Are you shopping for kitchen knives but can’t decide between Shun and Zwilling?
Both make high-quality knives that will last for years. But which brand is better? What are the key differences?
In this comparison of Shun vs. Zwilling, you’ll learn how their knives differ in materials, construction, design, sharpness, durability, price, and more.
Use the links below to navigate the comparison:
- Shun vs. Zwilling: Comparison Chart
- Difference 1: Design
- Difference 2: Collections
- Difference 3: Construction
- Difference 4: Blade Materials
- Difference 5: Handle Materials
- Difference 6: Blade Hardness
- Difference 7: Sharpness
- Difference 8: Price
- Difference 9: Company History
- Difference 10: Downsides
- Bottom Line: Should You Buy Shun or Zwilling Kitchen Knives?
If you only have a minute, here’s a quick comparison of Shun vs. Zwilling.
|Where They’re Made||Seki City, Japan||Germany and Japan|
|Blade Material||SG2, VG10, VG-MAX||German stainless steel (X50CrMoV15)|
|Handle Material||PakkaWood, Tagayasan wood, PP/TPE||Durable plastic, wood, or stainless steel|
|Design||Traditional Japanese||German or Japanese-style, depending on the collection|
|Blade Hardness||60 to 62||57|
|Blade Sharpness||32-degree angle||30-degree angle (Japanese knives have an 18 to 24-degree angle)|
|Weight (8-Inch Chef’s Knife)||7.2 ounces||12 ounces|
|Price||$$$$ (view on Amazon)||$$$ to $$$$$ (view on Amazon)|
Shun and Zwilling offer knives in two distinct styles optimized for different uses.
Shun knives are made in the traditional Japanese style, which is rather distinctive. Japanese-style knives feature a lightweight wooden handle and thin, ultra-sharp blades. Japanese knives are precise and easy to maneuver.
The Classic collection knives feature a unique D-shaped handle and 34 layers of Damascus steel cladding on either side of the blade for a strong, durable, and razor-sharp cut.
The Premiere collection features a moisture-resistant blonde Pakkawood handle and a hammered or “tsuchime” finish, which allows food to release from the knife more easily.
The Kanso Collection knives feature blades with a fine-grained pattern on the cladding (the broad side of the blade), which gives them a more rustic, handmade look.
While Zwilling offers a few Japanese-style knives, it’s a German brand producing German- or Western-style knives. German-style knives are known for thicker blades and a substantial bolstered handle, making them heavier and more versatile.
To quantify the difference, Zwilling Pro blades are 2.8 mm thick at the spine, and Shun Classic blades are 2.3 mm.
The main distinction of the Zwilling Pro collection is the curved half bolster (the point where the blade meets the handle). This ergonomic design enables a comfortable pinch grip.
The Zwilling Four Star collection is the company’s best-selling collection, featuring a corrosion-resistant blade and a sturdy, ergonomic handle.
The Zwilling Professional S collection features a traditional German blade profile, thick full bolster, and triple-rivet handle.
Shun offers several knife collections, each with distinct characteristics and advantages. Here’s a quick overview of each collection:
- Dual Core: This collection gets its name from using two high-chromium and high-carbon cutlery-grade steels in its construction; the Dual Core 8″ Chef’s knife features 71 alternating microlayers of VG10 and VG2 stainless steel. Dual Core knives are versatile for a variety of uses and cutting techniques.
- Premiere: The main feature that sets these knives apart is the hammered tsuchime finish of the blade. The hammered appearance adds a beautiful look and reduces drag, making it easier for food to slide off while cutting.
- Premiere Blonde: This collection is the same as the Premiere collection but features a lightweight blonde Pakkawood handle.
- Premiere Grey: Like the Premiere Blonde, the difference in the Premiere Grey lineup is about aesthetics; this collection features a dark grey Pakkawood handle.
- Classic: The main feature of the Classic Collection is its use of Shun’s proprietary VG-MAX Damascus steel ― a super durable high-carbon steel that holds its edge well.
- Classic Blonde: Shun’s Classic Lineup gets a makeover with blonde Pakkawood handles that are lightweight, easy to maneuver, and contoured into a sleek round shape.
- Kanso: This line features a perfectly balanced blade, a dense, durable wooden handle, and durable high-carbon stainless steel construction.
- Sora: This collection has a sleek silhouette and polymer blend handle, but the real distinction is the blade. It’s constructed with a VG10 steel cutting edge and Japanese 420J stainless steel on the upper (the top, dull part of the blade).
- Seki Magoroku: The blade construction on this knife collection sets it apart; the cutting edge is made with VG-MAX stainless steel, while the upper is made with highly durable and corrosion-resistant SUS420J2 steel.
Zwilling has an impressive 17 knife collections, but these are their best sellers:
- Pro: The Zwilling Pro Collection combines traditional design and silhouette with a curved bolster at the blade/handle connection, making it safer and easier to maneuver.
- Professional S: These knives have a thick full bolster with a classic 3-rivet design and ergonomic polymer handles.
- Four Star: The best-selling collection that Zwilling offers, the Four Star series is finished and honed by hand and features a seamless bolster-to-handle connection.
- Gourmet: This is one of Zwilling’s more affordable and accessible collections, with a classic shape and a substantial three-rivet plastic handle.
- Twin Fin II: With its stylish and futuristic design, the Twin Fin II collection is the only one of Zwilling’s knife series to feature a stainless steel handle.
- Kramer Meiji: One of Zwilling’s few Japanese-style collections, the Kramer Meiji knives are sharpened to 9-12 degrees on each side for an ultra-fine cut.
- Kramer Euroline: This collection is one of the more premium and pricey lines that Zwilling offers, but for a good reason; the SG2 steel core is surrounded on both sides by 101-layer Damascus steel and finished with a black Micarta handle.
- Twin Signature: One of the more affordable collections in the Zwilling lineup, Twin Signature blades are stamped, which gives them a lightweight and ergonomic shape.
When it comes to knife construction, you may see terms like “stamped” and “forged.” But what’s the difference? And is one better than the other?
Forged knives are constructed by heating, hammering, and pounding a single metal bar into shape. This process can be done by machine, but it’s often done by hand by skilled artisans. Forged knives tend to be considered more high-end for this reason.
Stamped knives are constructed by machine; the blade is cut or “stamped” out of a sheet of steel. This process makes it much easier to manufacture high quantities, which leads to a more affordable price point.
Shun and Zwilling offer some stamped knives, but most of their offerings are forged.
Zwilling’s forging process is almost entirely automated—while most of their knives are forged rather than stamped, they use high-tech machinery and robotics.
Zwilling’s knives undergo a method called FRIODUR, wherein the blade is heated up to over 1000 degrees Celsius, then cooled down to -70 degrees Celsius, and then reheated one more time to over 200 degrees Celsius. This method hardens the steel and ensures long-lasting sharpness and durability.
Shun’s construction method is inspired by traditional samurai swordmaking while embracing modern technology. They use the same traditional process of constructing Damascus Steel: alternating layers of pale and dark steel to create a wavy patterned grain in the metal.
Once the steel blanks are constructed, the knives are forged by hand, with the assistance of a forging machine to help hammer the blades into shape. The blades are then heated and cooled to harden the steel before being hand-ground to 16 degrees on both sides.
Shun blades are made of various steel types, depending on the knife collection. In some cases, they use multiple kinds of steel in the same knife (ex. Dual Core, Seki Magoroku, and Sora).
Shun uses the following steels: VG10, AUS10A, AUS8A, dual-core VG10/VG2, and Shun’s proprietary VG-MAX. All are high-quality, especially VG10 and VG-MAX.
AUS10A steel has a hardness of 58 to 60 HRC and high chromium content, making it highly durable and resistant to corrosion. AUS8A is an upper-middle-quality steel that is popular for its cost-effectiveness.
VG-MAX and VG10 are similar in terms of quality and hardness, but they are different in the elements used to make them. VG10 combines iron, carbon, manganese, silicon, vanadium, and chromium and is designed for optimal hardness and corrosion resistance.
VG-MAX builds on the makeup of VG10 steel but with more carbon and chromium to improve the steel’s strength.
On the other hand, Zwilling utilizes a particular kind of German stainless steel — X50CrMoV15. This kind of steel is commonly used in German knives and is favored for its durability and edge retention.
Shun’s knives are made from resin-treated Pakkawood or PP/TPE (polypropylene or thermoplastic polymers). The main benefit of Shun’s handle materials is that they’re lightweight and comfortable to grip.
The Premiere and Classic collections are made with moisture-resistant Pakkawood, a hardwood cured with resin, then sanded and polished.
The Kanso handles are made with tagayasan or wenge wood, known in Japan as “iron sword wood” because of its denseness and durability. The Sora collection uses PP/TPE, a lightweight polymer.
Most Zwilling handles are made of durable, moisture- and heat-resistant plastic. But some of their higher-end collections, such as the Kramer, Pro Holm Oak, and Twin 1731, feature wood handles. The Twin Fin II collection is the only collection that utilizes a stainless steel handle.
While the differences in blade sharpness may not be obvious at first, the tiniest variation and hardness can significantly impact the quality of a knife.
If the blade is too soft, it won’t be able to keep its edge (especially in finer, sharper blades like Shun’s). But if the blade is too hard, its durability is compromised, and it may be prone to chip or break.
Blade hardness is measured through a method called the Rockwell Scale. This measuring method uses a numerical scale to indicate how resistant steel is to penetration and deformation from another material. The higher the number, the harder the steel.
Regarding kitchen knives, steel measuring in the 40’s and into the 50’s is considered soft steel, while steel measuring over 55 is considered hard.
Shun’s knives range from 60 to 62 on the Rockwell scale, while Zwilling’s knives measure at 57. In other words, Zwilling’s knives are softer than Shun’s. The softer blade means it won’t stay sharp as long, but it’s less prone to chipping.
In fact, Shun even warns customers about the risk of microchipping due to the blades being harder. To prevent this, Shun advises its customers to use the knives in a gentle gliding motion rather than a blunt chopping motion.
Most Shun knives are double-beveled and sharpened to a 16-degree angle on each side.
Although Shun’s knives are sharp, the 16-degree angle makes them duller than many traditional Japanese knives, which are often sharpened to between a nine and 12-degree angle on each side.
Zwilling’s German-style knives are double-beveled and sharpened to a 15-degree angle on each side. Zwilling’s Japanese-style knives, like the Zwilling Kramer collections, are sharper, with a 9-12 degree angle on each side.
Technically, Zwilling knives are sharper than Shun’s out of the box. But remember that Shun blades are made of harder steel, so you don’t need to sharpen them as often.
Shun is a high-end knife brand, and the prices of their knives reflect that. Remember that Shun’s knives are handmade in Japan by experienced artisans using the best materials available. They do not offer a budget line of knives.
On the other hand, Zwilling has a much wider range, from expensive high-end knives to budget collections meant for the amateur home cook.
Across both brands, the most budget-friendly knife collections are the Zwilling Gourmet and Signature. Both feature stamped (rather than forged) blades. Sora is Shun’s most affordable collection.
Zwilling Kramer Meiji and Shun Dual Core are the most expensive.
The table below shows the current prices of Zwilling and Shun’s most popular knives. Click the prices to learn more about each product on Amazon.
|Shun Sora 8-Inch Chef's Knife||Amazon|
|Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife||Amazon|
|Shun Premier 8-Inch Chef's Knife||Amazon|
|Shun Premier 8-Inch Kiritsuke Knife||Amazon|
|Shun Kanso 3-Piece Knife Set||Amazon|
|Shun Classic 6-Piece Knife Set||Amazon|
|Shun Premier 5-Piece Knife Set||Amazon|
|Zwilling Twin Signature 8-Inch Chef's Knife||Amazon|
|Zwilling Professional S 8-Inch Chef's Knife||Amazon|
|Zwilling Four Star 8-Inch Chef's Knife||Amazon|
|Zwilling Professional S 3-Piece Knife Set||Amazon|
|Zwilling Pro 8-Inch Chef's Knife||Amazon|
|Zwilling Professional S 5-Piece Knife Set||Amazon|
|Zwilling Twin Signature 19-Piece Knife Set||Amazon|
While both brands have a respected reputation and are known for the quality of their construction, their histories couldn’t be more different.
Zwilling has long been a trusted name for knives, with the company dating back to the 18th century in Germany. It’s one of the oldest brands in the world. Its founder, Peter Henckels, registered the Zwilling trademark in 1731.
Today, Zwilling still manufactures their knives in Solingen, Germany, a city famous for its history of knifemaking. Solingen is known as the “City of Blades” because it’s home to several knife makers, including Wusthof, one of Zwillings biggest competitors. Zwilling also has a factory in Seki City, Japan, another area with a long knifemaking history.
Zwilling has a solid reputation for quality and is no stranger to winning awards. Since 1954, Zwilling knives have won the iF Design Awards over 10 times.
Koji Endo, CEO of Kai Group and a direct descendant of the founder of one of Japan’s oldest knife companies, founded Shun in 2002. His goal was to bring high-end Japanese cutlery to a Western Audience.
Although Shun has a much shorter history than Zwilling, it manufactures its products in Seki City, Japan, where knives and samurai swords have been made for over 800 years.
Also, Shun is no stranger to accolades; it won its first Blade Show Kitchen Knife of the Year Award in 2003 and has won 10 more times since.
While Zwilling and Shun make high-quality knives, no product is perfect. Here’s a breakdown of the downsides of each brand:
- Because Shun’s knives are high-end, they’re also costly. It’s not the best choice if you’re on a budget.
- Shun’s blades are made of harder steel, so they’re prone to breaking or chipping.
- The knives are lightweight; great for repetitive, small tasks, but not great for heavy-duty tasks (ex. cutting a butternut squash).
- If you have yet to try the D-shaped handles that some Shun knives have (like the Shun Classic series), they may feel unusual and take some time to get used to.
- Zwilling’s blades are very thick, which makes them strong, but they don’t glide through ingredients the way Shun’s thinner blades can.
- Some of Zwilling’s blades are stamped rather than forged, making them thinner and flimsier.
- The handles on the larger knives are heavy and oversized, which can lead to hand fatigue after extended use.
- Zwilling’s knives are much heavier and more substantial than Shun’s, making them harder to maneuver. For example, the Zwilling Pro 8-inch chef’s knife weighs 12.9 ounces. This weight can lead to wrist fatigue, especially when chopping for long periods.
Now that you know how Shun compares to Zwilling, it’s time to determine which brand to buy.
But before providing my recommendation, let’s quickly review the key differences:
- Shun makes traditional Japanese-style knives with thin, lightweight blades, while Zwilling primarily makes heftier German-style knives.
- Shun has 9 knife collections, including the Premiere, the Classic, and the Kanso collections. Zwilling has a whopping 17 collections—the most popular are Pro, Professional S, and Four Star.
- Zwilling and Shun forge most of their blades, though Zwilling offers a few stamped collections. Zwilling implements high-tech robotics to machine-forge its knives, while Shun still utilizes hand-forging methods.
- Shun uses a variety of steels, most notably VG10 and its proprietary VG-MAX. Zwilling blades are made of X50CrMoV15 steel, traditional with german-manufactured cutlery.
- Most of Zwilling’s handles are made of plastic; however, some of its high-end lines have wood handles, and the Twin Fin II collection uses stainless steel. Shun mostly uses Pakkawood or Tagayasan wood, but some handles are made with PP/TPE (a durable plastic).
- Shun’s blades are harder, with a Rockwell score of 60 to 62, which means they’ll stay sharper longer, but may be prone to chipping. Zwilling’s knives score a 57, meaning they’re softer and won’t hold their sharpness as long but are more durable.
- Shun’s knives are sharpened to 16 degrees on each side, while Zwilling’s knives are sharpened at 15 degrees on each side ― however, Zwilling’s Japanese-style knives are sharpened to 9-12 degrees on each side.
- Shun’s knives are much more expensive than most of Zwilling’s knives. Zwilling has a more affordable and versatile range of price points.
- Zwilling knives are a bit bulky and heavy, making them harder to maneuver for precise knife work. Shun knives are expensive, and their D-shaped handles may be difficult to work with for some.
Bottom line ― if you’re looking for heavy-duty workhorse knives that you can use to cut any ingredient (including bones, hard squashes, and frozen food), go with Zwilling. If you want lighter, more precise knives and prefer unique blade finishes and wood handles, go with Shun.
Both brands made my list of the best kitchen knife brands in the world, so you can’t go wrong with either.
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