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Sep 9, 2013 03:45 PM

Shun Sharpening


I have one good knife, my Shun Santoku. I actually was given it as a gift, otherwise I would never have realized what I was missing! The factory edge was simply astounding. I used it for about a a year and a half until about six months ago, I sent it to Shun for sharpening. I've got to say, I was a bit disappointed. It came back sharper than it went, but it was not nearly as sharp as the factory edge (not sure if it can ever be that way again).

Now, it's getting dull again, and it's gone dull much quicker than the first time around. I'm not even using it as much, we went through a two month period where I hardly cooked at all, we were traveling so much! So I am not sure whether to send it back to Shun or maybe get the Shun sharpener. There is an electric one and an old school angle/block with wet stone. I do not think I have the skill for hand sharpening, but I was contemplating the electric model. Thing is, it's about $100 and if it will only get me as sharp as the free Shun service, I'd rather just send the knife back to them.

Thoughts? I am pretty much an amateur when it comes to cooking, but I do store my knife in a wooden block, don't put it away wet, don't put it in the dishwasher and hone it after each use. I do use a non-Shun honing stick, though, would that make a difference for dulling the edge? I think it's a Wusthoff stick.

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  1. I would imagine it is more about process than equipment. I've used the back of one knife to hone another to decent effect. (My MIL's house....)

    Have you ever taken a knife skills class?

    2 Replies
    1. re: hambone

      No, I haven't. I'm in kinda a rural area, a couple of hours from the nearest town that would have a class like that. There's only one knife sharpener in town and he uses the same grinder to sharpen chain saw and lawn mower blades as he wanted to do for my knife (I declined the service).

      1. re: yddeyma

        We city "kids" can get spoiled.

        I guess YouTube is gonna be your friend.

        I remembered seeing a video of Jaques Pepin teaching knife sharpening and looked for it for you. Found this by happy accident:

    2. Right off the bat, there's no reason why the Shun sharpening service should necessarily create a less sharp or robust edge than the factory sharpening. I don't know if you just got an unusually shoddy sharpening or if Shun's sharpening service routinely does a slip-shod job compared to their factory sharpening. You might try one more time just to see if it's a pattern. Failing that, a decent professional sharpener should have no problem matching the factory edge.

      Also, just make sure that you're not picking up any new habits that might cause the edge to dull more quickly than it did when you initially got the knife.

      On to sharpening - here is a link to some basic info about different sharpening options:

      Generally, the shun electric sharpener shouldn't make the edge any sharper than sending it back to Shun would - a bit less sharp, more likely. But you'd be able to sharpen more often and more quickly. It also wears the edge down faster, somewhat damaging the lifespan of your blade. And it will cause your knife to slowly become thicker behind its edge (cutting less effectively) without any way to compensate for this.

      Hand sharpening works better - you can get the shun sharper than the factory edge once you've practiced. But it has a learning curve. If you are interested and motivated to learn, it's not hard to do so with some practice. If you're not much interested, you'd do better not to waste money on stones. By the way, there is no reason at all that you'd need to buy stones offered by Shun over other waterstones.

      Likewise there is no reason you have to use a shun-made honing stick. Shun's honing rod is grooved, and tends to cause micro-chipping in their own blades. Grooved honing rods tend to do that in steel as hard as shun's. This can make the knife feel less sharp initially and kind of degrades an edge over time. You can try a smooth steel (to straighten the edge) or a diamond or ceramic sharpening rod - these would be more appropriate for a Shun. If you ultimately start sharpening more often, you might find you don't need a honing rod at all - shun's edges aren't super prone to folding anyway. I personally use a strop, but that tends to work best for those who hand sharpen or use a high end jig.

      1. I was wondering about this. My knew beloved shun will eventually need sharpening, and I've considered self sharpening, but shun uses a different angle than the old whatever knife I would practice on. I have the shun honing steel, and a wustoff for my "german" style knifes. Thanks for the post and thanks for the other replies!

        2 Replies
        1. re: autumm

          < but shun uses a different angle than the old whatever knife I would practice on>

          Just lower your previous angle to about 15o on both sides and it will work fine. If you want to push it, then try 12-13o

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Good point. I can turn chicago cutlery into a shun with a little time and elbow grease. Here's to cheap college knives

        2. I agree with many. The Shun knives can take on an edge sharper than its original factory edge. I think your last Shun free knife sharpening service was probably done rather quick and wasn't done as good as it could have been. I don't think the knife itself is the problem.

          < Thing is, it's about $100 and if it will only get me as sharp as the free Shun service,>

          I think most electric knife sharpeners cannot get your Shun knife very sharp.

          I know you have said that you rather not to learn free hand knife sharpening. There are indeed better knife sharpening tools, but these are fairly expensive about $300-400. They will definitely get your Shun knife sharper than your original factory edge.

          One option is to mail it to a reputable knife sharpener. Are you interested in this option? It will not be cheap. Where do you live? (approximately).

          < I do use a non-Shun honing stick, though, would that make a difference for dulling the edge?>

          Actually it would, but not because it is non-Shun. I almost always discourage people from using standard honing sticks on Shun knives. Yes, in theory, if you use very light pressure, and you can help the knife, but most people end up dulling their Shun knives.

          From Paulfinest:

          " I find it odd that Shun, claiming to be Japanese, would even sell a steel (I've never found a real Japanese knife maker suggesting or making or selling a steel)."

          and cowboyardee:

          "But thousands of people will buy shun's grooved steel, cuz they see TV chefs using em, and there's gotta be something special about a shun brand steel."

          If I have one suggestion to make is that, you should either (A) not use a honing steel at all or (B) get a smooth polish honing steel or a very fine ceramic rod.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I am in south ga, and would gladly send it somewhere reputable to have it sharpened. Can you recommend somewhere? Would it be worth it to Try Shun again, or are they still using a third party? Is it more cost effective to send knives off or splurge for the fancy electric sharpeners. Do you have a rec for a good sharpener? Sounds like I can stop using the honing stick, which is fine by me.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Okay, I've watched all the videos and am amazed at the skill of hand knife sharpeners, but am intimidated and unwilling to try it myself. I read through most of the links (and links within link within links) from the other chowhound discussions and I think I will try the free Shun service one more time, and if that doesn't work splurge on the pricey Korin service. I will probably call Shun first and ask if they are sharpening in house or still using a third party.

              Maybe one day I will get a whetstone and start to practice, but not right now with two young kids and no sleep. Thanks for all the help.

              1. re: yddeyma

                Hi. Sorry, I was out in a conference.

                I think Korin is a very good choice. $15-25.

                Jim (login name: knifesavers) also has no problem handling these knives.

                Jonathan Broida also has a reasonable price of $15-20


                Dave Maartell is great, but it seems like he has marketed himself for the higher end knives with a minimal service of $40 for free hand sharpening

            2. Hi. I know several folks who have sent their Shuns back for sharpening. When Shun did them in-house, they supposedly came back as good as new. Later on, Shun farmed them out to a 3rd party sharpening service and the results weren’t very good. I fixed a few that were just haphazardly passed through a grinder.

              An edge that fails or dull faster than normal, may be result of a poor sharpening job. They may have left a “wire edge” or sharpened it without grinding away the old edge. Regardless, a decent sharpener who knows and cares about what they’re doing can fix it, and produce an edge that is as good or better than a factory edge.

              <I was contemplating the electric model.>
              A typical electric sharpener is better than nothing, but it will eat you knife and I’ve never seen one produce an edge that is as good as the Shuns’ factory edge, or one done by hand.

              < I do use a non-Shun honing stick, though, would that make a difference for dulling the edge?>
              Yes. The main purpose of honing or steeling is to realign an edge. The edges on softer knives tend to bend, fold over and therefor need to be honed / have their edge realigned regularly. The edges on your Shun (or any harder knife) are less to opt to bend, and therefor don’t need to honed. If you apply too much pressure and /or aren’t using a glass or very fine ceramic hone, your Shun will chip.

              1 Reply
              1. re: JavaBean

                Sounds like the OP should complain to Shun about the sharpening job.

                Aside from that, learning to sharpen freehand could probably be done in less time than it takes to make a post here, read all the responses, make a decision, and ship the knife again. Sure, your first few times won't produce earthshaking results, but it will certainly be better than how the knife is now, and you'll just get better over time.