard and prone to chipping.

Both the Classic and Sora collections are hardened to a 60-61 on the Rockwell scale. Because this is at the higher end of the range for knife blades, these knives will retain their edge better than most of the competition.

Since their hardness makes Classic and Sora blades more prone to chipping than soft, German blades, Shun advises using a gliding motion when cutting. Also, using a wood cutting board and avoiding hard surfaces will minimize the risk of the blades chipping.

How They Are Made

These knife collections are both handcrafted in Japan using traditional Japanese processes. The Classic collection uses a Damascus layered steel forging process, while the Sora collection uses a San Mai forging process.

Forged blades are heated so that the steel becomes malleable then hammered and shaped using traditional smithing tools and modern presses.

Because the steel is heated and hardened, forged blades have a stronger molecular composition than stamped blades, which are cut out of a sheet of steel (a method used by discount brands to cut costs).

Both of these collections feature full-tang blades, which means the steel from the blade runs the entire length of the knife.

With some knives, such as the Wusthof Classic, the tang is exposed. But, with Shun Classic and Sora knives, the tang is hidden inside of the handle.

Full-tang knives are better balanced, and they give you more leverage since the handle is reinforced. The tang also ensures the handle won’t break off during use.

Lifetime Warranty and Free Lifetime Sharpening

Classic and Sora knives come with Shun’s lifetime warranty and lifetime free sharpening included.

With Shun’s free sharpening service, you can send your knives to Shun, and they will have them expertly sharpened and returned to you. All you pay for is shipping.

Free sharpening is almost unheard of in the cutlery industry. Many brands offer professional sharpening services, but it’s rare to find a company that does it for free.

The only other brand I know of that offers lifetime sharpening is Cutco. That’s how confident Shun is that their knives will stay sharp for a long time.

Bottom Line: Should You Buy Shun Classic or Shun Sora Knives?

Now that you know how Shun Classic and Sora knives measure up, it’s time to decide which one is better for you.

Before I give you my recommendation, let’s recap the main differences between these two collections.

  • Blade Materials: Classic knives use VG-MAX steel, and Sora knives utilize VG10 and 420J steel.
  • Blade Design: Classic blades feature a Damascus style design, while Sora blades have a San Mai edge.
  • Handle Material: The handles in the Classic collection are made from ebony or blonde Pakkawood. The handles in the Sora collection are black and made from a PP/TPE polymer blend.
  • Handle Design: Classic collection handles have a D-shape and a steel end cap, and Sora collection handles are round and textured with an inset embossed medallion.
  • Options: The Classic collection boasts more product options and knife sets than the Sora collection.
  • Price: The Classic collection is more expensive than the Sora collection, but the cost varies depending on the specific product.

Ultimately, both collections are high-quality and durable. The Classic collection is Shun’s flagship collection, and it falls in the middle of their current lineup, both in terms of price and quality.

The Sora collection is Shun’s entry-level collection. Entry-level from Shun doesn’t mean cheap or low quality. Sora knives still offer excellent performance, just not as good as some of its top-tier collections (like Premier or Dual Core).

If you are still on the fence, I’d recommend going with the Classic collection. It’s Shun’s best-selling collection for good reason. These knives are elegant and beautiful, and they have incredible performance. The blades will hold their edge for a long time, and the knives have exceptional balance.

The Classic collection may be more expensive than the Sora collection, but the superior materials and construction are worth the price.

To learn more about Shun Classic knives, check them out on Amazon.

If you’d rather look into Shun Sora knives, you can check the price for those on Amazon as well.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He’s been studying consumer buying behavior for over a decade and has managed marketing campaigns for over a dozen Fortune 500 brands. When he’s not testing the latest home products, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn or via email.

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