These are nice blades. Try to get to a Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table if they are in stock and try the knives to make sure you like them. I have mostly Shun Classics and Shun Kramers. And to Sandy05, you get what you pay for - go spend $9.95 for a Ginzu or Chicago Cutlery at Marshalls or TJ and then plan on going back every couple of years, LOL. Kind of like buying some cheap aluminum pots and pans then wondering why you can't get anything to cook off nicely rather than dropping a couple of c-notes for a decent set of Calphalon. Wait for the extra % off clearance sales at Dillards and you could probably get a 10-piece set for under $75. But a good set of knives will last a lifetime as long as you use a steel and have them wheel ground every couple of years.
These knives aren't for everyone; they're for someone who is serious about their work in the kitchen. I find that because they keep their sharpness longer that I'm less prone to kitchen accidents by attempting to force a cut through an item. Additionally, these Shun knives are precision instruments - well balanced, with a comfortable grip. Shun blades are different in terms of their sharpening angle, though, so there's one thing -- don't have them sharpened by anyone who doesn't have experience with Japanese knives. The angle is totally different and the knife will be ruined if sharpened like a Western-style knife.
For many people a mid-line knife will also do well, as long as it is well-maintained - not just occasionally run over a steel, but actually resharpened. Many stamped blades (think Cutco or Ginsu) aren't worth much in terms of longevity. If you cook a lot, it's worth learning a bit about why a forged blade is often (but not always) worth the extra money.
It's also worth considering ceramic blades; they work well. But, the trade off is that you can potentially shatter or break your knife, and they cannot be resharpened.
These are Professional cullinary knives and a hell of a deal actually. I have the 4 piece knife set that I bought used from Shun Edo for $330 so this represents a pretty huge discount. These are not Chicago Cutlery or store bought knives, these are the caliber blades that a Master Chef would purchase as their go to blade. They are very comparable to the Ken Onion set of blades in their sharpness and I actually prefer the ergonomics on these handles. They are VG10 Steel with a Jappanease blade angle so the sharpness you can attain and keep with simple honing is unbelivable. They are of course not for everyone and if you have a sub $100 Chefs knife that works for you then by all means keep using it. They are also gorgeous blades. Perfect balance and individually hammer forged and indented. Ergos on it allow you to use your thumb on the hilt of the blade for leverage. This set lacks the fantastic bread knife and paring knife but a master chef can make do with the utility boning knife for most things and serated bread knives can be had anywhere.
Word of caution. Like most japanease blades these are very thin and no matter what quality of blade you are using the tips will break very easily if dropped. It is very important to hone these blades about once every 2 weeks for normal use. DO NOT USE A GERMAN STEEL, German blades use a wider and thicker edge to achieve their strenth and longevety, Japanease blades use a much thinner angle when sharpening. As with any blade these must always be used on a propper cutting surface. NOT MARBLE OR PLATES.
As others have noted, this set of knives is in a whole other class than most peoples home knives. This is for a gourmet, home enthusiast, or for a professional chef. While Shun's are not my favorite, they ARE worth the money, when on sale. They use VG10 steel, probably the best formulation for the combination of hardness to suppleness, the best for ability to take an edge vs the ability to keep an edge. Those last two traits are often inverse of each other.
There ARE good inexpensive knives, but the price of a Shun is based on the love and true hand CRAFTSMANSHIP. These aren't just stamped out of crummy 440A steel by a machine. Each knife is individually hand created by a skilled artist. You aren't just paying for the name, you are paying for attention to detail, skill and care as well as better components
As naireland says, these knives also tend to be a little delicate and prone to chipping of the edge because of their extrem hardness and because the geometry of a Japanese knife is way thinner (about 15-16 degrees x 2=30-32 degrees) versus a western blade (which is about 23 degrees x2=46 degrees).
Another good way to buy Shun is to wait until W&S annual sale, that occurs in July each year. This year, I bought a Shun Hiro Utility knife for $109, now $199, but between the sale and now it's been as high as $349, retail is $413. It's one of those serrated knives that I would have avoided except Shun sharpens for free - lifetime! It's the most amazing veggie slicer I've ever used, and today's $199 price is a great buy. Another great W&S buy was the Shun Fuji chef's knive on a stand, now $199, was $169 during the sale. It's been as high as $350 as well, retail is $438.
But this deal is better if you don't mind the handle style. I personally like the Hiro samurai sword handle style.
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