In this in-depth comparison, I break down the similarities and differences between two of the best kitchen knife brands in the world: Shun and Global.
You’ll learn how Shun and Global knives compare in terms of design, materials, sharpness, edge retention, durability, price, and much more.
So, if you’re shopping for a new set of kitchen knives, but you can’t decide between these two brands, keep reading.
Use the links below to navigate the comparison:
- Shun vs. Global: Quick Summary
- Introducing Shun
- Introducing Global
- Materials and Construction
- Edge Grind and Sharpness
- Bottom Line: Should You Buy Shun or Global Knives?
Shun vs. Global: Quick Summary
If you’re seriously thinking about buying a set of Shun or Global knives, I highly recommend you read this entire comparison.
But, if you’re in a hurry and just want the highlights, here’s what you need to know.
Similarities Between Shun and Global
Shun and Global are both Japanese-style knives, so they have a lighter feel and are characteristically sharp, having edge angles ranging between 10 and 16 degrees. Additionally, Shun and Global knives both are:
- Made from high-quality, high-carbon steel alloys
- Designed with influence from ancient Asian traditions and culture
- Manufactured in Japan
- Well-respected in the kitchen knife industry
- Seamless in construction
- Well-balanced and weighted, although lightweight compared to German knives
- Feature hand-hammered styles (this varies by collection)
Differences Between Shun and Global
Despite the similarities, Shun and Global knives have several differences. Here’s a quick rundown:
Design: Global knives feature a distinct all-stainless steel design with iconic recessed black dots on the handles for a slip-free grip. Shun knives have a more traditional Japanese style with Damascus and hammered-pattern blades and wood grain or black synthetic handles.
Materials: Global makes all of its blades and handles from CROMOVA18 steel, which contains a high percentage of chromium for superior stain resistance. Across its collections, Shun uses a variety of highly-refined steels to make its blades and a combination of wood and synthetic material for its handles.
Edge Retention and Durability: Shun blades are extremely hard, scoring 61 on the Rockwell scale, while Global knives are much softer, scoring between 56 and 58. Shun’s harder steel results in better edge retention (the blades stay sharp longer) but makes them less durable.
Sharpness: Global knives are sharpened between 10 and 15 degrees per side and have a straight, double-edged wide blade. Shun knives are cut at 16-degree angles per side, and most pieces have a traditional double-bevel grind. The lower angle and straight edge make Global knives sharper than Shun knives.
Extras: Shun offers a free sharpening service for as long as you own their knives. Global provides sharpening advice on its website but doesn’t provide any sharpening services.
Price: In general, Shun knives are more expensive than Global, but the price varies by collection, the type of knife or set, and where you buy it. Jump ahead to the price comparison chart, which shows the current prices on Amazon.
However, the brand’s pedigree dates back over 100 years—its parent company, Kai Group, has been producing blades (i.e., razors and folding knives) since 1908.
Sajiro Endo established the Kai Group in Seki City, Japan, an area with a rich knife-making history spanning more than 800 years.
After several decades in the blade business, Koji Endo, a direct descendant of Sajiro Endo, launched Kai Group’s first cutlery brand: Shun.
Over the years, Shun has maintained its commitment to workmanship and artistry—it takes no less than 100 handcrafted steps to produce just one Shun blade—a testament to heritage and tradition.
And, even today, Shun still produces its award-winning knives in Seki City, Japan, where it all began.
Shun knives are incredibly precise, sharp, lightweight, and feature a range of styles and construction to suit the changing needs of home cooks and professional chefs.
I provide much more detail about Shun’s different knife collections in a minute, but the common themes across each collection are beauty, precision, and performance.
Like Shun, Global has a rich knife-making history.
Mino Tsuchida, who is widely known as Mr. Global, founded the brand in 1985.
In the beginning, Tsuchida worked with visionary designer Komin Yamada, to create twelve knives with an innovative steel design, which remains the hallmark of the brand.
Over the years, Global has expanded its product lines and now makes hundreds of knives and knife accessories. But, despite this expansion, the brand remains committed to quality—every knife is handcrafted by skilled artisans in Niigata, Japan.
The first thing you’ll notice when you look at a Global knife is it’s sleek, modern design.
Unlike most kitchen knives, including Shun, Global knives appear to be crafted from one piece of metal with steel from the tip of the blade to the butt end of the handle.
Yet, the knives are three pieces (two matching handle pieces and the blade) with a seamless bond, donning widely-recognized black, recessed dots in various patterns on the handles.
Fans of Global love this unique design, while others prefer a more traditional look with a clear delineation between the blade and the handle. Regardless of peoples’ preferences, one thing is for sure; Global knives are striking.
Besides their unique look, Global knives are hair-splitting sharp, well-balanced, durable, and relatively affordable.
Now that you know the basics, let’s see how Shun and Global knives compare in terms of look, feel, function, variety, and price.
One of the most significant differences between Shun and Global knives is their design.
Global knives, across all collections, feature the brand’s distinct all-steel design with iconic recessed black dots on the handles for a slip-free, hygienic grip.
There are subtle design differences across Global collections, but they all feature long cutting edges. Each Global knife has a secure spot to rest your thumb and an ample, ergonomic handle.
Here’s a quick look at each Global collection.
The Classic collection is known for its clean, efficient design and ease of use; it’s the original design of the Global brand. It has a convex edge, no bolster, and a hygienic, slip-free grip. The handles in this collection are covered with black dimples on each side.
The NI collection features an Asian-inspired shape constructed with a longer handle and a sharper tip than the other collections. It has a thicker blade, additional weight, and a rounded spine for a comfortable pinch grip.
The SAI collection is the newest design from Komin Yamada and is reminiscent of the Samurai sword. It features a three-ply, textured blade that is individually hand-hammered and designed for easier food release. The seven black recessed dots on the handle represent the 7 Samurai codes of honor and moral principles.
The Ukon collection is designed to be 10% sharper, verified by C.A.T.R.A. testing (industry-recognized testing standard). Ukon knives have a thicker blade, dual-surface handle, and a thumb rest. Learn more about this collection in my in-depth comparison of Global UKON vs. Classic.
Shun blades are thinner and lighter than most of its competitors, including Global, but they are made of harder steel.
Shun handles are made from either PakkaWood, Tagayasan, Micarta, thermoplastic elastomer, or polypropylene, depending on the collection.
PakkaWood, the material Shun uses for most of its handles, is a hygienic wood and plastic composite and features a range of shades from light to dark, matte to glossy.
Most Shun handles are D-shaped, a design that prevents the handle from turning in your hands as you work, keeping your knife stable. The Kanso and Sora collections feature contoured, tapered handles.
One of the unique features of Shun knives is it’s stunning and functional blade design, which varies by collection:
The Classic collection features a 69-layer Damascus-style blade surface, ideal for more natural food release as you slice, along with a D-shaped PakkaWood handle for a firm grip and a full composite tang for balance.
The Premier collection has a handcrafted, eye-catching tsuchime-finish designed for quick food release. The wide blade is designed for easy food release, keeps your knuckles off of your cutting board, and helps transfer prepped food to your waiting pan.
Check out my in-depth comparison of Shun Classic vs. Premier to learn more about this collection.
The Sora collection has a triple-layer San Mai edge, which is an ancient Japanese-inspired edge construction with a harder center (for edge retention) and softer sides (for durability). It’s ideal for quick, light knife work such as slicing soft vegetables or delicate fish. The stunning San Mai cutting edge, like all Shun knives, is sharp, precise, and balanced with a blade tang that extends through the handle.
The Sora blade features Shun Composite Blade Technology, which uses interlocking blade components to join two types of steel with a third metal by brazing. The brazing process is like welding and keeps the two sides melded. The handles are made of a textured polymer blend and boast a contemporary look.
The Kanso collection blades are single-ply, high-carbon steel with contoured Tagayasan handles, referred to as “iron sword wood” for its superior durability. This no-frills, simply-made collection features full tang construction and durable contoured handles.
The Dual Core collection blades have 71 alternating layers of multiple steel alloys extending to the edge, and PakkaWood octagon-shaped handles.
Global knives are understated but highly functional. Shun knives may look like a work of art, but possess the durability to handle heavy, everyday use in the kitchen.
Although the designs are vastly different, both have an undeniable beauty combined with convenient functionality.
Which design is better?
Well, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Now, let’s see how Shun and Global knives differ in terms of materials and construction.
Materials and Construction
At first glance, Global knives may appear to be one piece of steel, but they are made from three parts: the stamped blade, and two perfectly matching sides of the handle.
The two pieces that make up the handle are welded together, and the hollow chamber between them is filled with sand for weight and balance.
Then, the blade is seamlessly welded to the handle and carefully finished to make the knife look like one piece.
The full knife, including the handle, is constructed from CROMOVA 18 stainless steel, which is an alloy of Chromium, Molybdenum, and Vanadium.
This blend of fine stainless steel is known for protecting edge sharpness and has high rust resistance.
During manufacturing, the blades are ice tempered to a Rockwell Hardness of 56 – 58, an ideal range for edge retention.
The construction and materials used to make Shun knives differ by collection.
Some collections feature full-tang construction, while others have a rabbet or partial tang.
With a full tang, the steel blade runs the length of the knife from tip to butt end. In general, knives with a full tang have superior balance and sturdiness because the weight is distributed evenly throughout the entire knife, and there’s no way for the blade and the handle to detach.
Rabbet tang construction is when the blade is attached to the handle, but the two pieces overlap partially. This style of construction mimics traditional Samurai swords, allowing for quick, precise movement, and comfortable handling.
Shun blades have a Rockwell score of 61, which means the steel is harder than the steel that Global uses to make its blades (56 to 58).
The advantage—Shun blades hold a sharp edge for longer than Global blades.
The disadvantage—Shun blades are more brittle and susceptible to chipping compared to Global.
Each Shun collection is made from different steel alloys and construction techniques.
For example, the Dual Core collection is roll forged, a process by which hot metal is layered and pressed between rollers, while the Sora collection is laser cut in components and brazed together.
- Dual Core VG10/VG2 (fine grain, high-carbon, and high-chromium)
- VG-MAX (high-carbon, chromium, tungsten, molybdenum, and vanadium)
- VG10 (iron, carbon, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, silicon, and vanadium)
- AUS10A (high-carbon with added vanadium)
- AUS8A (high-carbon and low chromium blend)
Each element within these blends adds something unique to the longevity, functionality, and beauty of the blade. Simply put, Shun blades are sharp, strong, and will retain their beauty for decades.
Unlike Global, which makes all of its handles out of the same material, Shun uses a variety of materials to make its handles, including PakkaWood (composite wood), Tagayasan (wood), or a highly durable textured synthetic polymer (thermoplastic/rubber) blend.
As I mentioned in a recent comparison of Shun and Wusthof knives, PakkaWood and Tagayasan are both natural wood treated with resin to increase durability and moisture resistance while maintaining the beauty of a wood handle.
Edge Grind and Sharpness
Shun and Global knives are incredibly sharp; there’s no question about that. But which brand makes sharper knives?
Two things impact the sharpness of a kitchen knife: the edge grind and the edge angle.
Edge grind refers to the shape of the edge, and edge angle refers to the angle in which the knife is sharpened.
Let me explain, starting with edge grind.
There are two types of edge grinds, also known as bevels: single and double.
A single-bevel edge is ground on just one-side. A double-bevel edge is sharpened on both sides in the shape of a “V.”
In general, double-bevel knives are more durable, easy to use, and much more common, especially for home cooks. Single-bevel knives are sharper but require some skill.
Both brands feature a mix of edge grinds across their collections, including single or double-bevel with smooth or serrated edges.
One of the signature features of Global knives is that the edges are sharpened at a steep, straight angle, which makes them noticeably sharper than most knives with a beveled edge, including Shun.
You can see the difference between a straight and beveled edge in the illustration below.
This advantage of Global’s straight edges is clear—sharper edges that remain sharp, even as it wears down. The disadvantage is that you need to take special care when using, cleaning, and storing these knives to avoid damage.
Shun Classic and Premier collections have double-bevel edges. The Sora collection uses the San Mai edge, which features a hard steel blade at its core and a softer layer of metal on either side of the core. The Dual Core Yanagiba is an example of a chisel (single grind) knife.
Sharpness is based not only on the edge grind but also on the edge angle. The lower the degree angle, the sharper the knife.
Global knives are sharpened between 10 and 15 degrees per side and have a straight, double-edged wide blade. Shun knives are cut at 16-degree angles per side, and most pieces have a traditional double-bevel grind.
So, that means, out of the factory, Global knives are sharper than Shun knives.
However, both brands are incredibly sharp. And, unless you’re conducting a scientific test or you’re a professional chef, you likely won’t notice a difference. It’s certainly not enough of a difference to sway you in one direction or the other.
If you’re concerned about the sharpness of Shun knives, you’ll be relieved to know that they offer free sharpening service for as long as you own their knives.
All you have to do is pay for shipping and processing, and Shun will sharpen your knives, repair minor chips, and remove light rust, for free, as many times as you need—not a bad deal.
In terms of price, Shun knives tend to be more expensive than Global knives. But, the exact difference depends on the collection, the type of knife or set, and where you buy it.
To give you a better idea of how Shun and Global compare, refer to the table below, which shows the current prices of each brand’s most popular knives on Amazon.
Note: Prices are pulled in real-time, so what you see is what you get. Click each item to view more details on Amazon.
|Knife/Knife Set||Current Price||View on Amazon|
|Global SAI 5.5-Inch Chef's Knife||View|
|Global Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife||View|
|Global NI 10-Inch Chef's Knife||View|
|Global SAI 5-Piece Knife Set||View|
|Global NI 6-Piece Knife Set||View|
|Global Classic 3-Piece Knife Set||Amazon|
|Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife||View|
|Shun Premier 8-Inch Chef’s Knife||View|
|Shun Sora 8-Inch Chef's Knife||View|
|Shun Classic 5-Piece Knife Set||Amazon|
|Shun Classic 6-Piece Knife Set||View|
|Shun Premier 15-Piece Knife Set||View|
Bottom Line: Should You Buy Shun or Global Knives?
If you are looking for a set of high-quality Japanese-style knives, Shun and Global are both a sure bet.
But which brand is better?
Choosing a knife or knife set ultimately depends on what’s most important to you, so here are some things to consider before you make your selection.
You should buy Shun knives if…
- You want traditional Japanese-style knives that look as good as they perform.
- You want different options for blade handles, including treated wood or synthetic polymer.
- You want a knife with a high Rockwell score (61) for better edge retention.
- You are intrigued by the stunning patterned blades.
- You want free sharpening for the life of your knives.
- You don’t mind spending a bit more for high-quality knives that will last.
If you’re smiling as you read this, then Shun might be the perfect fit for you. If you are ready to purchase or want to read reviews from verified buyers, check out Shun knives on Amazon.
You should buy Global knives if…
- You love the modern and sleek look of all-stainless steel knives.
- You are looking for a lightweight knife that you can use extensively without hand fatigue.
- You have a smaller grip and are looking for a knife with shorter handles.
- You want a budget-friendly Japanese-style knife.
- You are looking for an extremely sharp knife with excellent edge retention
Are you shaking your head, yes? Then Global is the right brand for you. Global knives are also available on Amazon, where you can browse dozens of customer reviews and check the current prices of each set.
If you got this far, and you’re still not sure if either of these brands is right for you, check out my definitive guide to the best kitchen knife brands. Yes, Global and Shun are on the list, but, in the guide, I cover three other brands that are worth a look: Wusthof, Zwilling, and Victorinox.
Besides that guide, you can check out the dozens of other knife reviews and comparisons I’ve recently published, starting with the list below.
- The Ultimate Review of Global Kitchen Knives
- Shun Kitchen Knives Review: Are They Worth It?
- Shun Classic vs. Premier: Which Knife Collection Is Better?
- Wusthof vs. Global: How Do Their Kitchen Knives Compare?
- Global vs. Zwilling: Which Kitchen Knives Are Better?
- Global UKON vs. Global Classic: What’s the Difference?
- Shun vs. Wusthof: In-Depth Kitchen Knife Comparison
- Miyabi vs. Shun: Which Kitchen Knives Are Better?
- Cutco vs. Shun: Which Kitchen Knives Are Better?
- Wusthof vs. Zwilling J.A. Henckels: In-Depth Kitchen Knife Comparison
- Shun Kanso vs. Classic Kitchen Knives: What’s the Difference?