Shun knives are one of the most revered Japanese blades in the world. They are a work of art and are designed to last a very long time. But even these knives can get dull over time.
How to sharpen shun knives? Shun knives can easily be sharpened with a whetstone at home. All you need is to angle the blade and stroke it against the whetstone a few times on each side until the blade is adequately sharp. You can also opt for professional knife care and let experts do the job for you.
Read below to learn more about Shun knives, how to sharpen them, and tips on how to maintain their sharpness!
What Are Shun Knives?
The ideology behind Shun knives is rooted in a tradition that spans several centuries.
Shun strictly follows traditional Japanese knife-making practices to produce world-class blades that are built to last a lifetime.
These knives are made from premium materials and are carefully crafted to perfection to provide a literal edge over other types of blades.
Each knife is unique and special in its own right — and luckily, most of them can be sharpened in the same way.
Even though Shun knives will easily come out on top when it comes to maintaining their edge, they are still susceptible to wear and tear with repeated use.
Unfortunately, this is a very natural property of any knife and will happen regardless of the quality of the blade.
The good news is that since Shun knives are designed and crafted with extreme precision, you will only need to periodically sharpen the blade for a few minutes to give it its original edge back.
Note: Apart from normal use, knives usually become dull when they are either stored improperly or when they are used on particularly hard food.
We recommend checking out our tips at the end of this guide to learn how to maintain the edge of the blade for longer.
How To Sharpen Shun Knives
Here is how you should sharpen your knife at home:
You will require:
- A high-quality whetstone
- A dry towel
- A couple of newspapers
Getting a high-quality whetstone is important for sharpening premium knives. You wouldn’t want a sharpening surface that is too rough because it may eventually damage the blade or cause it to sharpen unevenly.
For Shun knives, make sure that the width of the stone is at least as wide as the knife. This will help you glide through the whetstone while making full contact – and without creating an awkward angle.
Make sure that the whetstone is made from high-grade materials that will not produce excess burr. We recommend going with this sharpening stone for the best experience.
Follow these steps to get a sharp knife:
- Soak the whetstone in water for a few minutes to hydrate it. This will improve contact with the blade and discourage unnecessary friction when the edge glides across the surface of the stone.
- Put the whetstone on an even surface and make sure that it doesn’t move. A good sharpening stone will have a no-slip bottom that will hold it in place.
- You can also set the whetstone near the corner of the sink to provide support and keep it from slipping — just make sure that the surface is even!
- To sharpen the entire knife, you will need to divide it into three sections: the heel, the middle, and the tip. You will also be sharpening the blade one side at a time.
- Position the blade in a way that forms a 16- or 20-degree angle.
- To quickly set this angle, you can slide in your pinky finger on the backside and bring down the knife at an angle until the spine of the blade touches your pinky finger. Remove your finger once the correct angle has been established.
- Grip the handle near the heel of the knife and put your index finger on the spine for better support. Place your thumb just over the edge to gently push down on the knife.
- Now that you have the right angle and position, begin moving the heel section across the whetstone in a sawing motion — pretend that you are sawing a block of wood. You will need to go back and forth with light pressure.
- After a few strokes, you will see a burr forming on the edge. This is confirmation that the blade is sharpening as intended.
- Move down the blade to the middle section and repeat Steps 4–7.
- Once you have sharpened the heel and middle section of the blade, you can move further down the blade to the tip; repeat Steps 4–7 for the tip as well.
- The tip section can be a bit tricky, but you can raise or tilt the handle to get a better angle.
- Now that you have successfully sharpened one side of the blade, it’s time to move to the other side. But first, you will need to wipe down the blade with a towel to remove the excess burr.
- Once wiped, flip the knife and follow the angling strategy mentioned above. This time, the blade will be facing away from you. Follow all the same steps as above to sharpen the other side.
- Once the blade has been sharpened, rinse it and then clean it off with a dry towel. We recommend using a clean side of the towel to avoid getting the burr back on the blade.
- Finally, lay out a couple of newspapers on a dry and even surface, run the blade across the newspaper at a slight angle to remove the leftover burr.
- Do this on both sides, then very gently check the edge of the knife by rolling your finger on the blade to inspect it.
- If you detect more leftover burr then repeat this step. If the knife is done, simply wash it and store it. That’s it!
How To Care For The Blade
Once the blade has been sharpened, we recommend that you follow a few tips to help the blade maintain its sharpness over time.
As mentioned, Shun blades are designed to keep their edge much longer than cheaper blades — but even these high-quality knives can dull, especially if they aren’t kept and maintained properly.
Keep It Sheathed, Keep It Safe
Keep sharpened blades in their case or a knife sheath when not in use — you can also use a wooden knife holder like this one to keep the blade safe from nicks.
Probably the worst thing that you can do with a sharpened blade is to keep it loose in a drawer! Not only is this dangerous, but the blade may also wear out quicker if it regularly bumps into cutlery.
Do not regularly sharpen the knife — you might end up chipping the edge of the blade. Shun knives are only required to be sharpened if they start to become dull. You do not have to sharpen them every time you use them.
Try out the blade before deeming it dull! For example, when cutting vegetables or meat, first try to slice the food as usual and then determine its sharpness.
If you do want to sharpen the knife with every use, then a better way would be to hone it instead.
Honing is a separate process that helps maintain an already sharp knife. The idea is to glide the blade across the sharpening surface to push back the burr to the right angle.
Honing is not recommended for beginners — it should only be attempted by experienced users because getting the wrong angle or applying too much pressure may damage the blade.
Keep The Blade Dry
Try to keep the blade dry — especially when it comes to high-quality blades.
Although water will have little effect on the blade, you should always dry the blade after cleaning it with a dry towel before storing it back in a sheath or wooden knife holder.
Let The Professionals Handle It
If you are not comfortable with sharpening the knife yourself, then it would be much better if you opted for a professional service that could sharpen the knife for you.
This is especially recommended for people who have multiple knives at home.
Sharpening Shun knives is easy if you follow all the right precautions and steps. Now that you know how to sharpen them, here are some related questions we thought you might have.
Can all Shun knives be sharpened the same way?
Yes, every traditional knife is designed to be sharpened the same way — most of them rely on whetstones, but some knives might require a bit more attention depending on their type.
Always refer to the indications mentioned by the manufacturer for the best experience.
Can you sharpen a knife using other tools?
The best (and default) tool for sharpening any high-quality knife is a whetstone. Other tools can sharpen a knife too, but we recommend reserving the alternative methods for cheaper blades.
Premium Japanese blades are usually only sharpened with a stone for maximum life and sharpness. You can also refer to the manual provided by the manufacturer to explore your options.