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Oct 30, 2013 09:01 PM

Shun Sora Knives: Your thought?

Shun has launched a cheaper line: Shun Sora.

For comparison, an 8" Shun Sora Chef's knife is: $80, whereas as an 8" Shun Classic Chef's knife is: $120.

Shun Sora knives are made from the same VG-10 steel core as the Shun Classic knives, and the blade profile is flatter -- which is nicer in my opinion. Sora knives do not have the Damascus pattern and the handles are made of plastic instead of wood.

What do you think?

I think Sora looks to be very nice. I actually prefer the Sora over the Classic, aside from the handle.

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  1. I think I agree.

    I appreciate the asymmetrical design of more traditional Japanese blades, and I'd expect this knife to be probably closer to 50/50. Also, it looks from the pictures like the handle isn't flush to the bolster, and I'm not sure why they chose to do that or whether it would be annoying in use.

    But either way, it's an improvement in both pricing and profile over their Classic line. I would actually consider buying one of the paring knives from this line if I lost my current paring knife - looks like a good combo of function and price.

    1. The Sora does appear to have a superior profile over the Classic line. In particular, as you mentioned, the flatter profile should mean that one won't need to rock-chop everything with the knife as is usual with the Chef and Santoku/Santuko from the Shun Classic line.

      Provided the VG-10 is heat-treated similarly to the Classic line - which it should be since the steels they use are the same - then this should be a step in the right direction for Shun to expose their product line to a greater number of consumers. Since the probable type of consumer (i.e. non-knife expert) is more likely to mistreat the knife, I think that plastic over wood is a good design choice.

      Objectively, though, at this price point I would find it difficult to believe that the edge geometry of the knife is any less thick or blunt than the Shun Classic line. It is likely that the spine thickness is equivalent to a Classic, and that the flat grind is not all that thin. Yet again, this is a design compromise that is likely well-thought out to the type of consumer that would purchase this knife. Furthermore, Tojiro offers similar knives in VG-10 at a lower price point, so it seems to me that the ~$80 price point is in line with a marketing desire to appear more desirable through a pricing strategy rather than as a result of manufacturing costs.

      If I had to pick between Classic and Sora, the Sora should be the obvious choice. Is it a big step up from the sharpened I-beam grind (hyperbole) and bolster that German knives have? Most likely a resounding yes.

      Personally, I'll stick with my funayuki-styled Konosuke gyuto.

      25 Replies
      1. re: Cynic2701

        < I'll stick with my funayuki-styled Konosuke gyuto.>

        How is that working out? I have a Konosuke HD2 petty knife, and it is a nice thin knife with a good edge profile. I don't know much about the gyuto, but I can only assume it is just as good.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          I quite like it so far. Konosuke does an excellent job of grinding the very thin profile (i.e. laser) evenly and uniformly throughout the length of the blade. This is something that is hard to get right, and causes costs to rise when it is done.

          I have an HD2 240mm gyuto (with a flatter profile more in line with Carter's funayuki style) that essentially has two relatively long flat portions: one that is 1/3rd of the length of the blade and starts at the heel, and one that is about 1/4th of the blade and starts at the tip. These two sections offer much improved performance for push cutting and chopping.

          The edge retention and sharpening of the HD2 "mystery tool steel" is quite respectable and the corrosion resistance is a boon. Even after a few hours of cutting acidic fruit I can only barely see a patina developing. It's nothing like a Blue #2/#1/Super steel that can rust in literally minutes if not kept clean. While I would like to see them push the HRC 1 or 2 points harder, I will admit that it would likely cause small chips if they did so, so perhaps they were exactly right in heat treating it as it is.

          1. re: Cynic2701

            < the corrosion resistance is a boon>

            I have noticed the same. The HD2 steel, for all intents and purposes, has a corrosion resistance like a stainless steel.

        2. re: Cynic2701

          About that rock-chopping: the blade still has a huge belly, it's just loaded to the front of the knife. I can't imagine push-cutting with this blade -- the whole front third of the knife will never hit the cutting board. Maybe you could train yourself to get used to that, but why not just buy a shorter knife? In push cutting, that extra blade length will just get in your way and make the knife less maneuverable. At least that how it looks to me.

          1. re: seattle_lee

            It looks to me that about the first third of the blade up from the heel is fairly flat. Even using a knife like a nakiri, funayuki, or a funayuki profiled gyuto one typically uses the area closer to the heel for push cuts. In fact, a nakiri typically has a slight upwards curve after the first half of the blade.

            I use a 240 mm funayuki gyuto in the kitchen as my main knife; my kitchen has less than 5 square feet of counter space, and I run into no issues with maneuverability. I picked up the funayuki profile because it lends itself to push cutting more than the regular gyuto profile--which many people push cut with to begin with.

            Shorter knives typically run into problems like requiring making several cuts to do what a longer knife could do in one cut.

            1. re: Cynic2701

              "Shorter knives typically run into problems like requiring making several cuts to do what a longer knife could do in one cut."

              I think that's exactly the problem that you'll have with this Shun Sora -- that sharp upward angle at the front of the knife will shorten the length of your push cuts. So why not buy a shorter knife that gives you the same cut length? The shorter knife will be less expensive, take up less counter space when you set it down mid-prep, take less time to sharpen, fit more easily in your knife block, and be more maneuverable on a crowded cutting board.

              Maybe crowded cutting boards are never an issue for you, but not everyone has taught themselves to organize a small kitchen like you obviously have. Or maybe you just are typically cutting smaller quantities of food than I am. When I push cut, I very often need rather more than one-third of the edge length the make the cut, and consider it a defect to only be able to use that much of the blade.

              1. re: seattle_lee

                To me, it is in relative term. This Shun Sora knife looks flatter to me than Shun Classic.



                The Sora Chef's knife appears to be flat for at least 1/2 of the blade (starting from heel). Whereas, the Classic Chef's knife is straight only for 1/3rd of the length. In addition, the tip of Shun Sora is relatively flat as well. It is almost like two straight profile joined together at an angle if you know what I mean.


                Unfortunately, I learned from others that the Shun Sora is constructed without a full VG-10 core, possibly only a few mm.

                <So why not buy a shorter knife that gives you the same cut length?>

                I think that is a philosophical preference. This is why the straighter and shorter Santoku knives are popular among many people.

                <The shorter knife will be less expensive>

                Not sure about this. Santoku knives are usually marketed at the same price point as Chef's knives.

                <When I push cut, I very often need rather more than one-third of the edge ...>

                So what kind of knife do you usually use? Thanks.

                1. re: seattle_lee

                  Thanks for your reply.

                  What kind of knife do you use? What is your technique for push-cutting?

                  Perhaps I'm reading you incorrectly, but it seems to me that you equate push-cutting with using the entire length of the blade. Unless your knife is perfectly flat (which truthfully isn't even desirable) this won't be possible. Even a knife like a nakiri - dedicated to vegetables and using a lot of board contact with the edge - has a slight upwards curve to the profile. Most nakiri's are made with a blade length of 165mm.

                  Sure, something like a head of cabbage, squash, or rutabaga won' be able to be push-cut, rather one will have to slice through them and cut them into manageable pieces. Once they have been cut to size (I usually cut into quarters for stability on the board) I can use a downwards motion with a very slight forward push to cut. This technique saves a lot of time and effort over rock-chopping or slicing (pull-cut).

                  Here are the two knives I mentioned earlier that I use:


                  1. re: seattle_lee

                    The knife isn't really all that curved. I mean, you can certainly find knives with straighter profiles, but it's not really out of line with other gyutos, and certainly nowhere near as curved as the Shun Classic line. What's a bit different about this knife is that the spine isn't parallel to the knife's edge at the heel - your grip is oriented at a slight downward angle to the cutting board. I suspect this is creating a bit of a visual illusion that's making you think the edge is more curved than it is.

                    Also, the terminology might be throwing you a bit. Usually when we're talking about 'push cutting' in the kitchen, we're talking about a cutting motion that's not straight up and down but has some forward pushing movement too - it's actually not super far from the rock chopping motion, and doesn't require a completely straight blade to perform, since it does have a little follow through (though not as much as a rock chopping motion). The Sora chefs knife would have no problem doing this. Straight up-and-down chopping requires a straighter edge though - I think the Sora could manage it on many items, but there are better knives for that kind of cutting motion. Also confusing, people often speak of 'push cutting ability' when talking about sharpening, but here they are talking more about an edge's shaving ability/refinement than the exact motion used in a cut (the reference here is to the difference between slicing paper and cutting it with a pushing motion when testing a newly sharpened edge).

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      This is a collected response to cynic, chem, & cowboy:

                      I agree that the knife looks like two straight blades joined with an angle. I think that is the problem with the knife. Most other gyutos have a slow, gentle angle, which is great for push cutting: you move your hand smoothly down and forward, and the knife angle changes as you do so, making contact with the board all the way through the motion. Because the knife is moving both forward and in angle, you use a rather longer knife than the width of the food you are cutting. You start the motion with the knife at maybe 20 degrees to the cutting surface, and decrease from there. And at that 20 degrees, you are making contact with the board maybe an inch or inch and half behind the tip of the knife, and the point of contact smoothly moves back along the knife as you cut. With the Sora, you would have to start your motion with the knife at 30 or more degrees to get the same range of motion. That means holding your arm very high and having your wrist at an awkward angle. Additionally, you will not have a smooth forward-and-down movement of the blade, because the curvature is not smooth. It's this last bit that I think will be most awkward if you want to use the full blade.

                      With this motion, you can definitely use the entire length of the blade, even if the blade is not straight. Or, well, most of the blade length -- it would be quite awkward to actually use it *all*.

                      We'll have to agree to disagree that the Sora's belly isn't significantly larger than other gyutos. Sure, its not as curved as the Shun Classic, but happliy there are other gyutos in the marketplace. I could be completely wrong on this; I'm just judging off of the pictures. It is possible that there is a bit of the illusion effect that cowboyardee mentions. But the unevenness of the curvature is pretty obvious.

                      As for my knife usage -- I typically use a gyuto for push cutting. I own or have owned Tojiro DP, Hiromoto AS, CarboNext, Devin Thomas, Suisin Inox Honyaki. I often will push cut through a halved cabbage for soup, or a large pile of quartered carrots or halved celery. With a 4" wide pile of product, I typically need the full range of a 210mm gyuto to achieve clean separation of product; maybe I just use more forward motion in my push cut than some of you do. Or maybe I just cut larger amounts of food at one cut. I use a 210mm blade unless I need the extra length, and I find that I use 240mm about half the time and 270mm very rarely.

                      For straight up and down chopping, I use my chinese cleaver.

                      As for knife length and pricing -- the comparison that I had in mind was the 8" Sora vs another maker's 180mm gyuto. But if we start to talk Santoku, which does make sense, all of the sources that I use show santokus, either 165 or 180, to be noticably cheaper than 210mm gyutos. But Shun and marketing set price points are foreign concepts to any place I would consider buying a knife.

                      1. re: seattle_lee

                        <This is a collected response to cynic, chem, & cowboy:>

                        OMG, I just realize that we all have "c" as the first alphabet of our names.

                        <I typically use a gyuto for push cutting. I own or have owned Tojiro DP, Hiromoto AS, CarboNext, Devin Thomas, Suisin Inox Honyaki.>

                        I was just wondering because you wrote about "buying a shorter knife", so I thought you may be using a shorter knife. That's all.

                        I am looking at Tojiro DP. It doesn't look straighter than this Shun Sora.


                        In this above photo, the Tojiro edge is straight near the heel, but only maybe an inch or two or so -- at most 1/4th of the knife length. Then, it gently curves up to the tip. The Shun Sora look fairly straight for two sections:


                        (an image from Chefknivestogo forum)

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          The geometry in that image looks nothing like the picture at Amazon. Look at the tip; completely different. Other sites (including the Shun site) show a geometry that looks rather more like the Amazon one.

                          1. re: seattle_lee

                            Yes, the tip in the diagram is different, and I am sure that the image is not an exact replicate. What the author was trying to say is that there are two relatively straight sections jointed by by a relatively curved section. This is the main point. Here I have attached my own image to illustrate this point.

                            Whereas many other knives, Tojiro DP (as illustrated from above image), do not have such a straight profile.

                            As for the reasons for the two straight sections, many people prefer this especially for push cutting. The tip section can be used for fast or detail works, and the heel section is for larger works.

                            I believe SaltyDog has done several demonstrates which he utilizes the front portion of the his knives.

                            Yes, the curvature between these two straight section is obvious, and some may even consider to be not smooth, but that is ok. For push cutting, this is fine because the motion of forward or backward is minor in push cutting. You move maybe a centimeter forward and backward. You are not trying to roll the knife all the way from the tip to the heel. If you are doing that, then it is rock chopping anyway.

                        2. re: seattle_lee

                          Hi seattle_lee,

                          Thanks for taking the time to reply to us.

                          It seems to me that you are actually using a rock-chopping motion rather than a push-cutting motion, since the angle of your knife is changing throughout the cutting motion (hence "rocking").

                          The push-cutting motion I mention is more of a slightly forward diagonal motion (still pretty close to straight up and down) that works best with a knife with a long flat spot. The angle of the knife and the angle that you hold your wrist shouldn't be changing. From the start to the end of the cutting motion, I keep the flat part of the edge parallel to the cutting board.

                          This isn't to say that I don't rock-chop or use slicing motions - each has its place and advantages and disadvantages - just that if I was doing a brunoise, for example, I wouldn't be rock-chopping as most people tend to do.

                          What do you think of the Suisin Inox Honyaki? I've been sort of curious about it since I usually equate honyaki with carbon steels--specifically White #1.

                          1. re: Cynic2701

                            Look at how he cuts the cabbage in this video:

                            You'll see that the knife contacts the board at the front of the cabbage, then as he follows through with the cut, the point of contact moves smoothly back along the knife to where the knife exits the cabbage. That's what I'm talking about. Looking at the video, I see that it's probably not as large an angle as the 20 degrees I was talking about. But it's definitely not a flat chop.

                            And when he's cutting shorter food and using less of the blade length, the cut is much closer to straight up and down. Which seems natural to me.

                            My Suisin 210 was my christmas present to myself. Love it so far, but haven't done a ton of cooking with it. Startlingly light, and I'm just getting used to that -- but I think that I will love it once I adjust. Haven't sharpened it yet.

                            1. re: seattle_lee

                              you can also see how the board is coming off the counter... about to tip into his lap! there's technique and then there's technique.

                              1. re: seattle_lee

                                Hi seattle_lee,

                                I sifted through some videos and found one that shows the movement that I'm talking about (at 1:10 he cuts some green onions):


                                He uses a little more forward motion than I do (not to mention a smaller knife) but is likely better with a knife than I am.

                                1. re: Cynic2701

                                  Excellent video. SaltyDog (on youtube) used to also have videos like this, but I cannot find them. A fairly straight edge (especially at the tip) is useful for people who like to do fast detail cuts.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    <<SaltyDog (on youtube) used to also have videos like this, but I cannot find them.>>


                                  2. re: Cynic2701

                                    Cynic, yeah, that green onion cutting is exactly what I'm talking about as well. He's got a blade with a teeny bit of belly, or maybe none at all. You can see that with each stroke, the blade is angled down so that it makes contact with the board on the far side of the food. As the knife moves down, it's angle changes, so that the point(s) of contact go all the way through the food from front to back. Do you see that angle change? Do my earlier comments about the angles make more sense now?

                                    Though Chem's comment above makes me see a new way to use the knife -- the 2 straight lines are for 2 different purposes. It makes sense that you might want to do that, but that's not how I'd choose to use the knife. Because when I want a short, straight level area of the knife to chop a less wide bit of food, I generally reach for my chinese chefs knife (aka cleaver).

                                    1. re: seattle_lee


                                      Thanks for your inputs. That is a good looking knife. I did some searches. It is a Sujihiki, so it is very straight compare to a gyuto or Chef's knife. The guy also sharpen his knives a lot. Through his sharpening, he made the knife even more straight.

                                      Maybe I should get a Sujihiki one day. Who knows.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Heh. I have a 270mm suji I never use. Was just thinking of selling it. I used it very rarely before I got my yanagi and my 270 gyuto. I have literally never used it since.

                                      2. re: seattle_lee

                                        Hi seattle_lee,

                                        Interesting. You don't move your wrist much during the movement? Since my knives are so flat I find that there is no wrist movement. If there is a little bit of belly it seems like there would need to be a very slight "rocking" motion to prevent accordion cuts.

                                        On the subject of yanagi's, I've been strongly considering one for my next buy, but have also been comparing it to a sujihiki. Would you recommend getting a yanagi over a sujihiki?

                                2. re: seattle_lee

                                  I can see what you're talking about with the two straighter sections joined by a curve. This is not necessarily a bad design, but it tends to be a little more of an adjustment than the more gentle curve of, say, your Hiromoto AS. The upside of this design is usually that it chops (straight up and down) well with either the heel of the knife or the tip of the knife, depending on the kind of work you're doing. Interestingly, many of the 'lasers' have this kind of profile (without the downward tilting spine and handle), further emphasizing the advantage their thinness gives them in chopping. Offhand, I had thought the Suisin Inox Honyaki had this kind of profile, but looking again at a few pictures of it, it seems to have a less dramatic profile than most of the other 'lasers.

                                  That said, my most-used knife (a Sakai Yusuke) has a similar kind of profile with two straight sections joined by a semi-dramatic curve. It is very capable of standard push cutting and even rock chopping, but it doesn't feel as easy and effortless and guided with those motions as the less angular curves of a Hiromoto or a Tojiro or a Carbonext (all of which I own or have used). It has a different feel. While the Hiromoto is a relatively easy transition from Western knives and Western knife techniques, the Yusuke has a more unique feel, and really excels at precision draw cuts and blazingly fast chopping.

                      2. It's nice to see Shun doing a more economical, new and improved version of the Classic. They should have done this awhile ago, as opposed to regurgitating it over and over with a different handle and/or blade finish.  The blade shape looks much better, and appears to have more moderate curve edge vs. the Classic' pronounced belly & high tip combination.  It should eliminate the rock-chop - everything, and excessive handle elevation height byproducts of the Classic. 

                        That jig saw puzzle thing looks cool and unique.  I've not seen or read about connecting the core steel to the filler steel via a braze weld. I wonder why they didn't do a San Mai sandwich with a small piece of core steel, running partially vs. to the spine, like low end jknives do.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: JavaBean

                          It does appear that the VG-10 core extends through the majority of the Sanmai "sandwich" just like the Shun Classic line does. While Kershaw (the parent company of Shun) does do braze welding on some of their pocket knives, it doesn't appear that they have done so for the Sora line.

                          That squiggly fake hamon is the product of how they grind out the 420J2 (probably 420J2 as I don't know of anyone using 420J) layers or, as is probably more likely, how they cut the ends of 420J2 pieces that wrap around the VG-10 core.

                          1. re: Cynic2701

                            Nevermind, upon further investigation, it does look like they braze welded VG-10 as the cutting edge. Interesting, though somewhat unfortunate, since that does reduce the life expectancy of the knife--though it would still probably last longer than most would need anyways.

                            1. re: Cynic2701

                              The tojiro dp or any decent etail knife is likely going to have a better performance to cost ratio. But Shun is a mall knife and is geared toward consumers who value things like look and feel, try before you buy, etc. over actually cutting performance. 

                              Yeah, according to the ad. It's a piece of  San Mai VG-10 welded to a piece of 420J steel. 

                              1. re: Cynic2701

                                <since that does reduce the life expectancy of the knife>

                                Why does this reduce the life expectancy? Just curious. If it is too difficult to explain in 2-3 sentences, then maybe you can point me to websites or something. Thanks.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  On all of the braze welded Kershaws I've seen, only 1/5th or 1/th of the blade is made of the steel that is used as the edge.

                                  Over time - admittedly a long time - as you sharpen and thin out the edge you will eventually hit the spots were the VG-10 blade steel is braze welded to the backing material--in this case the 420J. This is because the VG-10 does not extend up to the spine of the knife very far.

                                  This would be more of an issue for people that sharpen/have their knives sharpened on power wheels. I've seen numerous knives that were sharpened on grinders, Chef Choice style sharpeners, or other powered systems that have turned chef knives into fillet knives. At this price point, this is the type of sharpening I would expect a lot of people to end up with.

                                  1. re: Cynic2701

                                    <Over time - admittedly a long time - as you sharpen and thin out the edge you will eventually hit the spots were the VG-10 blade steel is braze welded to the backing material--in this case the 420J. This is because the VG-10 does not extend up to the spine of the knife very far.>

                                    Thanks, but I thought San Mai by definition has to go up to the spine, no?


                                    You may be right though. One of the images in that video may very well suggest the VG-10 steel is not from edge to spine (see below). Thanks for the explanation.


                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      Shun's own website is pretty confusing about the braze welding that JavaBean pointed out:


                                      They mention both that there is Sanmai construction (which only really means three layers, and is often just a marketing term) and that the VG-10 cutting edge is braze welded to the rest of the 420J blade.

                                      I've seen knives with Sanmai construction - which is also sometimes indicated in English simply as being "cladded" - that are more like a taco: the outer steel is folded around the core steel. It seems to me that a lot of the legitimately hand-made Japanese knives use this kind of construction technique. The bigger manufacturers purchase billets of pre-cladded steel where the core steel runs the entire breadth of the billet.

                                      The Sora chef knife looks like it only has 1/3rd to 1/2 of an inch of VG-10. While this should last quite a long time with reasonable use and good sharpening techniques, I fear that many people will run them through powered sharpeners. Since there isn't a whole heck of a lot of VG-10 on the knife, it is conceivable that you could hit the braze weld point within a few years.

                                      1. re: Cynic2701

                                        <The Sora chef knife looks like it only has 1/3rd to 1/2 of an inch of VG-10. >

                                        I am conservative, and would not like to get any close to the braze weld point. So, if it is only 1/3 of an inch (0.85 cm), then I agree with you: someone can make it unusable in a few years. On the other hand, 1/2 of an inch (1.3 cm) would be nicer.

                                        So maybe a Tojiro DP is still the way to go here. :)

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Yup :) when Tojiro can put out a similar knife with a similar profile and materials, but run VG-10 through the entire blade and all for ~$13 less (I see an 8.2 inch gyuto for $66.26 with free shipping), I'm curious why anyone would go with the Shun Sora based on specs alone.

                                          I will admit it does look kinda cool though.

                                      2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Hey Chem.

                                        A San Mai may have had a full core by definition or at one point in time, but not so anymore. These days, San Mai is marketing mumbo jumbo or a just a synonym for cladded. The filler steel is wrapped around the core steel like a taco or hot dog or two pieces of filler steel is laminated to the core steel like a sandwich.

                                        Depending on the maker, the core may extend from the edge to spine or just run up the edge a bit. Those inexpensive Kurouchi finish, blue / white carbons on ebay likely have just a small sliver of core steel. They’re probably fine, but their lifespan is only as long as the length of the core steel.

                                        Same with the Sora; it’s only as good as that small section of vg-10, toast when it eventually gets sharpened up to the braze weld.

                                        1. re: JavaBean

                                          Thanks guys. In my view, it is best if the core steel is as closely as possible to the spine. However, it should be perfectly fine as long as the core steel is half way up the blade. I think I would have replaced a knife before grinding the knife edge half way up to the spine.

                                          Problem is that these may be less than a centimeter wide. This may be ok, as long as we don't over-grind it. I think some of us who use waterstones will probably be safe from this. However, this can be a serious problem for people send these knives out for resharpening or worse sticking them in electric knife sharpeners.

                            2. Is this the same knife as the Shun Haru sold by Williams Sonoma? The handle is a bit different, but it looks the same otherwise.

                              1 Reply