Queston about Shun chef knife
I recently saw a want ad that had for sale a Shun chef knife for $40. The ad says that it needed sharpening and that the small nicks on the edge would come out with a good sharpening. If I look at this knife with the idea of buying it, what should I look for and what should nix the deal?
It seems too good to be true, unless of course the nicks are there and will not come out or will return. I've read some things about these knives that might suggest the edges are brittle. I don't even know if the knife is still available, but I have a thing for knives. (Does that sound weird?)
If you don't already have a Japanese hard steel knife, then I would get it. If you already have Tojiro or Hiromoto or whatever, then you don't really need another one.
If it is a small nick/chip, then it is not a bad deal. Take a look and see if there is another problem. If you are not used to Japanese knives, then you may find them brittle for two reasons: first, the harder steels are in fact more brittle on average. second, japanese knives are sharpened at a lower angle, which also makes the edge more proned to chipping. However, the performance of these knives are very good.
Cowboy has some excellent suggestions. If it is just a chip from normal cooking, then it is fine. If the owner actually tried to grind the knife with a tool and chip the knife, then the damage is probably more than the chip.
Shun has free knife sharpening, so you can always send the knife back to KAI factory for a small repair. Not a problem at all. Now, if the damage is bad and you want to exchange for knife, then you will need the original receipt.
The big questions -
Do you get to see the knife in person before buying? Just pictures? Nothing at all?
And do you do your own sharpening?
You might find the edges are somewhat brittle if you've never used Japanese (or other hard steel) knives before. Don't use them on glass cutting boards, don't cut through bones with them, and don't take swinging chops.
What to look out for:
Nicks are fine if they're small. Easy for a practiced sharpener or a pro to remove. Bigger nicks (say ones you could fit a small peppercorn half-way into, or larger) would make for a major reprofiling job, that might make the knife a bad deal for you, unless you don't mind just using a knife with nicks in the edge.
Cracks are bad, especially if they extend beyond the first 1/4th inch from the edge - won't hurt for the time being, but the knife could snap eventually. Cracks are unlikely though. A tip that chipped off can be reprofiled (though it's a PITA and the tip shape won't be the same as new afterward), or they can be just used as is.
Then there's the effect of poor sharpening. Sloppy bevels and such can be repaired relatively easily. Much worse is if someone took the Shun to a belt sander and did a shoddy job. Basically check to see that there's no regrind - that the middle of the edge doesn't curve inward. If you get to handle the knife before buying, place it edge down on a flat cutting board and look for gaps between the board and the edge while slowly rocking the knife forward toward the tip. No gaps, you're good. Gaps can be either very hard to fix effectively and are often not worth the effort.
Shun has a free sharpening service - but I don't know how it works for sure. I suspect that if you qualify, they'd fix most any of the more minor issues I mentioned above.
You pay shipping both ways and they fix it up for you.
I think the user only pays shipping for one way, unless the policy got changed and has not been updated:
"Do I include money for return shipping costs?
No, we do not charge for the return shipping costs. (You will have to pay for the initial shipping costs to us, however.) Please note that in order to keep our costs down so that we can continue providing warranty service free of charge, we will return your knife to you via the US postal service only. We cannot accommodate overnight or other special shipping requests. "
I would certainly get this knife if it's available. I've picked up Henckles 4 stars that were open stock with chips and rust for $9 and repaired them with ease. Chips would have to be massive to prevent you from grinding them out. Well you could always grind them out but what would you be left with is the issue. I get chips in my Tojiro which has a similar hardness. These are considered micro chips in that they are difficult to see with the naked eye. Easy to see with a 10X loop. They grind out very well. Chips are a part of life with hard steel if you like to chop herbs on your wood board. Even being pretty careful you will pick up a few micro chips here and there.