Published May 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.
It was twice the price of our favorite electric knife sharpener, but could it perform twice as well?
The Japanese cutlery company Shun promises artisan knife sharpening at home with its new Professional Electric Whetstone Knife Sharpener ($299.95). The device has a small motor that spins a 6-inch whetstone covered by a plastic shield. It comes with two small plastic wedges that fit into a slot at the top and serve to guide the knife’s blade toward the stone at the correct angle: 16 degrees for Eastern blades and 22 degrees for Western.
We gave the wheel a spin to see if it could sharpen our favorite chef’s knife well enough to justify its hefty price tag. After some assembly (fitting on the wheel, its cover, and the wedge), we took a dull blade and attempted to glide it smoothly and evenly across the stone, as instructed. But the spinning wheel grabbed at the blade, sucking it in, and after a few passes we had a damaged knife with a wavy blade. Once we got the hang of it, we pitted the Shun against our favorite electric knife sharpener—you simply plug it in and sharpen by gliding the blade through slots with coarse- and fine-grained abrasive disks.
We took two dull copies of our winning Chef’s Knife and sharpened one with the Shun and the other with our favorite electric knife sharpener. Thirteen testers sliced through sheets of paper and 5 pounds of tomatoes, comparing the two sharpened knives with a brand-new, factory-sharp knife in a blind test.
The factory-sharp knife and the one sharpened by our favorite electric knife sharpener performed almost identically, just about splitting the votes for the sharpest blade. The Shun finished a distant third with a rough, uneven blade that pulled at tomato skin. For our home sharpening needs, we’ll stick with our favorite model; the Shun is expensive, has a steep learning curve, and doesn’t sharpen as well.