Even the toughest, sharpest blades get dull, and unless you have the best knife sharpener, you won’t be able to use it again. Sure you can buy another knife, but that is impractical and expensive. If you have the perfect knife sharpener however, you can keep using your favorite knife over and over.
Of course the challenge is finding the right sharpening tool. There are probably as many types of knife sharpeners as there are knives, so which one do you choose? We know how complex that can be, which is why we have this guide. We have extensive experience with knife sharpeners, and we used that to find the best ones. We reviewed and tested each one thoroughly, and after much deliberation came up with the following.
Table of Contents
All knife sharpeners will say they’re the best, but what’s best depends on what you plan to do with the knife.
If the sharpener can do only one thing, it should be to give smooth and consistent edges to your knives. Performance needs to be consistent and it must not leave any marks, dings or dents.
The toughest abrasive surface – and fastest – is diamond followed by tungsten carbide and ceramic (polished). Grit is used to measure abrasiveness: the higher the number the more abrasive it is.
With a good angle guide even a beginner will have an easy time sharpening a blade. Look for angle guides for 20 and 15 degrees as they’re the most widely used.
Coarse abrasive is used for edge reshaping on damaged and dull knives. However you’ll need fine grit for polishing and touching up. Both are necessary, which is why multiple sharpening is a must. Without a fine grit, your blade will lose a lot of steel.
The sharpener should be easy to use and also safe. For manual sharpeners look for one with a physical barrier between the blade and your fingers. For electric sharpeners, rails, slots or a sharpening disk are used to guide the blade in the belt rather than your hand.
Like any good product, the sharpener needs a good warranty and dependable customer service.
What type of knives do you have? All sharpeners can sharpen a straight edge blade, but only a select few can sharpen a scalloped or serrated blade. Serrated blades don’t need a lot of sharpening as they’re more resistant than straight blades. But it’s good to know your sharpener can handle it just in case.
How quickly do you need the knife sharpened? Electric sharpeners are faster compared to manual sharpeners. Electric sharpeners are also easier to use as the manual version has a longer learning curve. For instance, water stones are effective sharpeners, but it requires some practice.
Manual sharpeners don’t take up a lot of space and fit nicely in a kitchen drawer. Electric sharpeners occupy more room on the kitchen countertop. Some electric sharpeners are as large as a toaster but with a lower profile.
Some electric sharpeners generate a lot of noise, though the motor on some machines help reduce the scraping noise sound. However, there are people who dislike the scraping sound manual sharpeners make.
Some knife sharpeners can only be used by left or right handed people, but the better ones have an ambidextrous design.
Watch out for sharpeners that overdo it as it could damage the blade. An over grinding knife will remove too much metal from the blade and shorten its lifespan. Chipping and warping are other problems that you need to look out for, so make sure the sharpener doesn’t produce a lot of heat.
The system decides the proper angle, and you can sharpen the knife using the same angle again for consistent results. Its water stones have been customized for simpler, no hassle operation. You just need to twist the knob to make adjustments, and it doesn’t remove as much metal as other knife sharpeners.
The Apex 3 also eliminates dings and nicks without damaging the blade’s edge. Even when used extensively, the system doesn’t generate heat, ensuring the knife’s temper isn’t damage.
The Chef’sChoice Trizor XV Sharpener is a professional level sharpener and ideal for home chefs and those who don’t want to compromise quality.
This Trizor XV is capable of sharpening 12 inches chef’s knives, needing only 20 strokes to give it a new sharp edge. Once the blade has been sharpened, polishing takes about an additional 10 strokes.
This takes about 3 minutes or less. The motor performs consistently, preventing the wheels from catching in the metal. The Trizor XV is capable of sharpening blades in their entirety, allowing you to cut down to the heel section. Once sharpened, you can use the knife to cut hard vegetables and fruits without losing stability.
With its three stage honing and sharpening procedure, the Trizor XV is able to sharpen different types of knives. You begin at the coarsest setting until there’s a new bevel. Then you let the fine wheels and the hone wheels add the second and third bevel respectively.
The Wusthof PEtec Electric Sharpener is for those who prefer a simple, straightforward method for sharpening knives.
The PEtec was built to sharpen dull and brittle blades, and while it’s not the fanciest knife sharpener out there, it does restore sharpness on dull blades, and that’s what matters.
You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure for the sharpener to work, and it’s a good idea to keep the knife moving back and forth prior to making contact with the stone. If you’ve got dull knives lying around, just put them in the PEtec and after a few passes they’ll be razor sharp.
Follow the instructions on its use. If you have a lot of knives to sharpen, rest the PEtec as the unit gets hot. This is a well built knife sharpener, but you’ll get more out of it by taking care of it.
The sharpener lets you modify the blade angle, generating a durable, stable and sharp edge. You just need to put the blade tip in the sharpener’s arms. A light press and the sharpener goes to work. It takes 4 passes at most to get a new edge. Make sure you hold the knife steady and the blade will come out fine.
The Brod & Taylor takes just 6 to 8 passes to hone a blade. The arms can be spread so you can horizontally saw the blade, polishing the edge. All of this takes no more than a minute. Once you’ve sharpened the knife you can use it to slice and cut like before.
The ceramic Naniwa Super Stones come in an assortment of grits, allowing you to sharpen the blade just the way you want it. The grit ranges from 220, 1000, 1200, 2000 and 5000 grit.
For optimum results you may want to try different grits, with 220, 2000 and 500 grit providing the right amount of progression for most knives.
All Naniwa stones don’t need soaking prior to use. All you have to do is splash a bit of water and they’re good to go. However, the finer grits benefit from an extra water dip. The more you use it, the more wetting helps improve performance. All these stones have a resin bond, enabling higher particle abrasion and faster sharpening.
These are not fancy sharpeners, but they are effective and work on different knives. The S1000 works great as it is, but as we pointed out you can get an assortment of stone grits.
The Lansky Deluxe Diamond Kit is an all-around device that can sharpen not just knives but also razors and other utilities.
The kit comes with extra coarse, coarse, medium and fine diamond grit, knife clamp screws, honing oil and other components. A detailed guide is included so you’ll know what to do.
The Lansky Kit keeps the knife secure while you move the stone at a set angle along the blade. Use one hand to hold the unit and use your other hand to move the stone on the blade. Instead of ceramic stones, you get the aforementioned diamond stones to fine tune the blade.
The design makes sharpening easy and works for small knives, pocket knives and knives up to 8 inches long. So unless you’re using a very large knife, the Lansky will get the job done without a problem.
The Sharpmaker plastic tray has different slots where you put a couple of triangular stones in various ways according to the blade you’re sharpening. Guard rails are also built in the system so you don’t hurt yourself. The system isn’t as hard to use as it seems as there’s a DVD video that shows you how to use it.
The Sharpmaker is a versatile tool, but it is optimized for small knives. While it’s designed to sharpen knives, you can also use it to sharpen wire cutters and take out the burrs off a screwdriver.
The ProntoPro 463 takes only 30 strokes to sharpen a coarse blade. If you add another 20 strokes, the edge becomes even smoother. The ProntoPro 463 is also meant for heavy duty use and sharpens even Japanese steel. The sharpener has a level base and padded handle for a secure grip while sharpening.
Because its sharpening slots are separate, the ProntoPro 463 is able to sharpen Japanese and European type knives. This is the kind of flexibility that professional chefs look for, and it’s an indication of the sharpener’s quality.
The regular sharpener has carbide blades at 14 or 28 degrees on each side, sharpening your knife to a fine point. For the second stage, the Precision Edge 4 employs ceramic rods to give it a sharp edge. For Asian knives, you just need to slide over the cover, and the blade will be sharpened to 10 or 20 degrees.
You will also notice the V-shaped cutting head, and that is designed to give knives a sharp edge. The problem with other knife sharpeners is they are difficult to use, causing frustration on the part of the user. With the Precision Edge 4, sharpening knives has never been easier.
These are low maintenance stones, and their dense properties mean quicker cutting. If you have used other stone sharpeners, you’ll notice that the Shapton is almost 50% faster than the others. While the density is a strength, you have to be careful so you don’t end up grinding too much.
If you have experience with sharpening stones, the Shapton is perfect. If not, try it on cheap knives to get an idea of how it works. You’ll get used to it in no time and reap the benefits.
A knife sharpener is essential because even the best, most durable blades turn dull with extensive use. Repeated cutting, slicing and cutting will take its toll and the metal edge wears down. You’re going to notice the knife blade start to chip on bones. You’ll also notice the blade will have a hard time cutting hard vegetables.
By sharpening your knife your knife will be easier and safer to use. It’s not enough to just use any sharpener but also only high quality ones. Rather than buy a new knife, you can sharpen the knife and still be able to use it, saving you time and money.
You’re going to come across unique jargon when shopping for knife sharpeners. Don’t let those words confuse you.
Swarf: the metal particles which are left after you sharpen a blade
Spine: the uppermost part of the blade
Sharpening: when you take out some metal off the knife to give it a new, sharp edge
Honing: any technique used to maintain the knife’s edge
Grit: grit refers to the size of the abrasive material on the stone: the higher the grit number, the finer it is, and the lower the number the coarser it is
Edge: the bottom portion of a blade
Bevel: the blade edge’s shape: also known as the grind
Some people use honing and sharpening interchangeably, but they’re not the same. A butcher’s steel or honing steel does not sharpen a blade: what it does is straighten the edge so it’s ready to use. The more you use a knife, the more the blade tip curls and bends, so you no longer have a sharp tip.
A honing steel is a nice complement to your knife sharpener when it comes to maintenance. You can use it to keep the blade aligned, which is why some knives are sold with a honing steel.
If you don’t have a regular honing tool, a water stone will do. Water stones are sharpeners but they can also double up as a tool for honing your knife. There are also honing kits and sets which are available that focus solely on honing than sharpening.
Regular knife honing helps, but it is not the same as sharpening the blade. With a sharpener you’ll get more out of your knife.
There are many ways to determine if your knife needs to be sharpened. The following are some of the most effective options.
Paper Slice: get a piece of paper and cut it with your knife. If the blade catches or struggles to cut the paper, it needs sharpening. A sharp blade should have no trouble cutting paper so this is an effective method.
Slice Phonebook and Magazine Pages: phonebooks and magazine pages have varying thicknesses so this is one of the more effective methods. If your knife is able to cut through a phonebook it’s sharp. If not, you need a sharpener.
Cut Fruits: this is a straightforward method. Get a hard fruit like an apple and slice it. If you’ve been using the knife before to cut fruits, you’ll notice the difference right away.
Fingernail Test: be careful with this technique. Stick out your index or middle finger. Set the knife’s edge on your fingernail. The blade should be perpendicular with your finger. If the knife bites in your finger with no pressure, the blade is sharp. If it slides around, the blade needs sharpening.
Onion Slice: an onion’s skin is slippery and very thin. If your knife is having trouble catching the skin, it’s a sign the blade has dulled and needs to be sharpened up.
Electric sharpeners use a two or three step procedure to sharpen and hone blades. The initial steps usually involve using a coarse grit to sharpen a dull blade. The blade is then fine tuned and polished, with the final step involving a fine grit.
When an electric sharpener is activated, it spins the stones. When you put a knife in it, the stones sharpen the blade. The majority of electric sharpeners come with guides which assist the user in obtaining the right angle. This simplifies sharpening, which is why they’re very popular.
These sharpeners have fewer slots for sharpening blades, but they are portable. These are manually operated tools, and thanks to their small size, convenient to use while you’re traveling.
Some handheld sharpeners will have you draw the blade into the slot, with the sharpener set on an even surface. Other versions are drawn on the blade’s length while the knife is held on a table, spine down. While the techniques vary, both are effective in sharpening dull blades.
The most widely used sharpening stones are Novaculite (known as Arkansas), silicon carbide (Crystolon) and aluminum oxide (India). Crystolon and India stones are manmade while Arkansas ae natural stones. Arkansas stones are available in different grit levels ranging from coarse to fine.
Crystolon is most appropriate for coarse sharpening while India stones for fine sharpening works. Diamond abrasives are also found on some knife sharpeners to achieve even better results.
These should really be called honing steels because that is what they do. Their main purpose is to hone a knife blade, but depending on the quality and design, may be able to sharpen knives a little.
Ceramic, combination, diamond and regular are the most common cuts. There are some differences between the four but it is minimal. Regular steel, as the name indicates, is the most common. Diamond steels have a diamond abrasive coat, similar to what you will find in sharpening stones.
Ceramic cuts are built from ceramics and frequently used for small sharpening tasks to keep a blade aligned. Combination is any combination of the above elements. For most people it really doesn’t matter which of the four you go for. What’s more important is that the sharpening steel you use is compatible with the knife.
The grind or bevel is the blade edge’s shape. Styles vary depending on how strong and sharp the blade is. The following are the most common types you’re going to come across.
Sabre Bevel: also known as the V-bevel, the taper starts along the center of the blade rather than the spine. You can find this on a lot of kitchen knives, and they’re capable of generating a long lasting edge, but it reduces the ability to cut.
Hollow Bevel: this bevel has an inward taper which allows it to produce very sharp blades. The resulting blade edge however, is rather weak. You’ll find these often on straight razors.
Flat Bevel: the taper commences along the spine. The process removes more metal than other methods, but the bevel is sharp.
Compound Bevel: also known as a double bevel, these are often found on western style kitchen knives. Here a back bevel is included to enhance cutting while keeping the blade thin. This blade is not as sharp as that of others, but he bevel is very strong.
Chisel Bevel: one side is flat and the other is ground down. Chisel bevels are known for their sharp edges and are often used found on Asian knives. Right and left hand styles are available.
Convex Bevel: the taper curves outwardly and this helps maintain more metal on the edge. This style fortifies the edge while giving it a good deal of sharpness. Cleavers usually have this bevel, and it is often made via a sharpening stone.
The knife angle measurements determine how the blade is sharpened. If you sharpen a blade at an angle of 20 degrees, its edge total is 40 degrees. Some knives have an angle of 15 degrees. The higher the angle the more durable the blade gets, but its sharpness is also reduced.
12 – 18 degrees: these angles are designed for knives which need to be sharp. Paring and fillet knives are examples of these. This type of sharpening produces very sharp but weak blades suitable only for delicate cuts. Angles lower than 12 degrees is for razors.
18 – 25 degrees: these are the most common angles used for kitchen knives. These degrees offer a good balance between durability and sharpness required to cut cheese, meats, fruits and vegetables. Blades sharpened to these angles include carving, boning and chef knives.
25 – 30 degrees: pocket, hunting and outdoor knives are often sharpened to these angles. The blade angle needs to be in this range because they’re going to cut and slice in rugged conditions.
30 – 35 degrees: chopping knives like cleavers are often sharpened at this angle. With the large angle, the blade has sufficient force and strength to chop without losing consistently.
While durability and sharpness match up with bevels and angles, this does not always mean they have to be used in conjunction. Most western kitchen knives possess a 20 degree angle and a double bevel. But you can use these knives even at 15 degrees.
Of course it’s not a good idea to put a big angle on hollow ground blade. But the point you should always think of what you’re going to do with the knife so it’s easier to find the right balance between durability and sharpness.
This is one of the questions that first time buyers often ask. Which should you buy: a manual or electric knife sharpener? Let us take a look at the two and what sets them apart.
Manual sharpeners are often found in kitchens and butcher shops as they’re very effective. Most of them have wheels that rotate and intersect when a knife blade is inserted. Manual sharpeners are inexpensive, but while effective, there are limitations. Most manual knife sharpeners cannot sharpen serrated blades.
Electric knife sharpeners are faster and more versatile than manual knives. They automate a lot of the work and most have a disk that polishes the blade. They’re easy to use and have an on and off button for convenient use.
Electric sharpeners have different features and styles. Usually however you just need to turn the device on and put the knife in the slot. With the blade in the sharpener, pull the blade in your direction and let the stroke end with the blade’s tip. Just keep repeating this until the blade is as sharp as desired.
So which one is better? It depends on your needs and what you’re comfortable with.
Frist time users may find electric knife sharpeners more convenient as a lot of the work is automated.
If you only sharpen knives on occasion, a manual knife sharpener is the more practical option.
If you have to sharpen a lot of knives, an electrical sharpener is more helpful as it allows you to sharpen several blades at once.
If you need to sharpen knives quickly, go for an electrical knife.
If you’re comfortable with a manual sharpener like a water stone, there’s no need change it.
Q: Why Do I Need a Knife Sharpener?
A: A dull knife is difficult to use. A sharp blade is easier to use, and it won’t slip and needs less pressure to work.
Q: Why should I buy a knife sharpener when I can have a knife sharpened professionally?
A: Professional services are expensive, and second, they only sharpen knives that are already very dull. By this time the only way you can restore the knife is by removing a lot of metal from the blade, shortening its lifespan. With a knife sharpener you don’t have to wait that long to sharpen the blade.
With a quality knife sharpener, only a small amount of blade needs to be removed before the knife is sharp and usable again. It’s also more convenient to have one in your home rather than take a trip to a sharpener’s shop.
Q: Will a knife sharpener damage my knife?
A: Quality knife sharpeners are safe to use on different types of knives. While they’re safe, you should read the user manual first.
Q: Does knife sharpening take a long time?
A: It only takes a few strokes to sharpen a blade. Only light pressure is required as it is the sharpener that does the job.
Q: Can a knife sharpener hone knives?
A: Yes. Multi-stage knife sharpeners hone and polish the blade after sharpening it.
Q: What causes knives to dull?
A: Frequent chops and cuts wear out the blade’s edge, causing it to fold and bend. It’s difficult to see but these areas separate and leave the blade dull. A sharpener puts the blade back in shape so it can be used again. A combination of sharpening and honing produces the best results. A good knife sharpener also removes very little of the blade, extending its life.
Q: How often should I sharpen my knife?
A: It depends on how often you use the knife. If the knife sees heavy use, test it on a regular basis. Sharpen the blade if there are signs of dullness. You may hone the knife daily as it doesn’t remove any metal.
Q: How does a knife sharpener accommodate the different types of blades?
A: Knife sharpeners have spring action sharpening bars, enabling the blade to float and handle the knife’s bevel. Apply more pressure on the blade and the bevel’s angle will boost. For delicate blades like those on fillet knives, only light pressure is required. Heavy duty knives, i.e. hunting and chopping blades, need more pressure.
Q: Can you use a knife sharpener on ceramic blades?
A: Most knife sharpeners are designed for metal blades only. Don’t sharpen ceramic blades unless the sharpener specifically states it’s compatible.
Q: How long do knife sharpeners last?
A: Knife sharpeners usually last for five years if taken care of.
Q: How do you clean a knife sharpener?
A: Instructions are provided with the product. You can also use a bristle paint brush to remove dirt and dust. Use a damp, clean cloth to clean stainless steel.
Q: Which is better: manual, electric or stone sharpeners?
A: Sharpening with manual and electric sharpeners is faster compared to stones. However, there are people who are more comfortable with sharpening stones.
All three are good. With a full complement of sharpening stones you’ll be able to sharpen the blade. Some stones can even sharpen knife to the levels required for hunting. However, manual and electric sharpeners are easier to use.
Q: Can I use a knife sharpener to sharpen other tools?
A: Some knife sharpeners are used to hone wire cutters and other cutting tools. This may work depending on the model. However, knife sharpeners are often not intended for these types of applications and could void the warranty if damaged.
Q: Is tungsten carbide sharpener effective?
A: Tungsten carbide is all right provided it’s high quality. Avoid low quality tungsten carbide as they’re not going to do your knife any good.
Q: How long does it take to sharpen a large knife?
A: it depends on the knife sharpener. Dull knives need coarse sharpening and also few passes to hone it. If the blade isn’t too dull, it takes even fewer strokes.
Q: Can a knife sharpener be used on damaged knives?
A: Yes, though it might take longer to hone and sharpen.
Q: How do I sharpen Asian knives?
A: Knife sharpeners often have a slot for Japanese or Asian knives to simplify operation.
Q: Does using a knife sharpener wear down blades over time?
A: No. As long as you use the sharpener only when the blade has dulled, the sharpener won’t cause any damage.
Myth: dull blades are safer than sharp blades.
Fact: a dull blade is more dangerous as the edge could slip, cutting your finger. Dull blades require you to use more force, increasing the risk of losing grip. With a sharp knife, little effort is required.
Myth: honing steel sharpens a knife.
Fact: honing steel doesn’t sharpen the blade: what it does is unfold the edge and maintain it. While the edge has been straightened out, it isn’t durable and is going to fold in. Eventually, the edge folds or breaks and the honing steel won’t be able to straighten it anymore. Sharpening gets rid of the weak edge, giving it a new one.
Myth: magnetic sharpeners sharpen blade edges by rearranging its molecules.
Fact: steel alloys used to manufacture knives are crystalline, not molecular. Magnets don’t reshape the blade and don’t affect the edge’s durability or steel alloy.
Myth: you can sharpen knives by pulling the blade across stone steps or a plate.
Fact: makeshift techniques for sharpening won’t sharpen the blade. If anything they could make things worse. Running the blade’s edge on ceramic surfaces or rough stones can damage the edge. Unlike a sharpening stone or sharpener, these techniques don’t take angle guides or precision into consideration.
Bottom line: do not use makeshift sharpening methods because the results are unacceptable. The edge doesn’t sharpen evenly and too much metal is removed.
Myth: it is cheaper to buy another knife than buy a sharpener.
Fact: manual and electric knife sharpeners are more affordable now, and they’re easier to use. If you use a lot of knives, buying several will cost a lot of money. A knife sharpener saves you money and trouble.
Myth: electric knife sharpeners damage knives.
Fact: this was true in the past. But today’s knives are designed for delicate and quality knives. To be on the safe side, avoid electric knife sharpeners that offer just single stage processing. Do not use the free sharpeners sometimes bundled with can openers. Those devices have very rough abrasives that could damage the knife.
New electric knife sharpeners have angle control and compatible with different types of blades. They also have angle guides built in as well as diamond abrasives to sharpen blades safely.
Myth: sparks indicate the knife is being sharpened properly.
Fact: sparks on a sharpener is a sign the blade is being damaged. The sparks are overheated metal emanating from the knife. Sparks mean the sharpener’s grinding wheel is overheating the blade, damaging it.
Myth: a knife’s edge has to be brought back to its original state to give it the edge.
Fact: majority of knife edges are in a V-shape, which is actually kind of weak. The knife gets stronger when it is re-sharpened.
Sharpening knives used to be in the domain of experts, but now anyone can learn how to do it as there are a lot of tools and devices that can do it. If you have been holding back because you cannot decide which one to buy or use, hopefully this guide has given you an idea of the best options.
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A passionate blogger! Editor at Chooserly, and a regular author at HuffingtonPost, LifeHacker & Forbes!