A sharp knife is a chef’s soul. Have you ever noticed the spark in his eyes when he makes those artistic julienne cut or thin slices of veggies? But, it doesn’t matter if it’s a everyday-carry (EDC) knife, machete, or even a skinning knife as all knives do get worn out with time. With a blunt knife, you need to put more pressure on the object, as a result of which, soft vegetables get squashed and lose their shape. It also increases the risk of physical injury. Apart from kitchen knives, there are several other types of knives. Among those, survival knives have been a popular hunting cum safety tool of mankind since time immemorial.
If you’re an ardent admirer of gastronomy like me, you’ll know how different culinary cuttings impact the taste, texture and appearance of food. Unfortunately, this multipurpose equipment (see Swiss Army Knife) isn’t immune to the wear and tear of time. Fortunately, there’s a way out. In old days, some tradesmen used to roam around from place to place on their bicycles which had a grinding stone attached to it. Scrubbing the dull blade against that stone at a particular angle in a controlled path made the knife razor-sharp.
Even in this technologically advanced 21st century, this technique hasn’t become obsolete. However, the sharpening tools have gone through immense changes to become hi-tech, easy-to-operate and highly efficient. This comprehensive, yet noob-friendly guide aims to assist you in choosing the best knife sharpener for you.
You can read more about each of these knife sharpener models in details below by clicking here.
Factors that Lead to Dullness
Edges lose their sharpness for the very purpose they cater to. Cutting acidic fruits and vegetables like lemon, tomato causes corrosion in the blades. Knives are often used to accomplish tasks they’re not meant to perform, like scraping or opening tin cans. Blade buckling is also a very common kind of damage your knife faces every now and then. It happens due to slicing items heavier than the knife itself or crushing ice. Keeping the knife in high temperature or washing it with harsh chemical based detergents also has havocking effects on the sharpness. Taking proper care of your cooking cum combat cum hunting knife is the only way to prevent it from fraying. Always select a suitable knife for the task, avoid heavy wooden cut boards and wash it immediately with cold water right after using.
Ways to Sharpen Your Knife
Mastering the art of knife sharpening isn’t a cake walk. Manual knife sharpeners do provide great results but only when they’re operated correctly. There are three basic stages of the process of knife sharpening. Sharpening is the first of them. For this technique, you need a heavier sharpener stone than the knife material. The main target in this stage is to eliminate the metal from the blade to give it a terrific sharpness. Scrubbing the blade across the abrasive stone causes the metal particles to unravel. Placing the tool at a right angle is the most critical part of this process. Different angles have different effects on the edge. For sharpening, a shallow angle of 20o is considered perfect for most of the knives. A steep angle produces durable sharpness.
Straightening or honing is the second stage of it. It involves the process of drawing the edge through the honing steel. This equipment helps in realigning the edges of the blade. You need to put the heel of the knife against the upper side of the steel at a 20o angle and rub it back and forth with light pressure. Do this plenty of times on one side then repeat the same on the flip side as well. No metal is likely to be removed from the knife in this stage.
The last stage of the manual knife sharpening is called polishing or stropping. This is the final touch to the edge intended for devising a precision sharpness and mirror-like finish to the blade. It is done by polishing the knife on a rotating cloth wheel. It helps the knife to retain the sharpness for a long period.
Types of Knife Sharpeners
There are two broad classifications of knife sharpeners — manual and electrical knife sharpener. The former is mostly used by the most seasoned professionals since it requires a lot of patience and skill. An electric sharpener is a worthy substitute of the manual ones for professional chefs and busy housewives who don’t have the privilege to spend hours on sharpening their knives. After reading about the pros and cons of both of these, you’ll hopefully be able to pick the best knife sharpener for your specific requirements.
Electric Knife Sharpeners
Automatic or electronic knife sharpeners are fast, convenient to use and offer the precision of manual sharpeners. It doesn’t matter whether you’re confident about your skills or not, you just have to hold the knife across the tool and the rest will be taken care of. Moreover, the compact size of these systems makes it fit on your kitchen counter easily. The machine resembles a box which has a slot for a motorized grinding wheel. Electric sharpeners, for obvious reasons, come at a higher price than manual sharpeners. But the time and energy you save is worth the investment. Hence, these are considered as the best knife sharpeners, overall. Here’s a list of the 5 best electric knife sharpener models recommended by culinary experts:
This three-stage sharpener is dedicated to sharpening and realigning the edges of straight and serrated knives efficiently. The key element of this system is its high-quality diamond abrasive. The sharpener is packed with advanced features like flexible stropping and sets up a 20-degree angle on European style and a 15-degree angle on Asian style beveled edged chef’s knives. This Chef’s Choice model is considered as the best electric knife sharpener by many knife sharpening enthusiasts. Read our detailed review to know more about this Chef’s Choice model.
This multi-stage sharpening system is mostly used for honing non-serrated edges in a real quick time. The sharpening wheels are composed of an ultra-hard sapphire which lets one acquire finely sharpened edges. Inexperienced folks won’t have to struggle with the angular positioning of the knife as the equipment offers a precision blade guide position for optimal result.
This latest model from the house of Wusthof features three individual slots for the sequential stages of knife sharpening. Its PETec technology allows you to restore the sharpness of all kinds of knife and extends the lifespan of them. The 100% diamond coated abrasive wheel is ideal for the realignment and polishing of even the dullest of knives.
The ceramic and diamond stone wheels on this McGowan give a hollow ground edge for superior quality sharpening. It is super-easy to operate and its no-slip rubber feet cover guards your countertop from nicks and cuts. The price is reasonable. It weighs not more than two pounds and sits easily on your kitchen countertop.
This multistage electric knife sharpener is specially designed for Asian, American, and European style knives. It can reprofile a 20-degree edge to a 15-degree edge. The adjustable spring guide helps you to a get accurate angular position every single time. It works great on both serrated and straight blades. Due to its vast use cases, it’s one of the highest selling knife sharpeners worldwide, resulting in many knife enthusiasts terming it as the best knife sharpener for pretty much all purposes. Read our detailed review of the Trizor XV to know more.
Manual Knife Sharpeners
Manual sharpeners are ideal for achieving extremely sharp, beveled edges. One needs to practice for years to get at home in the technique. These sharpeners are inexpensive and portable. Campers, hunters and traditional cooks who are very particular about their instruments and don’t settle for anything but perfection always go for manual sharpeners.
There are three fundamental kinds of manual sharpeners available in the market – sharpener stones, rods and sharpener steel stones. Sharpening stones have been extensively used in honing blades and knives from the ancient times. These rectangular shaped stone blocks are made from diamond, ceramic or other natural sharpening stones. Drawing a dull knife on a gritty stone erases a lot of materials that causes fraying. Remember, it’s mandatory to use a heavier stone than the knife material. Natural sharpening stones come in fine, moderate and rough coarse. Here’s my pick of the top 5 sharpening stones:
An ideal equipment to restore the life in knives with large blades and beveled edges. It features a premium quality abrasive 8-inch diamond tri-hone bench. In addition. There is an attached Micro-Tool Sharpening pad for chiseling small tools and knife tips. The unique oval hole design increases the speed of sharpening.
Japanese waterstones are quite popular among the woodworkers. A waterstone is capable of acquiring razor-sharpness with minimal effort. In D1130, there are two stones of 1000 and 6000 grit. Buffing knives against water stones gives a blade a shiny, mirror-like finishing along with super-sharp edges. You need to soak the stone in water before using it.
This medium grit (1000 grit) Japanese waterstone model is crafted to perfection to perform sharpening, honing and polishing efficiently. It helps in the removal of the metal from the blades in order to reprofile the edges. The 1000 grit abrasive stone makes sharpening a less time-consuming process. However, you need a lot of practice to hold the equipment in a right position while honing.
This iconic manual diamond knife sharpener has been ruling the market for many years. Diamond is regarded as the finest edge sharpener in the world. The W250EFNB has superior quality diamond surfaces on both sides. This dual-side design offers precision and smooth handling.
This medium and fine coarse crystolon sharpening stones features a rotating axis for holding three types of stones (a 100 and 150 grit silicon carbide stone and a 320 grit aluminum oxide stone) for different stages of sharpening and repairing. This oilstone comes with a no-slip rubber feet to protect your limb from potential injuries.
Best Knife Sharpeners for Your Kitchen
Most kitchen knife sharpeners are easy to convenient to store in a medium-sized kitchen. Kitchen knives cater to basic culinary functions like cutting, dicing, and coating. If not taken care of properly, the edges are bound to get worn out. A blunt kitchen knife is prone to slip off the vegetables and cut your finger instead. It also affects the appearance and taste of the dish to a great extent. If you are a restaurant chef who doesn’t like to compromise with his standards, a good kitchen knife sharpener will be your companion for life. Ease of use and cost are the two main factors you should keep in view while picking up the best knife sharpener for your kitchen. Realize your priority and choose wisely.
This multistage kitchen knife sharpener provides maximum safety and actively enhances the sharpness of premium quality kitchen knives. This sharpener works excellently on a variety of knives. Professional chefs around the globe use this tool to restore and polish the fine edge blades of Japanese style knives. You can read our full review of the Chef’s Choice 320 before making up your mind.
This advanced, compact, lightweight product from KitchenIQ is an exemplary model of 21st-century manual knife sharpener. This is essentially a pull through knife sharpener that has a pre-set angle guide for perfect sharpening. The coarse carbide blades reprofile the edges and fine ceramic rods produce sharp edges. For smooth grip and firm control over the action, Edge Grip comes with a non-slip rubber grip handle.
Like all the other Chef’s Choice products, this too is a super-fast, super-efficient kitchen knife sharpen, ideal for regular use. This advanced electric diamond sharpener is a one-stop solution for a wide range of knives such as serrated, doubled-edged, short and straight blades. The flexible stropping discs help to engineer mirrorlike, glossy finishing touch on the edges.
Pocket Knife Sharpeners
Ever tried emulating Bear Grylls? If you follow the episodes of (God bless your soul if you don’t) Man v/s Wild, you’ll realize how crucial a survival or pocket knife is when you’re out in a dense forest or deserted island for camping or hunting. A dull-edged survival knife can land you into a deep trouble in certain circumstances. Carrying an over-sized, heavy knife sharpener is not even an option. Veteran campers, army men, and hunters have prior knowledge to knife sharpening with stones, but that’s a time-consuming process. Moreover, finding a perfect natural sharpening stone in a foreign land is too much of a hassle. That’s why you have to choose the best pocket knife sharpener that’s compact enough to fit your pocket.
Consider using a portable pocket knife sharpening kit to polish your knife in the most effective quicker than you can ever imagine. Manual knife sharpeners enjoy higher preference over automatic knife sharpeners from survival knife owners. The process of sitting on the rock and honing with the hands give mentally gears them up to take up the forthcoming challenges.
It lets the knife owners indulge in their ritualistic action of knife sharpening and have a firm control over the motion. It’s packed with a two-stage grinding wheel (Coarse and Fine) for effortless sharpening and top grade polishing. Its smart double-sided design allows you to sharpen both edges of straight blades. The exclusive fire-angle slot is exclusively added for serrated blades. It’s also popular as the best hunting knife sharpener for it’s compact nature and effectiveness even in the wild.
PS-MED01 is a never let down as far as performance is concerned. It is a league of its own and I bet you won’t regret carrying it along in your adventure trip. It can handle various kinds of blades proficiently and provides durability as well. This two-stage sharpener boasts of a tungsten carbide grit blade for realigning the edges and a ceramic rod for taking the chip off the blade. With merely 4-5 moderate strokes, you can improve the functionality of your blunt knife.
This masterpiece two-stage manual knife sharpener has astounded me with its speed. I mostly carry it with me when I’m out for a trekking. This small, powerful sharpening equipment features carbide and a ceramic grinding wheel for fixing aged knives. The ergonomic design offers good control over the action and prevent errors. Wrong positioning can further worsen the dull edges. Even with little or no knowledge of manual sharpening techniques, you can learn to handle this machine intuitively. The coarse metal can help you attain optimal sharpness with precision.
Best Knife Sharpening Systems
The development of knife sharpening systems has revolutionized the entire affair of knife sharpening. It is the unbeatable combination of modern and traditional technology that has contributed to the astounding success of these knife sharpening systems. It’s the best knife sharpener for housewives who neither have the time nor scope to perform the rigorous task of manual sharpening, as they have finally found a solution for their dull knives.
The biggest advantages of knife sharpening systems include customized settings, sharpening angle guide, multi-stage sharpening system and inbuilt safety features. You can tweak the settings and determine the grit factor of the abrasive on your own according to the structure of your knife. Additionally, these systems come with user guides in multiple languages for novices.
This sleek, powerful automatic knife sharpening system has a spherical bearing rod guide for easy adjustment and close proximity between the knife and the rod. The cherry hardwood pistol grip provides ultimate comfort and great control over the tool. The key selling point of this product is the incorporation of one fine, one medium, and one extra coarse sharpening stone.
Designed to enhance the functionality and durability of chef’s darling Shun knives, this classic 3-Piece Whetstone Sharpening System has a narrow bamboo stand which helps one sharpen at a 16 degree angle with utmost perfection. The dual grit sanding block on both sides of the system allows to perform the three primary stages of sharpening without making any mistake.
The collaborative effort of the two industry giants of the U.S has to be in the best in the business. The cutting edge (literally!) technology of Ken Onion and WorkSharp has created a super-fast knife sharpening system to accomplish professional-level precision within a couple of minutes. The adjustable sharpening guide allows a bending from 15 to 30-degree angle in 1-degree increment. The flexible abrasive belt takes care of anything from serrated knives, short survival knives to Japanese style chef’s knife. Read our thorough review of this Work Sharp knife sharpener to know more about it.
Rods or Sharpening Steels
Rod or sharpening steel system is perhaps the most widely used knife sharpeners in the world. The long ceramic rods are fit into the base. The knives are drawn through it at different angles to take out the chip from the blades. One needs to be very adept in honing at correct angles otherwise the edges will end up getting deformed. It works wonders or serrated edges and short survival knives. It’s best to avoid sharpening dull knives by a ceramic rod. Due to the never-fading popularity of these sharpening steels, the market is inundated with various products from renowned manufacturers. Let’s take a look at the top 5 sharpening rods currently available:
This classic sharpening tool from Henckles, a leading manufacturer from Germany, is ergonomically designed to provide industry-level accuracy. The main function of this steel is to realign the edges and maintain fine sharpness. This product is lightweight and has a polypropylene handle for comfortable grip which is an advantage for novice users.
Made from the finest quality 9-inch sharpening steel in England, this knife sharpening steel is suitable for regular use. It has a black plastic handle which makes it really easy on your grip and maximizes the safety. Another plus point is its continental cut that allows you to maintain beveled edges like a pro.
This mighty, sleek model from Buck knives has a diamond coated sharpening surface teamed up with one fine sided 1200 grit, a 750 medium and a 325 grit coarse side. The tapered handle allows firm control and ultra light weight gives it amazing mobility. Overall, it’s certainly a brilliant sharpening equipment for achieving extreme sharpness on short blades and tools.
The fine ceramic 800 grit surface of Smith’s premium quality 9-inch oval ceramic sharpening rod realigns and polishes the edges of your fine edge knife. Its oversized hand guard and no-slip rubber tip prevent your limbs from scratching and allows stability during rigorous scrubbing.
Passionate cooks who are very particular about the cutlery equipment, especially about the kitchen knives, will fall in love with this model. It can hone and straighten the edge of a knife in no time. Its 100% diamond coated surface is a heavy-duty, highly abrasive surface for honing with minimal pressure at a 20-degree angle. The user has to reserve a good skill to perform this technique. In addition. There is also an extra fine grit for giving the already-honed knife a finishing touch.
Summing up this Guide on Choosing the Best Knife Sharpener
The invention of the knife is one of the greatest discoveries mankind. It was used for by our ancestors to hunt down animals for meat. With the passage of time, the technology of knife sharpening has gone through a tremendous evolution. Time is a precious commodity in today’s hectic life. A good knife sharpener helps you maintain a fine edge and save much of your valuable energy for other tasks. That’s why you need the best knife sharpener that fits your use cases perfectly.
I hope this knife sharpening guide has somewhat cleared your idea about the basic functions of different knife sharpening systems and best products currently doing rounds of the market. The rest is up to you for judging.