Shun Elite SG-0408 140mm(5½") Honesuki
Japanese Kitchen Knife Review

Page 2
Tweet ThisShare On FacebookStumbleUponDigg itShare on

Home > Knives > Kitchen Knives > Kitchen Knife Reviews > Shun
Shun Elite SG-0408 Honesuki 140mm(5½")


- Shun SG-0408 honesuki has standard Shun Elite handle. It is made out of Ebony Pakkawood, which I am assuming is either higher grade pakkawood, or may be a different sort of pakkawood? I don't really know, wood isn't really my specialty, may be I have to ask Stefan Keller about that. He'd know for sure :) Anyway, besides Ebony pakkawood, other notable features are the ambidextrousness of the handle, and the mosaic pin on it. Other than that it also has flat butt, which does come handy for crushing garlic cloves. Nothing else I can remember as very special, except the sad fact that it is sitting rather low relative to the blade and takes away much needed knuckle clearance space.


- As it wasn't my knife, the blade was sharpened to its original 16°per side angle. I've discussed with the owner the designated use of the knife, stressing the fact that this is not the knife to go through the joints or bones, in other words it's not a meat cleaver. Disjointing means, cutting through the cartilage and tendons holding it together, not trying to chop through the bones, I've made that mistake myself and damaged the edge on my Watanabe Honesuki pretty badly. So, based on those precautions, and the fact that the knife edge was relatively undamaged, I felt it was ok to keep the original edge angle without increasing it. To have more realistic testing, I did force myself to commence an extra trip to nearby Whole Foods store, which is the closet to my home anyway and picked up a chicken. Considering that I don't like chicken all that much it was a pure sacrifice, in the interests of realistic knife testing science on my part. Also, knowing that processing a dozen or more chicken was clearly out of question for me, I've prepared variety of vegetables to do more cutting. I've tried to alternate between the Shun elite Honesuki and Watanabe Pro Honesuki during the tests next two days, although by the middle of day one it was clear, Watanabe pro honesuki was much better. Still, I did use both knives throughout the testing process.

Poultry - Well, in our case it was a chicken as you already know it. I've cleaned it up, the best to my chicken processing abilities, which I myself do not rate too high :) Messy, nothing fun and occasionally stinky thing to do too. I've tried to make equal number of cuts with the two honesukis at my disposal. Obviously, Watanabe honesuki had the edge, literally and metaphorically speaking. For one, it had a thinner edge, which might've been a disadvantage if the steel wasn't so hard 63-65HRC, second, that clearance issue I mentioned above few times. Every time I had to use the knife heel, I thanked Shinichi Watanabe for making it wider with higher sitting handle. Well, going back to Shun, it did handle dressing or dissecting poultry quite honorably, and the edge came out of all that ordeal without a single chip or a roll. For testing and cleaning purposes I did have to cut the ribcage, although, this time I was careful enough to work around the breast bone, and then tested the edge on both knives. I couldn't notice any edge degradation neither with my fingertip touch, nor by shaving or free hanging newsprint cutting rests. All that was going on over 30 minutes. Normally, I'd manage faster, but being extra careful with the loaner knife, changing knives few times and testing edge sharpness did make it considerably longer process, although not one bit more enjoyable. One more record in my notes form that testing indicates that controlling Shun honesuki rounder handle (vs. octagonal handle on Watanabe honesuki), was more challenging as my hands and the knife got wet and oily during the process. Overall, Shun elite honesuki is still a remarkable performer for its designated job - small/medium size poultry. For larger stuff, like those mutant thanksgiving turkeys, you should perhaps opt for its larger cousin - Garasuki, well, remembering those turkeys, may be a full length katana will bemore appropriate, I'll leave that up to you.

Vegetables - First up were the two carrots. I've sliced about 2mm thick circles with each knife, using as much of the rocking motion as I could, given the constraints, i.e. blade length, well the lack thereof, and the width, also the lack of it :) Still, it went pretty good, and again, Watanabe honesuki was way ahead. For the same reasons, thinner and better cutting edge, plus better clearance, and I'd say chisel grind edge on Watanabe honesuki does make it easier with that type of cutting. As for the Shun honesuki performance, it was ok, but nothing spectacular. Overall, I've finished similar work probably 30-40% faster with Watanabe honesuki. I felt more confident with it, and it was more convenient too. Besides, more hefty blade of Watanabe does prove to be an advantage when you need to apply greater force when going through the medium with the knife heel. The same story repeated itself with the broccoli. And I figured out that was it for harder vegetables, I got my conclusions.

Delicate work - This was happening on day two and consisted of two types of work, peeling fruits, and various types of cutting using the blade tip, mid section. This time, the results were more even, although sharper and thinner edged Watanabe honesuki still went ahead. I can't blame the 16° edge on Shun, even if it is the original edge. I had to keep it, and on my knives I grind thinner edges, so the advantage was Watanabe's and it wasn't all that fair comparison for the Shun honesuki knife. Keep that in mind. For peeling, Shun honesuki did pretty good, even compared to its competitor. Thinner blade(not to be confused with thinner edge), lighter weight, all that was a plus. I do like octagonal handle better on Watanabe. Peeling was done, for curious people, each knife peeled an apple and a pear. After that I've picked up a few potatoes and went on with the trivial potato eye removal. That was one area where I almost preferred Shun honesuki, because it was shorter and lighter. Well, after that I simply had to finish those potatoes, i.e. peel them, which I am not really that good at, Rosle crosswise peeler works a lot better :) As things got slippery again I remembered again how good octagonal handles are. Other than that, test cutting included crushing garlic cloves and mincing them, for which Shun honesuki did just fine, chiffonade from Basil leaves, it did ok, advantage - Watanabe honesuki again thanks to its wider blade and slicing green collard leaves on the cutting board using the tip, which Shun honesuki handled really well. Somewhere at after that I've noticed that the heel section of the honesuki became duller. It would still shave very cleanly, in both directions and free hanging newsprint was no problem at all, however comparing it with Watanabe honesuki which is by the way made of Aogami (Blue) II steel was still sharper. Less effort all cutting tests. I did use Shun honesuki a quite a bit more, after all the testing was done for it, as it was a new knife. However, let's not forget Watanabe had a thinner edge from the very beginning too, ~14°-16° total, because it is a chisel grind knife vs. Shuns 32° total. That does make a difference. As for the rest, I didn't do much after those tests. Few slices of bread, because I was curious, diced some eggplant and few other things. Then as usual, wash the knife thoroughly, stropped on the usual trio - 0.5µm and 0.25µm diamond crystal loaded strops followed by plain leather strop. I've used 0.5µm strop a little longer to restore the initial sharpness and that concluded the testing, round one to be precise. Once I get it back for resharpening, round two will follow. I've packed the knife and returned along with 2 other tester blades next day.


- By itself, Shun elite honesuki is a good knife. Major shortcoming for it is the lack of the knuckle clearance and if you work with poultry, and can't manage to keep your hands and the handle dry, its relatively round handle isn't exactly helping with grip control. Otherwise, it is a well made knife, from top notch materials and fit and finish are superb. Edge holding from what I saw was quite good, nothing like the U2 horror stories. Although, I had no chance to test it on cardboard like that U2 was tested. For vegetables and poultry it was good. MSRP on those Shuns is 200$ as of Winter 2010. Comparing with 192$ Watanabe honesuki, which is a handmade knife, complete with D shape ho wood handle, which I replaced later with another handle for Stefan Keller, and very good Aogami II steel... I'd pick Watanabe any day. I've listed the advantages in terms of the design, and in my opinion Aogami steel takes better, more keen edge, and holds it better too. On the other hand, 200$ MSRP on Shun elite honesuki doesn't mean much, you can easily get it for around 150-160$. Watanabe being a custom knife, is still 190$ ;) And installing custom handles will cost you more. Then again, that might be your goal... In the end, I feel price/performance ratio is on Watanabe side. On the other hand, 160$ SG2 steel knife at 62-64HRC with very good fit and finish is a really good buy too. So, I'd go with the Watanabe, and you have the list of pros and cons to decide from, plus your budget and preferences.


  • Blade - 140.00mm(5.51")
  • Thickness - 2.30mm
  • Width - 37.57mm
  • OAL - 264.00mm(10.39")
  • Steel - SG2 steel at 64HRC
  • Handle - Pakkawood
  • Weight - 126.50g(4.28oz)
  • Acquired - 10/2009 Price - 160.00$

Related reading:

Last updated - 05/19/19

Prev - Overview