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Investing in a set of high-quality kitchen knives is an easy decision. You’ll use them every day, they’ll out-perform any discount set, and they’ll last forever. The difficult decision is choosing which brand of high-quality kitchen knives to buy.
Shun (pronounced Shoon) and Wusthof are two of the best kitchen knife brands on the market but they have several differences that are important to know before you buy.
If you’re seriously considering either of these two brands, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, you’ll get an in-depth comparison of Shun vs. Wusthof kitchen knives and learn how they stack up in terms of
- And much more.
By the end, you’ll have a complete understanding of their differences, similarities, pros, and cons.
Let’s dive right in!
Use the links below to navigate this article:
- Shun vs. Wusthof: 30 Second Summary
- Side-By-Side Comparison Chart
- Quick Overview of Shun Knives
- Quick Overview of Wusthof Knives
- Japanese Knives vs. German Knives
- Shun vs. Wusthof: In-Depth Comparison
- Bottom Line: Which Should You Buy, Shun or Wusthof?
If you only have a minute and are looking for a quick comparison of Shun vs. Wusthof, here’s what you need to know.
Shun makes Japanese style kitchen knives that have extremely sharp edges which are cut at 16-degree angles on each side. Wusthof makes German, or western, style knives that are cut theirs at a lower, 14-degree angle making them even sharper then Shun’s.
Shun blades are thinner, lighter, and made of harder steel than Wusthof blades. Due to the harder composition of their steel, Shun edges are more likely to chip than Wusthof’s edges. Wusthof edges are more durable and will retain their edge for longer periods of time.
Shun has 11 knife lines, each with unique Japanese designs for superior performance and an elegant look. Wusthof has 5 unique knife lines which are also beautifully designed but theirs have a traditional western look.
The bottom line—Shun and Wusthof are two of the top knife makers in the world and they’ve both been in business for over a century.
The most noticeable differences between Shun and Wusthof is how they look and how they feel in your hand. Since the styles are so different, people usually have a strong preference for one or the other.
(Swipe left and right to view the full chart)
|Shun Kitchen Knives||Wusthof Kitchen Knives|
|Where They Are Made||Seki City, Japan||Solingen, Germany (City of Blades)|
|Design||Japanese style||German or western style|
|Number of Product Lines||11||5 forged, 2 stamped|
|Blade Material||Highly refined "super" steels (VG10, VG-MAX, SG2, and High-carbon "Blue")||High Carbon, Stainless Steel|
|Handle Material||PakkaWood, tagayasan, Micarta, thermoplastic elastomer, or polypropylene||Polyoxymethylene, Polypropylene, Richlite, and “Grenadill” African Blackwood|
|Edge Angle||16-Degree Angle Per Side||14-Degree Angle Per Side|
|Blade Hardness||Rockwell Hardness of 61||Rockwell Hardness of 58|
|Cleaning||Hand Wash Only||Hand Wash Only|
|Warranty||Limited Lifetime Warranty||Lifetime Limited Warranty|
|Price||Check Current Price on Amazon||Check Current Price on Amazon|
Shun is part of the KAI Group, a Japanese company that has been making kitchen knives and other cutlery products in Seki City, Japan since 1908. Shun has 11 knife collections.
Each Shun knife is carefully handcrafted through a 100-step process by highly skilled craftsmen. Their intense focus on quality and craftsmanship goes back centuries and they carry the legacy and traditions of ancient Japanese swordsmiths.
The two things that make Shun stand out are their blade materials and their unique designs.
Shun makes their blades out of “super steels” called VG10, VG-MAX, SG2, and High-carbon “Blue”. These materials are highly refined, have superior edge retention, and are resistant to chipping and corrosion.
The design of Shun knives speaks for itself. They are completely unique with sharp angles and beautiful finishes.
Several of their blades feature Damascus design formed by layering several different types of metals and alloys together.
Their handles are made from either hardwood blends or synthetic materials which come in several unique designs.
Wusthof has been making knives in Solingen, Germany since 1814.
They make two lines of stamped knives, Gourmet and Pro, that are laser cut out of a large sheet of steel. They also make five lines of forged knives which go through a 40-step process in which they are heat-molded from a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel.
In this article, we are focusing on Wusthof forged knife lines because they are higher-quality and more comparable to Shun knives.
If you are interested in learning more about the differences between forged and stamped knives, check out our article comparing Wusthof’s top forged line vs. their top stamped line.
Wusthof knives are special because of the high-quality materials, designs, and manufacturing processes—all of which they’ve perfected over the course of 200 plus years.
All Wusthof blades are made from high-carbon rust-resistant steel with alloys and elements added to improve hardness, durability, and resist corrosion.
The material of their handles differ by product line but most are made from a synthetic material called Polyoxymethylene which has a tight molecular structure and is resistant to fading.
Wusthof knives are designed for performance, comfort, and safety.
Most of their product lines feature a full bolster that adds balance and prevents your hand from slipping onto the blade.
They feature a full tang which also adds balance and sturdiness. Each product line has a unique handle ergonomically designed to be comfortable in your hand.
Wusthof forged knives are made through a 40-step process. This process includes the use of a new technology they call Precision Edge Technology (PEtec) which gives their knives superior sharpness and the best edge retention in the industry.
Japanese knives, like Shun, and German knives, like Wusthof, have several fundamental differences.
The blades of Japanese knives are lighter, thinner, and harder. Thinner blades make Japanese knives easier to use because they require less pressure to slice through food.
German knives have thicker blades that are heavier and more durable. They are able to endure more abuse and are less likely than Japanese knives to chip.
When using Japanese knives, it’s recommended to always use a slicing motion, gently pulling the knife through the food. Using this technique takes advantage of the sharpness of the edge and the thinness of the blade and helps avoid any damage.
Since German knives are thicker and more durable, they can handle more aggressive, up-and-down chopping.
Shun blades are known for their signature Damascus and Hammered patterns. Damascus patterns are created during the manufacturing process when they layer different metals and forge them together.
Shun craftsmen hand-hammer each blade to create their hammered finishes that are featured in several of their product lines.
Learn more about these processes on Shun’s website.
These fancy designs are not just for the look, they create an uneven blade surface that improves performance by creating pockets of air between the blade and food. This enables lower drag and a quick release. Here’s a look at a few of their blades.
Wusthof blades are designed with a traditional look and a smooth finish.
Most of their blades feature a full bolster which is the thick steel lip where the blade and handle meet that helps prevent your hand from slipping and adds balance and sturdiness to the knife.
If you are looking for a classic blade design without fancy patterns, Wusthof gives you that.
Shun handles vary between their eleven product lines, but all are beautifully designed with influence from ancient Japanese knives and swords.
In general, Shun handles are rounder than Wusthof handles with thinner bolsters and thick steel butts at the end cap of the handles.
Like Wusthof, all Shun handles have either a steel or composite tang for balance and sturdiness. Below is a look at four of Shun’s handles.
Each of Wusthof’s five product lines features a slightly different handle design.
Almost all of them have a fully exposed tang (tang is the part of the steel that runs through the handle) to add balance and sturdiness and a triple-riveted design (rivets are the studs that attach the handle to the tang) which gives them a classic western look.
Each handle is ergonomically designed to provide comfort during intense chopping sessions. Below is a look at Wusthof’s handles.
My favorite is the Classic line, second from the right with the red logo. Learn more in our recent in-depth review of Wusthof Classic knives.
When it comes to the design of their handles, Shun is not better than Wusthof or vice versa. It’s all about your personal preference.
In my opinion, the design of the handle and the way it feels in your hand is the most important attribute of a knife. If it’s not comfortable and you don’t enjoy using it, then it’s not the right knife for you. Pictures help but, if you are deciding between Shun and Wusthof, I highly recommend buying one of each and testing them out before committing to a set.
Stores like Crate and Barrel and Williams Sonoma carry both brands and will let you test them out in-store. You can also buy them on Amazon (link to Shun, link to Wusthof) and keep the one you like the most.
Steel, which is a blend of iron and carbon, is the ideal material for long-lasting, highly durable kitchen knife blades. Shun and Wusthof use different types of steel with added elements to enhance certain characteristics.
Shun makes their blades out of the following four types of highly refined steel:
VG10 stainless steel – Cobalt is added to increase strength and hardness. Vanadium is added to maintain a sharp edge.
VG-MAX – Building on the VG10, VG-MAX includes more carbon and cobalt for strength and durability, chromium and molybdenum to resist corrosion, and tungsten and vanadium to enhance sharpness and cutting performance.
SG2 stainless steel – Considered by some to be the best blade material for kitchen knives, SG2 stainless steel is considered a “micro carbide” steel. It’s dense, pure, and is harder and less brittle than most steels giving it the ability to retain an incredibly sharp edge.
High-carbon “Blue” steel – This steel is fine-grained, durable, and can hold an extremely sharp edge. Ideal for chef’s that use their knives every day for long periods.
All Wusthof blades, regardless of the product line, are made out of high-carbon, rust-resistant stainless steel.
Wusthof adds carbon to increase hardness, chromium to resist stains, molybdenum to add hardness and resist corrosion, and vanadium to increase durability.
Although the blends of elements and minerals are different, all Shun and Wusthof blades are made from high-quality materials that are strong, durable, and resistant to rust and other types of corrosion.
The differences between the two are minor and will not have any noticeable impact on performance.
Shun handles are made from either PakkaWood, Tagayasan, Micarta, thermoplastic elastomer, or polypropylene depending on the product line.
PakkaWood and Tagayasan are types of wood treated with resin which makes them strong, durable, and moisture resistant while maintaining the beauty of a wood handle. Micarta, thermoplastic elastomer and polypropylene are synthetic materials ideal for knife handles because they are dense, durable, and lightweight.
Wusthof handles, with the exception of the Epicure and Ikon lines, are made of synthetic materials Polyoxymethylene and Polypropylene. These materials are ideal for knife handles because they have tight molecular structures which makes them strong, durable, and resistant to discoloration from long-term use.
Wusthof Epicure handles are made out of Richlite which is recycled wood fibers. Their Ikon handles are made from “Grenadill” African Blackwood. These natural materials not only look elegant but feel incredibly natural in your hand.
Shun, like most Japanese style knives, have extremely sharp edges which are cut at 16-degree angles per side (32 degrees total).
Although German knives are not usually as sharp as Japanese knives, Wusthof edges are actually cut at a 14-degree angle per side (28 degrees total) which makes them slightly sharper than Shun.
The advantage of sharper edges, like Wusthof’s, is obvious. They slice through food more easily and require less effort from you.
Typically, sharper edges are thinner and more likely to chip compared to duller edges, however, Wusthof’s high-quality materials along with their PEtec manufacturing process make the chances of chipping very unlikely.
To learn more about the impact that edge angles have on kitchen knives, check out this article, More Advice and Theory on Sharpening Angles for Knives, on sharpeningsupplies.com.
The Rockwell scale is a measurement system used to determine the hardness of materials such as metal. It’s used by knife manufacturers to measure the hardness of their steel blades.
Most kitchen knives fall between 55 and 60 on the Rockwell scale, which is considered to be the ideal range.
A harder blade can tolerate a sharper edge and retain it longer but is less durable and more likely to chip compared to a softer blade.
Blade hardness is one of the characteristics that make Shun and Wusthof very different. On average, Shun knives have a Rockwell hardness of 61 which makes them one of the hardest blades on the market. Wusthof blades have a softer composition with a Rockwell hardness of 58. A three-point difference doesn’t seem like a lot, but it has an impact on durability and edge retention.
Both Wusthof and Shun blades are extremely durable and known for their long lasting edge retention. However, Wusthof blades are technically more durable while Shun’s hold their edge better.
Caring and Cleaning
When you invest in high-quality kitchen knives, regardless of the brand, it’s important to take proper care of them.
Shun recommends using only softwood cutting boards. Other materials like plastic or ceramic are known to dull edges more quickly. They also recommend using a smooth, back and forth slicing motion and to avoid chopping straight up and down.
Wusthof knives, since they are more durable and have duller blades, are better suited for aggressive up and down chopping.
Shun and Wusthof both recommend hand-washing their knives with gentle soap and water immediately after use. Dry completely to avoid micro-corrosion from moisture left behind.
Lastly, they both emphasize storing their knives in a knife block or case because contact with other knives or metal objects can damage or dull the blades.
Shun and Wusthof guarantee their products will be free of material or manufacturer’s defects with their limited lifetime warranties.
These warranties do not cover damage resulting from misuse or normal wear.
Shun has eleven unique product lines and Wusthof has five. This chart breaks down the differences between each.
(Swipe left and right to view the full chart)
|Blade Material||Handle Material||Edge Angle Per Side||Rockwell Hardness||Price|
|Shun Classic||VG-Max||PakkaWood||16||60||Check Price|
|Shun Hikari||VG-10||PakkaWood||16||61||Check Price|
|Shun Premier||VG-Max||PakkaWood||16||60||Check Price|
|Shun Kaji||SG-11||PakkaWood||16||61||Check Price|
|Shun Fuji||SG-11||Tagayasan||16||61||Check Price|
|Shun KAI||Carbon Stainless Steel||Molded Polypropylene||16||53||Check Price|
|Shun Sora||VG-10||Polymer Blend||16||61||Check Price|
|Shun Kanso||AUS10A||Tagayasan||16||60||Check Price|
|Shun Blue||Blue II Carbon Street Core||PakkaWood||16||60||Check Price|
|Shun Dual-Core||VG-2 and VG-10||PakkaWood||16||61||Check Price|
|Shun Classic Pro||VG-10||PakkaWood||16 (single-beveled)||61||Check Price|
|Wusthof Classic||High-Carbon, Stainless Steel||Polyoxymethylene||14||58||Check Price|
|Wusthof Epicure||High-Carbon, Stainless Steel||Richlite (recycled wood fibers)||14||58||Check Price|
|Wusthof Ikon||High-Carbon, Stainless Steel||Grenadill African Blackwood||14||58||Check Price|
|Wusthof Classic Ikon||High-Carbon, Stainless Steel||Polyoxymethylene||14||58||Check Price|
|Wusthof Grand Prix II||High-Carbon, Stainless Steel||Polypropylene||14||58||Check Price|
Determining whether to buy Shun or Wusthof is clearly a difficult decision.
Shun is one of the top brands of Japanese knives and Wusthof is one of the top brands of German knives.
Regardless of which you choose, you’ll get high-quality knives with superior performance that will last a very long time.
To simplify the decision, determine what characteristics are most important to you.
- If the Japanese style designs appeal to you, Shun is the best maker of that style.
- If you prefer a classic German look, Wusthof is the way to go.
- If sharpness and durability are most important, go with Wusthof.
- If you’re more concerned about edge retention, go with Shun.
I had the opportunity to test out both brands when I was in the market for my own set a few years ago. The moment I picked up the Wusthof Classic knives (link to view on Amazon), I knew those were the ones for me. They felt sturdy, durable, and comfortable, plus I loved the classic black handle with the red Trident logo.
If you are leaning towards German-style knives, check out our in-depth comparison of Wusthof vs. Zwilling J.A. Henckels (Zwilling is Wusthof’s biggest competitor in this market), Wusthof Classic vs. Gourmet (Wusthof’s most popular forged knife collection vs. their most popular stamped collection), and Wusthof Classic vs. Ikon (Wusthof’s most popular vs. their most elegant forged knife collections).
To read hundreds of reviews, check current prices, and learn more about these amazing knives, check out Shun and Wusthof on Amazon:
I hope this article helped with your decision and wish you the best of luck as you navigate the kitchen knife market!
In cooking mode? Check out these articles about popular cooking products:
- The Ultimate Review of Wusthof Classic Kitchen Knives
- Best Chef’s Knife Under $100: Top 5 Compared
- Wusthof vs. Zwilling J.A. Henckels: Kitchen Knives Compared
- Wusthof Classic vs. Gourmet: Kitchen Knife Comparison
- Wusthof Classic vs. Wusthof Ikon: What Are the Differences?
- Cutco vs. Wusthof: How Do Their Kitchen Knives Compare?
- Zwilling J.A. Henckels Pro vs. Pro “S”: What’s the Difference?
- Staub vs. Le Creuset: A Detailed Comparison of The Top Dutch Ovens
- Is All-Clad Cookware Worth The High Price? An In-Depth Review