Originally Posted by Teacher
I don't know about Shun specifically, but Japanese knives (and chisels and saws) tend to have much harder steel than Western ones. This leads to long edge life, which some people love, but it also makes them much more prone to chipping. It's for this very reason I don't own any ceramic knives: I don't mind sharpening occasionally, and I take care of my cutlery. When I was a line chef, I learned quickly that I had no alternative (two missing fingertip taught me that). Japanese knives cannot generally do things like hack through bone, which Western knives can (and I do all the time with poultry) due to this brittleness. As for sharpness: like I said, all steels can be made equally sharp, and by the same methods. Heck, bronze can be made as sharp as steel...it just doesn't stay that way.
As you seem to agree, RC60 is very unusual for a European knife. Most current Wusthoff, Henckels, Victorinox, Messermeister, F.Dick, etc.. knives are no harder than RC57. An optimal solution, at least for a knife geek like me, is to have a softer knife or a meat cleaver for chopping and dealing with frozen foods and a harder knife for slicing and dicing. As for sharpness, Japanese knife are sharper out of the box because they can take and keep more acute grind angles than knives made from softer steels. 15 degrees or less per side bevels are fairly common in Japanese knives while European knives usually have 20- 25 degree per side cutting edge. If you attempt to put a too acute edge on soft steel or bronze
knife, the edge will fold over itself very quickly. This will require you to steel, sharpen or regrind such knives very frequently. For the record, I have nothing against German knives. I own several Wusthoff Grand Prix and Henckels 5-star knives and I am happy with them. Henckels and Wusthoff have superior fit, finish and maybe even handle comfort when compared to similarily priced Japanese knives. They are pretty good, but they are not the best when considering cutting performance.