Coming from a farming community where self-reliance was the order of the day and slaughtering livestock was common practice, I still remember how the knives were honed in preparation for the task at hand. Sharpening knives was a skill that required a degree of craftsmanship that is rarely practiced in the same way anymore, and honing a blade on a whetstone is not a task that most people cherish to perform. Luckily there are much easier ways these days to sharpen your knives and in this article, I will be taking a look at some of the best knife sharpeners available for you to choose from.
There is no place for a dull knife in a kitchen. Sharp knives give a smooth, even cut, the result of which is evenly cooked food. That translates to better tasting food which is why you are in the kitchen in the first place.
For the most part knives don’t require sharpening all that often. If you maintain your blade well and use a honing steel frequently your knife should retain its sharpness for a fair amount of time in between sharpenings. This is of course dependent on how much and how you use your knives.
If you want to test the sharpness of a knife a good way to do so is slicing some ripe tomatoes.
The blade should require virtually no pressure to slice through the skin and even when the tomato is overripe there shouldn’t be any bruising or tearing. A blunt edge will have microscopical nicks and chips that tend to tear at the food that you are cutting. You can also use the paper cutting method to check the sharpness of your blade. Just hold a sheet of paper in your one hand and cut from the top of the sheet down, if your knife fails to give a clean cut in either method of testing, you should run the blade a couple of times along your honing steel.
Even the best knives require sharpening and if the blade is not excessively damaged, this is not a lengthy or difficult procedure.
Top 10 Best Knife Sharpeners
The Chef’s Choice 15 Trizor XV Edge Select Electric Knife Sharpener is one of the very best electric powered pull-through sharpeners that you will be able to find.
It sharpens your knives in three stages, the first stage recreates the bevel of the blade at 15 degrees. The second stage uses finer diamond abrasive disks than what was used in the first stage of sharpening. It also creates a secondary bevel at a slightly bigger angle along the cutting edge of the blade. During the third stage, the blade is polished with a stropping action creating a microscopical smooth and sharp edge.
This machine can be used to sharpen all kinds of knives and is not restricted to only European and American blades but it is equally suitable for sharpening Japanese and even serrated
Blades. It is a sturdy and hefty machine weighing in at 4.2 pounds. The quality of its construction and overall durability is good and it is aimed at the professional or upper end of the market and the only drawback is its price.
You should also consider the other members of the family:
The Chef’s Choice 320, Chef’s Choice 0115207 and the Chef’s Choice 1520 Angle Select Diamond Hone Electric Knife Sharpener for 15 and 20-Degree Knives are all exquisite and will give you exceptional service.
- You are assured of the quality
- It can sharpen any kind of blade including single bevel Japanese blades and serrated blades
- It doesn’t remove excessive amounts of steel when sharpening
- Fast and accurate
- It is expensive
The Presto 08810 Professional Electric Knife Sharpener is a much less expensive option than the Chef’s Choice range, but that only counts in its favour. Like the Chef’s Choice, the Presto also sharpen knives in three stages, but instead of diamond grinding disks, it makes use of Sapphirite grinding wheels in the first two phases of the sharpening process. Thereafter it employs ceramic disks to polish and hone the knife blade to a smooth sharpness that can cut through anything with ease.
It features an adjustable blade selector which helps you to guide blades of varying thicknesses accurately through the slots without the risk of accidentally damaging the angle of the bevel. It is considerably lighter than the Chef’s Choice at 5.07 pounds and is aimed more at the domestic market, however it is a very good and highly rated knife sharpener that will perform well in any household.
- It is well priced
- It works fast and delivers a good end result
- The adjustable blade selector ensures that you get a good cutting edge on all your knives
- The Sapphirite grinding wheels don’t last as long as diamond grinding disks
- It’s got a smaller motor than the Chef’s Choice
The Shenzhen Electric Diamond Wheel Knife Sharpener is another great home sharpener that will keep your knives in tiptop shape with the minimum of effort. For those people who make use of ceramic knives, this device is indispensable and is also suitable for stainless steel blades and will sharpen Japanese blades as long as they are beveld from both sides as is the case with most modern knives. It can’t sharpen serrated blades though, but since it is manufactured by a company that specialise in the manufacture of quality ceramic knives that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
As the name suggests, it makes use of diamond grinding wheels to sharpen your knife in only two stages. It is a beautifully designed easy to use lightweight sharpener that is affordable and will be an asset to your kitchen.
- It is the best electric sharpener for ceramic blades
- It is more affordable than most electric sharpeners
- Beautifully designed and compact
- It is not suitable for sharpening single bevel Japanese blades and it can’t sharpen serrated knives
- It is very lightweight and should not be used for industrial purposes
The Amesser Kitchen Sharpener is a good example of a manual pull-through knife sharpener. As a three stage sharpener, the Amesser has a great feature that allows you to maintain and hone your knife by using its diamond abrasive slot. This doesn’t remove metal and is used for the daily upkeep of your knives.
Its second slot contains tungsten steel rods that will restore the bevel of the blade and will sharpen even very dull blades. Follow this up by running the blade through ceramic stone, to finish the sharpening and to polish the cutting edge.
This is a tough, solid sharpener which you can use right or left handed and it does sharpen ceramic blades as easily as it does stainless steel. The drawback is that it is not suitable for serrated and Japanese blades.
- It has a good quality diamond abrasive slot for daily honing of your knives
- It is solidly constructed
- Simple and easy to use
- You can sharpen ceramic blades with it
- You can’t sharpen Japanese blades and serrated knives with this device
The MIGECON four stage knife sharpener is very similar to the Amesser, the main difference being the added scissor sharpening slot which is a handy adaptation in itself. The MIGECON however is not recommended for sharpening ceramic blades and as with the Amesser it is not capable of sharpening Japanese or serrated blades. If you prefer using European and American style knives, you will do well with this device and you will find that it is a sturdy, well-constructed piece of equipment at a reasonable price.
- It is capable of sharpening scissors
- It is reasonably priced
- It is not suitable for sharpening Japanese, ceramic or serrated blades
The Vremi 4 Stage Manual Knife Sharpener is actually a duel two stage knife sharpener, but let me explain. The Vremi can sharpen knives at either 15 degrees or at 20 degrees, thus making it suitable for both western style blades (20 degrees) and Japanese style blades (15 degrees). It sharpens and restore blades with its hard carbide steel rods in the first stage of sharpening and then follows it up with ceramic rods for honing your blade to perfection.
This is a very compact and easy to use sharpener and it features a clear sliding cover to avoid accidentally using the incorrect slot when you are sharpening either Western or Asian blades.
- It is versatile
- Compact and elegant in its design
- Suitable for Western and Asian style blades
- It is not really a four stage sharpener as its name suggests
The Brod & Taylor Professional Knife Sharpener is a superbly crafted V-shaped pull-through sharpener which is made from solid stainless steel. It is a heavy duty piece of equipment that is both elegant in its design and engineered to outperform its competition. Suitable for sharpening European blades, Japanese blades with a single bevel as well as serrated blades, the Brod & Taylor is a versatile sharpener in a class of its own.
The Australian Tungsten Carbide rods self-adjust to the blades angle on a spring loaded mechanism, leaving guesswork out of the equation. To cut and restore the bevel of the blade, you pull your knife through with the tip of the knife pointing down. This action will remove some metal and is only necessary when the blade is damaged or very dull.
To smooth and hone the blade all you have to do is pull the knife through with the tip of the blade pointing up.
By adjusting the pressure that you apply, you can control the fineness or coarseness of your blade to suit your own needs.
This beautiful sharpener is expensive but if you do a lot of cooking and use your knives all the time it is well worth considering it as a primary tool in your arsenal.
Brod & Taylor also make a cheaper version which works on the same principal, but is made from durable Nylon, called the Brod & Taylor Classic. This is a good solution when your budget is tight.
- It is far better than average in design and construction
- Made from superior quality materials
- Very easy to use
- You can sharpen any kind of blade with this device
- It removes the least amount of steel from your knife
- There is a cheaper option available
- It is expensive
The Warthog V-Sharp Classic II Elite Diamond Sharpener is probably one of the most popular sharpeners around. It is a simple and easy sharpener to use, that offers you three angle settings. There is a 30 degree option, which is ideal for robust blades like hunting knives etc. For kitchen knives the 25 and 20 degree settings work fine and to adjust the settings all that you have to do is move the sharpening stones to the relevant position and click them in place.
For very dull or damaged blades, you use a back and forth movement, that will reshape the bevel and take care of any chips and nicks in the blade. Normal sharpening and honing requires that you simply pull the knife through the sharpener using the adjustable guide to do so.
The Warthog range of sharpeners can ascribe its popularity to the ease of its operation and even a complete novice can learn the process within minutes.
- It is good quality
- The adjustable guide makes it easy to use
- It is quick
- You can adjust its settings easily
- Replacement parts are easily available
- You can’t set a 17 or 15 degree angle on it
The Edge Pro Apex 1 Knife Sharpener Kit is for the more discerning chefs and cooks for whom the sharpness of their blades is a non-debatable issue. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that it is a complex and difficult system to use, because it is not. The Edge Pro makes it easy for you to always sharpen each individual blade at the exact same angle as before, therefore it removes the minimum amount of steel and it considerably speeds up the sharpening process.
You are not limited in any way with this compact and versatile knife sharpener. You will be able to sharpen all the knives in your kitchen regardless of the style of the blade and that includes serrated blades. The Edge Pro gives you a choice of angle settings of 10,15,18, 21, and 24 degrees, making it incredibly easy to get razor sharp edges on your kitchen equipment.
With the 220 Grit Medium Fine and 400 Grit Fine Water stones the Edge Pro will give you a far superior cutting edge without heating or in any way damaging your blades.
If you have invested in top quality knives, it is highly recommended to maintain your investment with a sharpener that will match the standard of your blades.
- Extremely accurate and precise
- Can’t damage even the most precious blades
- It is very versatile with settings for any kind of blade
- Produces superior results
- Easy to use
- It is not cheap
The Lansky 4-Stone Deluxe Diamond System is a multipurpose sharpening system that will let you sharpen any kind of knife for any kind of use. The angle settings are 30 degrees, for heavy duty knives, the kind of knives that are commonly used to cut cardboard, electrical wire and other robust materials. 25 Degree angles are good for outdoor and hunting knives, which require a durable edge, and the 20 and 17 degree angles is what we are looking at for our kitchen knives.
For very Coarse work there is a 70 grit diamond stone which you will hopefully not have to use on your kitchen knives unless the blade has been severely damaged. The 120 grit diamond stone will make quick work of restoring blunt blades and the 280 grit is a good sharpening stone for all your maintenance needs. Honing your blades with the 600 grit fine diamond stone will leave you with a razor-like edge that is superior to most other sharpening systems.
- It is less expensive than the
- The diamond stones are of a very good quality
- You can sharpen all kinds of blades with this device
- It is versatile
- It is more finicky than some other sharpening systems
How to Choose the Best Knife Sharpener
Firstly it is important to understand that a honing steel is not a knife sharpener and is merely used to prolong the intervals between sharpenings. It works to flatten miniscule blemishes that is the result of normal use, but it doesn’t actually create a bevel on your blade in the same way that a sharpening stone can.
When choosing a knife sharpener there are several factors to consider, since there are many different sharpening systems available each with its own characteristics. Depending on your usage, the kinds of knives that you need to sharpen and your budget you will choose a knife sharpener that will best be suited to your needs. The same amount of care that you take when choosing to buy a knife should also apply when you are selecting a sharpener.
If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen and do food preparation that involves cutting lots of meat and coarse vegetables, your knives will be worked harder and require more frequent sharpening than if you are more of an occasional cook. The amount of time you have on your hands to sharpen knives is also important, since a cheaper sharpener might still produce decent results but requires more time and effort than it’s more expensive counterpart.
Most of us are not going to go to the same extreme that professional knife makers and knife enthusiasts go to when sharpening our own knives. We simply need our knives to be sharp enough for the purpose that we employ them for.
Therefore, I am going to focus on the more user friendly sharpeners that are available and make suggestions based on those products that produce the best results in a normal kitchen setting and not a cutler’s workshop.
These are probably the easiest and most convenient devices available and you get both manual and electrical varieties. For the chef or cook, who wants a decent sharp blade but doesn’t want to spend all the time and effort on sharpening and precision tools, pull-through sharpeners offer fast results and there are options available to suit every budget.
They generally have a slot with either a coarse diamond, stone or metal abrasive which is used when your knife is very dull or damaged. This will recreate the bevel of your blade (20-15 degree angle) and take care of any damage along the cutting edge of your knife.
Most pull-through sharpeners have between two and three separate slots for finer honing and polishing, which can once again be either diamond, stone, ceramic or metal.
The electric sharpeners have a motor, which spins the abrasive disks, grinding and polishing the metal of the knife as you pull it through the slots towards yourself. This is a very fast and effective device and there are many people who swear by it.
The manual pull-through sharpeners work in exactly the same way but the force that you apply in the pull-through action is responsible for sharpening the blade. They are cheaper and sharpening knives takes a bit longer, but you will still be able to get satisfactory results and as most of the time you are not restoring severely damaged blades they are equal to the task of keeping well maintained knives sharp.
These are also very popular devices and with some good reason. The simplest of these would consist of a base with predrilled holes at either 20or 15 degree angles into which sharpening rods are placed. Keeping your knife at 90 degrees to the base, you simply slide the blade along the rods to sharpen the knife. They tend to work fine, but are best suited to maintaining sharpness and will not restore overly blunt or damaged blades.
There are also more elaborate V-Shaped sharpeners which have you sliding your knife down through two spring-loaded abrasive bars. The ease of this operation is enhanced with the addition of either a static or adjustable guide for you to slide your knife against.
If you are more discerning than most and insist upon razor like sharpness then Sharpening Kits are one off the ways in which you can actually improve on the factory sharpness of most blades. You will however be spending more time sharpening your knives and it does take some practice to perfect your technique, but it can be an enjoyable and satisfying pastime. You will also be able to sharpen any kind of blade to perfection.
Is it possible to over sharpen your knives?
No, there is a common myth that you can somehow damage the cutting edge of your knife when you sharpen it to hair removing perfection and it is simply not true. A good quality blade is meant to be sharpened.
Does electric sharpeners remove too much steel from the blade?
To some extent this is true. Electrical sharpeners do grind away some steel but with the better quality sharpeners this is not a problem. For the most part you only ever use the very coarse setting to restore and reset the bevel of very blunt or damaged blades. The normal and fine settings on good devices don’t cause any damage at all.
Can using a honing steel damage the blade of a knife?
There are different grades of honing steels on the market. The regular kind that you generally get in a set with various knives are quite coarse and constant use of such a honing steel will in the long run remove a fair amount of steel from your blades. Butchers and chefs who make use honing steels several times during a day typically use medium or fine steels that don’t affect the blade negatively.
How often should you hone a knife?
For stainless steel knives it is recommended that you hone your knife after every two to four uses and for carbon steel honing it every time that you use it. It doesn’t take you long and should become a habit.
Is dishwashers bad for your knives?
Dishwashing detergent is very abrasive. Wash your knives in the sink with soapy water, rinse and dry them thoroughly.
When it comes to sharpening knives there are as many options available for you to home sharpen as there are knives to choose from. It comes down to personal choice and all of the above sharpening systems have proved themselves over time to consistently deliver good results. They vary in price from just a few dollars to upwards of a hundred and I have deliberately avoided the most expensive options.
The main message that I wish to convey is that it is really no big deal to sharpen and maintain your knives at home or your professional kitchen. These devices are all very easy to use and there is no mystery or special skills involved. All that you have to do is choose the sharpening system which you feel most comfortable with and you will never have to struggle with dull, slippery equipment again. Just a last word of caution. When it comes to sharpening systems for your knives, don’t be tempted to buy the least expensive on the market. You will end up being dissatisfied and frustrated and you may even end up damaging your knives.