A blend of good ideas and disappointing realities, the Shun APO119 Electric Knife Sharpener seems more suited to cheap cutlery than the beautiful and expensive Damascus-type blades of Shun Cutlery. In fact, you’ll definitely want to practice on cheaper knives first because as with any old style grinder, there’s a learning curve involved.
The best of today’s Asian knives are ground with a more acute bevel than equivalent European blades — that means most electric sharpeners won’t regrind Asian knives from companies like Shun correctly. A slim 16-degree bevel would be hacked down to a wide 25-degree bevel, and the knife just wouldn’t work as it should. Shun is all about making that slimmer edge strong and dependable — the best way to keep a Shun knife in top shape is by hand with a waterstone, or by hiring a professional.
For those who haven’t mastered the whetstone, the usual answer is an electric sharpener. Results aren’t as good, but modern grinders get better every year, and that’s what we should expect from this Shun version built especially for 16-degree knives. Instead, the machine runs a set of ceramic grinding wheels without lubrication. While that might be good enough for cheap steel, the potential for chattering and skipping increases as the wheels load with shavings. With practice, you might get the trick of working a couple of passes, removing the grinding cartridge for rinsing, and finishing with a few more touch-up runs. The results just won’t be as good as they should be for this quality of blade.
What we needed to see here was a powered system based on fine diamond grit wheels or water-lubricated stones. Any craftsman appreciates some good help and either of those approaches would work in a pinch. What we got instead has a nice dust cover, and that’s what owners of Shun knives will use the most.
Although I don’t recommend any “automatic” sharpener for knives of this quality, the Global Shinkansen MinoSharp offers manual control, a water bath, and a clear shield that lets you see where you’re going wrong — and it’s designed for that critical 16 degree bevel.
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