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Nov 25, 2010 08:11 AM

henkel vs. shun. suggestions?

i am interested in purchasing a few knives, and i am not sure which road to go. i currently use Henkel knives at home, but i was looking for something new. ive heard Shun are very good. any suggestions?

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    1. You will get a lot of good suggestions from people like cowboyardee and scubadoo97 and many others.

      Between the two, I prefer Shun, but that is just my preference. I think you can go to a store and try them. Shun knives are ligthers, and are made from harder steel and are sharper. Shun knives are sharpened at 16o angle at the edge. Most Henckels are sharpened at 20o degree at the edge. Now, most Henckels knives can take on more abuse because they are thicker and they are made slightly softer.

      Finally, Shun knives are not the only kind of knives which offer these characteristics.
      Tojiro DP knives are a bit cheaper and so are Fujiwara FKM:

      Fujiwara FKM knives are interesting because they are harder than most Henckels knives but not as hard as Shun or Tojiro, so they kind of sit in between.

      I wrote "most Henckels" because there are exceptions. Henckels does offer harder knives as well:

      5 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Good advice CK.

        I think one needs to look at how they use a knife and if they are willing to change habits. You see TV chefs banging their Japanese knives on their cutting boards in a rapid rock chop technique but it's really hard on the edges of harder Japanese steel. They don't need to worry about sharpening as they surely have someone behind the curtains doing that for them.

        I still use my Henckels on occasion to do things that I wouldn't subject my Japanese knives to because I know the metal is soft and will deform but is not likely to chip. For precision board work there is nothing like a thin Japanese knife which is razor sharp.

        Contrary to what one Shun rep told me, I think Japanese knives require more sharpening as they do develop micro chips that need to be fixed over time. The Shun rep told me that the Shun knives only need to be sharpened maybe every 3 years and that honing on their grooved steel was what you should be doing the rest of the time. Hogwash!

        Shun makes a very good knife. My only bias is that the shape of their chef knife is too similar to a European chef with a lot of belly. But that is not true of all their chef knives.

        CK gave you a great site to search for knives to buy. has a wide selection and good prices and customer service. I see down thread cowboy gave you a lot of things to think about in making an informed decision.

        In your quest for a new knife, decide if sharpening is something you are interested in doing at home or will you be more likely to use the service of say Shun's free sharpening to maintain your knives.

        1. re: scubadoo97

          What happens to the metal that chips off blades - any danger of falling into food?

          1. re: iyc_nyc

            I only get microchips, which are not easy to see with the naked eye so I don't see any danger in them and they don't all occur at the same time. I may see several with a loupe after a couple of weeks worth of heavy use. They can be avoided with careful use but I often don't baby my knives and have been know to engage in knife abuse.

          2. re: scubadoo97

            "I think Japanese knives require more sharpening as they do develop micro chips that need to be fixed over time."

            This is a bit off-topic, but still pretty interesting. In some ways, I disagree with you, but still I find I sharpen my Japanese knives more often than I used to sharpen my Western knives. I think a Japanese knife actually does hold its edge longer - this is most obvious with line cooks who take their just-sharpened Japanese knives to work vs those with just-sharpened German knives. The German knives tend to be noticeably duller after one day.

            I think the difference is that microchips are just a little more noticeable than a mashed up, dull edge, and a lot of people will continue using a dull German knife for a long while whereas a dull Japanese knife is jagged and obviously not performing like it did with a fresh edge and thus gets sharpened more often.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              "I think a Japanese knife actually does hold its edge longer"

              I certainly agree with you. I do visual inspections of my edges every so often so I pick up on the little imperfections. Most of the time they don't have much effect on performance but over time you loose the ability to push cut through tomatoes. I think that's my performance test. The tomato.

        2. Shun definitly a nicer knife than henckels like said above the henckels will take more abuse than shun. Shun has to be hand washed and towel dried also shun really should be sharpened on a wet stone to get a polished razor edge back on it. 3000/8000 grit which will run you almost $100. If your gonna go with the German knives Wusthof alot nicer than henckels. Me personally usually use my globals.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ZeroSignal


            I agree with you. One thing I like to add is that Shun's manufacturer does offer free sharpening service. A nice service for customers who do not wish to sharpen their knives by themselves


            As for Henckels vs Wusthof, my understanding is that the very top lines of Henckels German knives are better than very top line of Wusthof German knives, but they also are also very expensive as well, so many people will not and cannot buy the very top Henckels knives:



            For the standard Henckels vs Wusthof German style knives, I prefer the Wusthof ones.

            Just to confuse things a bit, Henckels has now tried to compete with Shun and Global and others on these Japanese influnced knives with the Henckels Miyabi Fusion knives. As you can see, Miyabi Fusion knives are made of VG-10 steel - the same steel Shun knives use. Moreover Miyabi Fusion are sharpened at 9-12o edge angle, even sharper than Shun's 16o edge. The prices are also competitive:


            A positive review here:


          2. "Any suggestions?"

            Almost too many. There are a lot of great knives to chose from, as well as some crappy ones to avoid. It would help to know a little more about you. A few basic questions:
            1) What's your budget?
            2) How do you intend to maintain/sharpen a knife once you have it?
            3) Do you like to rock when chopping - in other words do you need a knife with belly/curve?
            4) Carbon steel - yes, no, maybe, or 'what's carbon steel?'
            5) Any special considerations - you work as a line cook, you're picky about handles, you prefer heavy/light knives, etc?
            6) What's 'a few knives'?

            The Shun line is pretty nice. I'm assuming you're talking about the Shun Classics, since that's sort of the default line of Shuns, but they do have several other more expensive lines that are interesting but a little harder to recommend for the money.

            -Come sharp, and offer free sharpening service* for life
            -They look good and come with a nice fit and finish
            -Fairly high performance - thin geometry with an acute edge angle
            -Fairly high edge retention and sharpenability - good core steel
            -They're just about your only option if you want a thin Japanese made knife with a curved German profile (like for rock chopping easier)

            - Fragile compared to German knives. Not too bad by Japanese knife standards
            - Rounded profile leads to rock chopping which is harder on a fragile edge
            - *No one seems to actually use the free sharpening service, which asks that you pay for shipping and part with your knife for a while
            - Some people hate the D-shaped handles, and they make it harder for lefties and righties to use the same knife comfortably
            - At least performance-wise, there are some better deals in Japanese knives at similar or cheaper price points

            There are a lot of knives I could suggest, but honestly I don't know enough about what you're looking for yet.

            3 Replies
            1. re: cowboyardee

              As far a budget goes, I was hoping to keep it under 400. I have heard of the shun shapening service, but as you said not Many people use it. I suppose investing in a proper stone wouldn't be a bad idea? As far as rocking, I suppose that would depend on the knife, wheather it is more suits to a Japanese style of chopping. I believe shun are VG 10, which I have used and is quite nice. Handle is no concern, and I was looking for a chefs knife, 8 or 10, a paring knife, and possibly a carving knife.

              Thanks for your help

              1. re: Zacarm

                If you're serious about learning to hand sharpen, that opens the door to a few really nice options that would be sort of pointless otherwise.

                First off, chefs knives.

                Tojiro DP will generally outperform a Shun due to their thinner geometry and straighter edge. They cost less too. They typically come with a nice factory edge and are easy to sharpen on a stone. They tend to microchip easily though and their edge retention is a little worse than a Shun. Consider the 240 mm gyuto (a bit over 9 inches) - It will be at least as nimble as an 8 inch German knife.

                Blazen are more expensive but would be the way to go for edge retention. It's harder to sharpen and there are plenty of Japanese knives that are thinner with nicer performance. But you can put a Blazen through some major work with no discernible difference to the edge.

                The Hattori HD looks great and is also made of vg 10 steel. It also tends to outperform the Shun. It costs more for the same core steel though (there are reports that Hattori tempers their vg 10 better than Shun, but I haven't noticed any major difference in my brief experience). Shop around for bargains on this knife. The Ryusen Damascus gyuto and Ittosai gyuto are reputed to be the same knife (though I cannot personally confirm), and they are sometimes cheaper.

                The Glestain has the distinction of being the only knife I know of where the grantons actually make a difference. It has nice geometry, innovative design. The core steel is mediocre for the price and edge retention is nothing special.

                If you would consider carbon, the Hiromoto AS is my favorite knife in the price range. Great steel, very nice edge retention, sharpens well, great geometry for an all around knife. The factory edge is mediocre, it's less pretty than most of the other options I've mentioned, and obviously its edge is carbon steel and must be washed quickly and dried carefully after use (though it is cladded with stainless steel, and the edge quickly forms a patina that helps keep it protected a bit).
                Shuns are still an option - one of the major advantages of them is that you can go to a store and try them out before buying. Same goes for Globals (good geometry, decent price, pain to sharpen, might break in two, lotsa people hate the handles), Sabatiers (can be nice but very inconsistent, even within the same model of knives), and maybe even MACs (good geometry, comfortable, sharp factory edge, expensive for their core steel).

                1. re: Zacarm

                  Second: paring knives-

                  From a purely functional standpoint, the victorinox paring knife is fine. It feels cheap, has mediocre edge retention, gets medium sharp, and has an annoyingly small handle. But it costs a fraction of the other good options.

                  The Shun classic is actually a pretty good choice. It is sharp, nice geometry, feels good in your hand. A little pricey, but you might find it on sale.

                  The MAC is similarly nice. Almost the same geometry. Maybe a bit better edge retention. Also pricey.

                  The Al Mar paring knife is even more expensive. It looks great, has similar geometry, and has sort of an annoying contoured handle that some people like.

                  I have a Dojo paring knife. It is carbon steel (also Aogami Super), which makes a little less sense in a paring knife than in a gyuto - I don't care, i love it. Geometry is a bit different with more tapering from spine to edge and from heel to point. Takes a great edge, holds it. Has a nice weight to it. Weak fit and finish.

                  Those would be my first suggestions. I haven't tried the Tojiro DP paring knife, but it comes in a nice deal with the gyuto from chefknivestogo if you go that route.

                  Now, as far as carving knives -
                  For one, if you get a gyuto (which is to say, basically any of the chefs knives I recommended above except the Shun or the Sabatier), especially a longer one, you might find you no longer need a carving knife. The gyuto can function as one if need be, though it doesn't always work quite as well.

                  If you want one anyway, I also wonder if you want a carving knife with a curved tip (as is traditional) or if you just want a long-bladed slicer of some sort. You have a lot more options if you don't care about the curved tip.

              2. Decide your budget and then go out and hold every knife you can get your hand on for that price. Go with the one you like the feel of the best. Japanese vs. German. Wusthof vs. Henckel. All that is well and good...but what really matters is how the knife feels in your hand. 100 people can tell you that Knife XYZ is the best but if it doesn't feel good in your hand, it's not the right knife for you.

                6 Replies
                1. re: ziggylu

                  I never understood the advice of going with what feels good in your hand. Unless I am processing half a case of onions, I'm not really going to get to know the knife. Unless I'm actually peeling garlic or trimming mushrooms, I won't know what paring knife feels good.

                  1. re: jaykayen

                    After selling knives for many years...and cooking professionally, I remain firm in my advice to try a bunch of knives and see what feels good and what doesn't in the hand. Some people like light, some like heavy, some like different balance ratios, some like bolster, some don't. You can tell this by spending some time in a store with a good selection of knives and sales people willing to explain the difference between the knives and take the time to let you really hold them and feel them.

                    We can get into the technical aspects of knives to the cows come home...but the user has to feel comfortable using the tool for it to be the "right" one.

                    As for the OP question regarding Henckel's vs Shun, I'm not particularly a fan of the Henckels Professional S Series. I have a few Shun Classics, they're good knives, a little harder to put the edges on. If the OP isn't going to have a good sharpening service to use and isn't willing to learn to sharpen by hand, I'd personally recommend sticking with German steel as it's easier to maintain on a day to day basis for the average person. My favorites of the German are Messermeister, but they're 1) harder to find and 2) pretty heavy so may not be the OP's taste. The Wusthof lines all feel very different in the hand, so again I'd definitely recommend holding one, though the Classic is a good welll-balanced knife that few would object to the feel of.

                    1. re: ziggylu

                      "You can tell this by spending some time in a store with a good selection of knives and sales people willing to explain the difference between the knives and take the time to let you really hold them and feel them."

                      That works at Korin. Most kitchen stores have lousy selections and salespeople who know next to nothing about kitchen knives and will try to sell you all sorts of crap you don't need.

                      Some people care intensely about how a knife feels in their hand and some people care more about other properties and are willing to adjust to the feel of their knives. Neither is wrong (though the latter tend to have a lot more options available to them).

                      1. re: ziggylu

                        I am not going to know what a ferrari can do by sitting behind the wheel and holding it.

                        Most people just like the feel of what they're used to, anyway, and are easily impressed with a sharp edge. Which is not the most important thing

                        1. re: jaykayen

                          Another ergonomics fan here. (Part of that comes from my work in manufacturing & product design, where usability, comfort, safety & productivity are directly affected by how well the item "fits" the user.) Given everything else being equal, I'll always love using a knife that fits & feels better in my hand over one that's just a blade & a block handle.

                          I agree that humans are very adaptable & often use poorly designed tools (effectively!) simply because that's what they're used to. But why should you if you don't have to?

                          Perhaps a spurious argument, but no, you won't know what a Ferrari will do by simply holding the wheel. But you definitely won't be able to reach the car's limits (or what you can do with it), if the designers don't make all of the user-interfaces as intuitive as possible.

                        2. re: ziggylu

                          I'm from the school of thought of where the knife is an extension of the hand and arm. I recently observed an in store infomercial type demonstration of a knife set that was of the miniature saw design and it followed all the wowing effects of what it could tackle and still cut i.e. the hammer, the frozen block of food, etc. A free paring knife was the reward but also learned that my mother had bought a set at an earlier demonstration as an inexpensive gift. I inspected the knives and it was a nice miniature saw and useful for a few rare tasks but more capable to cause a nasty scar if it ever hit flesh. The one thing that was readily apparent was it's horrible balance. Extremely blade heavy no matter the grip method. Hand, wrist and arm fatigue all ran through my mind.

                          I think people should always attempt to try a knife at least for it's feel before a purchase but if they can't they should insure that if they purchase a knife and don't like the feel that the vendor agree to refund their money. I do believe that the better knife manufacturers aim for a comfortable feel in the knife's application. Sometimes learning a new technique is beyond what some people are willing to invest when purchasing knives but those that do can enjoy a wide variety of knives.