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Shun Professional Electric Whetstone Knife Sharpener

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2012

How we tested

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.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*