Shun knives are beautifully handcrafted in Japan - desired and admired worldwide. The swordsmiths of Japan have spent hundreds of years perfecting this skill, requiring 100 meticulous steps to complete.
If you ever have the pleasure of owning one of these premium blades, it’s essential you take the proper steps to sharpen and care for your shun knives.
That’s why we have scoured every corner of the internet, compiling a complete guide to everything you need to know about shun knives. If you want to learn how to sharpen shun knives, keep on reading.
The History Of Shun Knives
1908 in the sword-making capital of Japan, Seki, the Kai Corporation began producing small pocket knives and folding knives.
In modern-day times, Kai Corporation is a huge name in the cutting and cutlery scene, manufacturing and exporting over 10,000 different, corrosion resistant products .
The Kai Corporation takes huge inspiration from the master sword makers in Japan, combining state-of-the-art technology to create something completely unique.
The ancient art of sword-making takes years to master.
When it came to naming this shun classic (pronounced “shoon”) Japanese people looked towards a particular time during the year where food is at its ripest. In Japanese, the word “shun” represents perfectly fresh, sweet, and ripe food.
The Kai Corporation took this opportunity to name their knives after the tradition of cutting and preparing food at the perfect “shun.”
For more than 100 years, the legendary Seki City has been home to the Kai Shun Corporation - residing in the heart of the cutlery and sword industry.
The Kai Corporation continues to be inspired by the spirits of the swordsmiths in Japan, creating the Shun Knives we know and love today.
With the correct love and care, a kai shun knife can last you a lifetime. Since these Japanese knives cost a pretty penny, you’ll want to prolong its life as long as possible.
Once out of the box, we recommend rinsing your shun knife with hot water and dry it with a soft towel. Make sure to dry your knife starting from the knife heel to the tip.
Like all good knives, a kai shun should be hand washed with gentle dish soap. Avoid using soaps with citrus as all this will do is promote rust. Never use scouring pads or any type of rough cleaning material.
Rinse off the soap and immediately towel dry. You can leave your knife to air dry for a few minutes before storing it.
Metal doesn’t thrive in water for long periods of time, so never, ever leave your shun knife submerged in a bowl of soapy water .
The cutting edge of your knife can experience micro-corrosion if faced with too much moisture. Micro-corrosion results in missing pieces or chips on the cutting edge of your Japanese blades.
To avoid this, wash the cutting edge of your knife immediately after use, taking a soft cloth to dry it. The cutting edge of the blade will be very sharp, so always take care.
“A good knife is an essential tool in the kitchen, but when you get one handmade, it becomes something special.”
- Brad Leone
After your kitchen knives have been washed and dried, you can store them in a knife case, block, sheath, or drawer tray.
When it comes to the natural wood on your shun knife handle, handwashing is the way to go. The wood can swell in humid environments and shrink in arid ones.
If the color of your handle changes over time - this is normal. All wood altars in color when faced with oil and exposure to light.
To keep your shun knife in tip-top shape, take a look at these tips:
- Use only wooden boards of medium firmness to cut food on as other chopping board material (such as granite cutting boards or synthetic cutting boards) may dull even the hardest steel. Never strike hard materials.
- Use neutral vegetable oil to occasionally oil the handle of your knife.
- Like most knives, you should use your shun in a smooth motion to avoid chipping.
Honing Versus Sharpening
Shun knives require a lot of care in order to keep them in maximum shape.
As mentioned before, it’s important not to use harsh materials and only a wooden chopping board or wood composite when cutting your food.
Take care when cutting frozen food and thick-skinned vegetables such as butternut squash, as these could damage the blade.
- Honing - Regular honing is incredibly important in order to extend your knife’s lifespan. The purpose of honing is to reline the blade's edge so it remains sharp. This should be done once a week.
- Sharpening - The purpose of sharpening is to improve the sharpness of your dull knives by taking metal off the blade. Sharpening should be done occasionally, depending on how often you use your knife.
How To Hone Your Shun Knives
Honing is a rather simple process and really takes no time at all. However, it is important to significantly extend the time between sharpening. It aims to reline the blade and shouldn’t remove any metal.
It is recommended to use a Shun Honing Steel when honing your shun knife. If you don’t have much experience with honing, this special honing steel will make it a lot easier since it has a built-in guide, made especially for the shun knife. This will ensure your knife is always honed at the correct angle.
Of course, you can use any regular honing steels to hone your shun knife.
Hold your honing steel vertically, with the tip of the honing steel on the cutting board. Start at the blade’s heel, draw the knife down the honing steel to the tip of the knife.
Starting from the top of the steel, repeat the process, running your knife at a 16-degree angle. If you own a double-beveled blade, ensure you hone either side of your knife.
Once you’ve finished, rinse your knife off with warm water and dry with a soft cloth. Make sure you do a weekly honing.
How To Sharpen Your Shun Knives
The best way to get a sharp knife is with a whetstone. Before doing so, you need to know your whetstones and how to use them. Shun recommends using a coarse whetstone, around 300 grit when sharpening your knife.
A 300 grit whetstone is useful when repairing the chips on your knife as it will remove metal from the blade quickly and easily. A medium grit whetstone, around 1000 to 1500 grit works well for a reasonable but dull condition blade.
A fine to a very fine whetstone, around 4,000 to 6,000 grit, is great for sharpening significantly, finding and polishing your blade to a mirror-like finish.
When using a whetstone, you should soak it in water for around 10 minutes before using. As the stone is wet, you’ll want to make sure it’s placed on a slip-free surface. This also ensures the stone stays wet while sharpening. A suitable material would be a towel placed under the whetstone.
Sharpening A Double-Beveled Knife
When sharpening a double-beveled blade, you’ll want to hold the blade at a 15-degree angle.
Grind your shun knife along the whetstone (whether that be a very fine whetstone or a grit whetstone) and apply light pressure. Grind the knife away from your body.
Continue to draw the knife along the whetstone until you can feel a fine burr. Flip the knife over and begin sharpening the opposite side.
To ensure a symmetrically sharpened knife, you’ll want to grind the blade equally, keeping the blade angle at 15-degrees always.
After sharpening, you’ll want to remove the burr to reveal the smooth edge. To do so, grab a piece of newspaper and lay it on a flat surface. Hold your knife at a similar blade angle as used on the whetstone and wipe the blade sideways, left and right across the paper.
Once you feel the smooth edge and your knife is sharpened, you can clean and store your knife.
Sharpening A Single-Beveled Knife
If you own a single-bevel knife, you’ll want to sharpen the shun steel at a 45-degree angle.
Place the whetstone on a flat surface, and lay the ground side of your knife on it. Apply light pressure to the blade, and begin the grinding process on the whetstone.
You should always move the blade away from your body in a downward motion.
Similar to a double-beveled knife, grind the knife until you feel a fine burr along the edge of the blade.
Once you have finished sharpening the ground side, flip the knife over to begin on the hollow ground side. The ground side of the blade should be sharpened more than the hollow ground side. For the hollow side, you’ll only need to swipe the blade along the whetstone a couple of times.
With the burr formed, you can clean it off in the exact same way as a double-beveled knife.
If you’d like to try out electric sharpening instead, you can sharpen your knives in a professional sharpener like the Kai Electric Sharpener. The Kai electric sharpener is made especially for a shun knife.
The Shun Electric Sharpener is a great alternative for people who struggle to sharpen their knives by hand.
You can also let Shun Sharpen your knives. There are a few places that offer free sharpening, however, since you’ll want to hone and sharpen your knife often, it is much better to do it at home.
How Important is to Properly Sharpen Your Shun Knifes?
Sharpening and honing your shun knives is a very important process of knife maintenance. If you take good care of your blades, you’ll only need to sharpen them once or twice a year, depending on how often you use them.
However, it is highly recommended honing your knife once per week to preserve longevity.