Shun Versus Wusthof - How are they different?
You can ask anywhere around the internet which knife is best, and in the end it all boils down to one answer: If you can, get the knives you’re considering in your hand before making a decision, especially if you’re purchasing a top-notch blade from the likes of Wüsthof or Shun. Each brand has its own particular strengths, and each offers various lines and styles to accommodate nearly anyone, from demanding professionals through average household users. Prioritize what features are most important to your needs, and that will help you find the right knife for your kitchen.
Here are some factors to consider, and how Shun and Wüsthof stack up against each other.
The type of steel used affects a variety of factors - how sharp an edge a blade can hold, how long it can retain that edge, how easy it is to sharpen, and how stain-resistant the knife will be. On the Rockwell hardness scale, here’s how the brands compare:
Wüsthof X50CrMoV15 = 58 Rockwell
Shun SG2 = 64 Rockwell
Shun VG10 = 61 Rockwell
Bear in mind that hardness has more than one way of looking at it: A “softer” steel will make for easier sharpening, but may require more frequent sharpening, while a harder steel will more likely hold its sharpness better, but be more difficult to sharpen when it does need maintenance. A super thin, super sharp blade may lose it's initial sharpness quickly, but could hold that 80% sharpness better over the long run.
Previously it has been argued that Shun knives offered a sharper edge, and even Wüsthof’s Asian style blades offered a sharper cutting angle than their other knives. But with Wüsthof’s new Precision Edge technology, their cutting angle has improved to compete with Asian knives, surpassing that of other German brands. Shun describes their knives as having a 16˚ cutting angle each side (a single bevel blade would have 16˚, while a double bevel blade would offer a 32˚ angle total), and Wüsthof PEtec blades feature a 14˚ angle.
Wusthof knives offer the heft and notable balance more typically associated with German knives, whereas Shun blades will tend to feel lighter (and swifter) with their thinner blades. What is ideal here is best determined by whomever is wielding the knife!
The tang contributes greatly to the knife’s weight and balance. A full tang will generally provide ideal balance between the blade and the handle. Wüsthof Classic and all the Wüsthof Ikon lines all offer a full tang. In the Wüsthof Gourmet line, blades over 12cm / 4.7 inches in length offer a full tang. With many full-tang knives you can see the tang by looking along the top of the knife, the spine of the blade visibly runs the length of the handle. Shun knives offer a composite tang, where the tang of the blade is bolted to another (composite) tang that extends through the length of the handle. Shun may be best suited for those who prefer a lighter feel, or perhaps one of Wüsthof’s stamped (laser-cut) lines (as opposed to their forged knives, which are heavier).
Bolster - The Wüsthof Classic series offers a full bolster for maximum finger protection and balance, while the Ikon series features a trimmed bolster that makes the full length of the blade accessible for use and sharpening, as well as a second bolster at the end of the handle for balance. The Gourmet line features no bolster. Shun knives have no bolster or a trimmed bolster, with the exception of the Ken Onion line, whose bolster is designed to encourage a professional pinch-grip. The choice here will depend very much on what feels right in your hand.
Handles - Shun uses an innovative formula called PakkaWood to create their handles into a variety of colors and styles. PakkaWood is created by treating natural wood with resin in order to combine natural beauty and superior moisture resistance and durability. The handle styles vary widely, from the D-shaped Classic to the ambidextrous grip of the Reserve knives to the shapes of the Reserve and Ken Onion knives. Most of the Wüsthof knife handles are formed from a synthetic polymer. These handles offer durability and moisture resistance over most wood handles. The Wüsthof Ikon Blackwood series offers handles crafted from a rare African wood called Grenadill. This beautiful wood is one of the hardest and most dense in the world, with natural moisture resistance and durability. This series also represents Wüsthof’s most expensive knives. Wüsthof knives offer a variety of traditional, contemporary, and ergonomic handle designs. Wüsthof Classic and Gourmet lines provide traditional handle stylings, while the different Ikon series offer a more contemporary look and comfortable feel.
Each brand offers a good selection of both Western and Asian blades, though logically Shun will offer more Asian styles while Wüsthof will dominate with Western blades. The Wüsthof Classic line offers the widest selection in terms of blade styles and sizes, with over 50 different blades, 10 different forks, and at least 15 different Cook’s knives alone. So if you’re looking for a very specific knife, such as an extra wide or extra heavy cook’s knife, or are particular in wanting a bird’s beak paring knife as well as a spear-point and a flat cut, then Wüsthof Classic may be your choice.