Best Knife Sharpeners of 2017
A knife sharpener keeps your knives sharp and improves overall performance. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best knife sharpener for your cutting needs.
Stay Sharp: Your Guide to the Best Knife Sharpeners
Whether it's your favorite chef's knife, whittling tool, or all-around utility blade, with frequent use, all knives dull. And dull knives are not only harder to use but less safe too. Luckily, it's easy to keep your blades sharp with a good knife sharpener.
What's not so simple is figuring out which knife sharpener is right for you. There are quite a few ways to get the job done, and some are easier, less expensive, or faster than others. How do you decide?
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If you're ready to buy a knife sharpener, BestReviews' top picks are just above. All are quality sharpeners that will hone your blades to a fine edge. For everything you need to know about knife sharpeners before you buy, including the different types of knife sharpeners and how to use them, you've come to the right place.
Safety First: Why You Need a Knife Sharpener
If you use a knife on a regular basis, the edge eventually dulls and can even develop a slight curve toward one side. Whether the knife is an inexpensive basic or a finely crafted piece of steel, regular use—particularly if you use your knife for rugged tasks such as chopping tough foods, whittling wood, or slicing and dicing while on a worksite or campground—dulls every blade.
Once the blade is dull, it not only becomes more difficult to cut anything cleanly, it also requires more muscle to work the blade. A dull knife is likelier to slip while you work, potentially leading to disaster. Sharpening your knives on a regular basis keeps them in safe, tip-top shape.
Manual vs. Electric: The Different Types of Knife Sharpeners
Sometimes called whetstones or water stones, sharpening stones are blocks of stone that are typically palm-size, although they come in a range of shapes and sizes. Sharpening stones are available in several grades or grits, similar to sandpaper. It takes some practice to use a sharpening stone correctly. But once mastered, a sharpening stone can be used to sharpen scissors, hand tools with blades like scrapers and chisels, gardening tools, and razors, as well as knives.
- Pros: Sharpening stones can sharpen many different types of blades. They are portable, no electricity is required, and they are easy to store.
- Cons: Sharpening stones take time and practice to master.
Manual Knife Sharpeners
Pull-through or manual knife sharpeners generally have one or two slots for sharpening, each with a different grit. This allows you to sharpen a blade from very dull to very sharp. With some manual knife sharpeners, you draw the blade through the slot, while with others, you run the sharpener down over the blade. Manual knife sharpeners are effective and easy to use. They are only for sharpening knives, however, not other bladed tools.
- Pros: Manual knife sharpeners are easy to use, portable, and do not require electricity.
- Cons: Manual knife sharpeners can't be used to sharpen other tools, and they have only one or two grits.
Electric Knife Sharpeners
Electric knife sharpeners have internal guides that position a knife perfectly, making it easy for anyone to bring a dull blade back to life. Most have several slots with grits from coarse to fine. When an electric knife sharpener is turned on, the sharpening stones inside the device rotate as the blade is drawn through the slot. Electric knife sharpeners make quick work of the task.
- Pros: Electric knife sharpeners are easy to use and provide excellent results with no learning curve.
- Cons: More expensive than the other sharpeners, electric knife sharpeners can only be used with knives and require a power source.
Also called sharpening steels, honing steels are rough steel sticks with a handle at one end. Honing steels are not for sharpening knives but for honing blades. While the difference is subtle, sharpening involves grinding away the edges of the blade to produce a new sharp edge, while honing doesn't remove any metal. Honing merely straightens and refines the already-sharp edge of the knife. Many top chefs, serious whittlers, and carvers hone their blades before every use. As with a sharpening stone, it takes some practice to become skilled at using a honing steel.
How Do You Sharpen a Serrated Knife?
Serrated knives, which have jagged teeth like a saw, are the best tools for slicing foods that are harder on the outside than the inside, such as a loaf of French bread, a tomato, or a roast. When it comes to sharpening, however, these knives are a bit tricky.
Luckily, serrated knives tend to dull more slowly than their straight-edge counterparts, so you won't need to worry about sharpening your serrated blades as frequently. When a serrated blade goes dull, however, be aware that it requires a special setting on your manual or electric knife sharpener, and not every knife sharpener has one. If you use a knife sharpener's regular slots, you run the risk of damaging a serrated blade. Be sure to use a knife sharpener with a designated serrated slot to sharpen these kitchen tools.
Features to Look for in a High-Quality Knife Sharpener
Adjustable Angle Guide
If your knife blade is sharpened at the wrong angle, you'll lose the finely-honed edge. An adjustable angle guide keeps your knife in the right position for sharpening.
Hardness of Sharpening Material
Several different materials are used as abrasive surfaces in both manual and electric knife sharpeners. Diamond is the hardest, followed by tungsten carbide and ceramic.
Don't assume the more abrasive, the better. A good manual or electric knife sharpener has two or three slots with different grits. This allows you to start with a more abrasive surface to remove tiny burrs from the knife's blade, and then switch to a less abrasive surface to fine-tune the knife's edge.
You don't want to sharpen your fingers along with your knife. Good manual and electric knife sharpeners have barriers to protect your fingers from injury while using the knife sharpener.
How Much Does a Good Knife Sharpener Cost?
Knife sharpeners vary widely in price, depending on the type of sharpener.
- Sharpening Stones: You can buy a simple whetstone for less than $10, or you can purchase a whetstone set for $20 to $25.
- Manual Knife Sharpeners: The simplest manual knife sharpeners are generally around $10, but a sturdier manual knife sharpener with more features can cost $40 or more.
- Electric Knife Sharpeners: Electric knife sharpeners have the widest price range. Simple electric knife sharpeners are available for less than $30, but high-end electric knife sharpeners can cost over $100. Of course, there are plenty of excellent electric knife sharpeners in the middle of that range.
Tips for the Sharpest Knives
- Place your knife sharpener on a flat, secure surface to sharpen your blades.
- Don't push or use excessive pressure while guiding the blade through the sharpening slots. A light touch with just enough force to guide the blade is all you need.
- Pull the blade through the sharpening slot slowly and evenly.
- Match your blade to the proper abrasive grit. If the blade is just a little bit dull, use the finest grit. Coarse grit is for a very dull blade, which shouldn't be an issue if you sharpen your knives on a regular basis.
- Don't saw your blade back and forth through the sharpening slot. Draw the blade slowly in one direction, generally back toward yourself.
- Wipe the sharpened blade with a cloth that's slightly dampened with oil to remove any residue before storing or using the knife.