In the kitchen there are few things are more frustrating than trying to accomplish a task without the proper tools. And if you’ve ever tried to work with a dull knife, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s slow, tedious, and can even be dangerous. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional in the food industry, a home cook, or even an avid hunter/outdoorsman, having a knife with a sharp edge is essential.
While researching for days to find the perfect sharpener for my own kitchen, I came across tons of information and way too many strong opinions regarding the best way to sharpen a knife. Some people swear by their electric sharpeners. Others wouldn’t touch their prized knives with anything but a sharpening system or traditional sharpening stones. So to spare you the same fate (and hours of your life that you will never get back), I’ve put together this site to help you quickly and easily determine the best knife sharpener for your particular needs.
Here’s What I Found
For the vast majority of consumers, electric sharpeners will be the easiest to use. They are fast, efficient, and practically foolproof. That being said, there are a couple sharpening stone systems and manual products that are great values as well so we’ve included them in the following list.
|Smith's Adjustable Edge Pro||$$$$||2||4.9 out of 5|
|Chef's Choice Angle Select||$$$$||3||4.3 out of 5|
|Chef'sChoice Trizor EdgeSelect||$$$$||3||4.7 out of 5|
|Chef's Choice Professional||$$$$||3||4.5 out of 5|
|Norton Three Stone Sharpening System||$$||Three Stones||4.9 out of 5|
|Spyderco Triangle Sharpmaker||$$||Three Stones||4.3 out of 5|
|KME Knife Sharpening System||$$$||Three Stones||5 out of 5|
|Smith's Adjustable Manual Knife Sharpener||$||2||4.4 out of 5|
As previously mentioned, for most consumers an electric knife sharpener is going to be the fastest and most effective way to sharpen a large variety of knives. Most of the products in this category are easy to operate and for the most part operate in the same way. I’ll highlight the manual sharpeners towards the end of this page.
But first, here’s a closer look at the best electric knife sharpeners on the market.
Updated #1. Smith’s Adjustable Edge Pro
The new number one in our product comparison is the Smith’s Adjustable Edge Pro. Smith’s has been making high quality sharpening products for over 100 years. We’ve highlighted this product before in our knife sharpener reviews section.
What set’s this product apart from all of the others in this category is the flexibility to select a wide variety of angles. This means that you can quickly and easily restore the factory angle to just about any blade.
The angle select dial contains both specific angles and a description of the types of knives and their corresponding angles. This makes it easy to use for both amateurs and pro’s alike. The interlocking grinding wheels insure an extremely consistent edge on the blade. For serrated blades there is a special sharpener that is contained in the side of the unit.
With 4.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com, this unit is quickly becoming the most popular sharpener on the market.
The Chef’s Choice AngleSelect is another highly regarded sharpener. While not as flexible as Smith’s Edge Pro, it does allow you to adjust the angle from 15 to 20 degrees. This allows for sharpening of European, American, and Japanese blades. It is both quiet and efficient. The guides allow you to quickly and efficiently sharpen even the dullest knives.
A test for any sharpener is to sharpen a Gerber knife. While Gerber is now out of business, they were well known for making knives from extremely hard steel to ensure their durability. This product makes short work of honing a Gerber blade to a razor finish. And of course it makes quick work of more standard knives. A big advantage is the ability to select the factory angle of the knife. Many sharpeners require that you adjust the blade to the sharpener. Not with this piece. A close second to the Smith’s Edge Pro, it is worth a look if you have a variety of blades with different angles. (This is the sharpener that I eventually purchased, and I have been extremely happy with it)
The Trizor XV from Chef’s Choice is a solid choice for any professional or home chef. It will sharpen both Western (U.S. or European) and Japanese style knives. It is set to 15 degrees, so sharpening your Western knives for the first time will take a bit longer than sharpening a set of Japanese knives. This is because Western knives come from the factory at 22 degrees.
This also means that the Trizor will remove a good deal of blade material the first time you use it on Western style knives. Once the bevel angle of the blade is set to 15 degrees this will no longer be the case. But if you wish to leave your Western knives at their factory set angle of 22 degrees, you might consider a different model. Many people like the finer edge provided by the the steeper angle. Basically it’s a judgement call.
The Trizor XV is a three stage sharpener. The first stage repairs damage to the blade and builds up a burr and the first bevel of the arch shaped edge. The second stage creates a second smaller bevel. Stage three uses a stropping disc to create a third bevel as well as a microscopically smooth edge on the two previous bevels. The final stage is also used to sharpen serrated knives.
With an average review of 4.7 out of 5 stars, this sharpener has impressed both home cooks and professional chef’s alike. It works equally well with expensive Japanese and Western knives as well as doing well with less expensive knives. Even with heavy use the Trizor XV provides a consistently sharp edge.
#4. Chef’sChoice Edge Select Pro Sharpener M120
Another fine choice for both professionals and amateurs alike, the Chef’s Choice Edge Select Pro M120 comes in at number 3 in our guide. This sharpener is typically priced about the same as the Trizor XV. It utilizes a similar system of three stages. The first stage is for excessively dull or damaged blades. It creates a solid base bevel for further sharpening. Stage two is used for routine sharpening. It creates a finer edge than stage one and can be used at the start of the sharpening process as a means of maintaining a sharp edge. The third stage creates a micro bevel and further hones the edge of the blade. A simple numbering pattern clearly indicates the 3 stages on the face of the machine.
User reviews come in at an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars making this one of the best electric knife sharpeners on the market. Most users highly recommend reading and clearly understanding the instructions in order to insure you achieve the desired results with little loss of material from the blade of the knife.
If you’re still not sure which model or type of sharpener to choose, keep reading.
First Things First
Professionals claim that the ONLY way to sharpen knives is with sharpening stones. But it can literally take years to become efficient at using stones, and then it still takes a long time to actually sharpen a knife with them.
And like me, most of you probably have a wide variety of knives in your kitchen. Different knives have different angles. A chef’s knife might have a 22 degree edge, while a pairing knife might have a 15 degree edge. Eastern or Japanese knives can be entirely different as well.
With this in mind, an electric or manually guided sharpener is going to be the best selection for the majority of consumers out there. Because they have built in guides that take the guesswork out of sharpening, they will not only save you time and money, but also a great deal of frustration.
But which one should you get? Let’s start with a few quick questions you should answer to ensure you get the best sharpener for your particular needs.
1. What types of knives will you be sharpening? Kitchen knives? Western or Japanese? Hunting knives?
2. Where will do most of your sharpening? In the kitchen? In the shop? In the field?
3. How much time are you willing to: A. Dedicate to learning how to use a sharpener and B. Sharpening each of your knives?
For the majority of you (and me), the answer to question #1 is overwhelmingly going to be kitchen knives. It would follow that you would be sharpening your knives in the kitchen, and of course you don’t want to spend a bunch of time learning to use a sharpener that takes years of practice to perfect.
If this accurately describes you, then I would again encourage you to look at our electric knife sharpener reviews section. They are fast, efficient, quiet, easy to store, and many models provide you with the flexibility to sharpen a wide variety of knives with varying angles.
If you’re in the market for something less expensive, check out our manual knife sharpener reviews for some lower priced options that still offer exceptional performance and value.
Determining the Best Sharpener For Your Needs
Choosing the best knife sharpener for your needs is essentially a matter of balancing features with cost. So what are the important features you should consider? These features apply to both manual and electric models.
Adjustable Bevel Angle
Manufacturers design their knives taking into account many variables. The hardness of the steel and the angle of the blade are two of the most important. Some choose a harder steel with a lower bevel angle, while others choose a softer steel and higher bevel angle.
The bevel angle determines the sharpness of your blade and is measured in degrees. The lower the number, the sharper the blade. However, there is a tradeoff between sharpness and durability. A blade made with harder steel and a lower angle (sharper blade) are generally more prone to chipping and are more brittle. You wouldn’t want to drop one of these on the floor or in the sink.
A softer steel blade with a higher angle will dull more quickly, but will be more durable and handle abuse better. That being said…
An adjustable bevel angle allows you to set the sharpener to the specific angle of your knives. Not only does this allow you to achieve varying levels of sharpness for different knives, it also allows you to sharpen a knife as close as possible to it’s factory bevel angle, for which it’s design was optimized.
While this may not be the feature that gets the most marketing attention, it will greatly enhance both the performance and the life of your knives.
Smith’s Edge Pro Electric and Manual Adjustable sharpeners are two good examples of products that incorporate this feature.
Number of Stages
Whether you are using an electric knife sharpener or a set of sharpening stones, the same basic steps apply to sharpening any knife. In the first stage you are trying to coarsely grind the edge of the blade. As implied in the description, a more coarse stone is used in this part of the process. This step removes many of the imperfections and damage from the edge of the blade. Some sharpeners don’t include this stage and as a result won’t be able to repair badly damaged blades.
The second stage uses a less coarse stone, and begins to create a smooth, sharp surface on the blade. A less coarse stone is used to achieve this step. Often if a blade is not damaged, you can begin your sharpening process with this step.
The third stage is the stropping or polishing stage. Here you are fine tuning the edge and polishing it to a clean finish.
There are a wide variety of materials that are used as sharpening stones for knives. They range from naturally occurring stones, to man-made materials. While naturally occurring compounds make very effective sharpeners, the longest lasting and most effective sharpening materials are man-made.
The majority of electric knife sharpeners use a diamond abrasive on the wheels that sharpen the blade as it is passed through the sharpener. As mentioned in the section on stages, a succession of various degrees of coarseness provide effective repair, sharpening, and polishing of the blade. Other sharpening materials include steels and ceramics.
While the materials used to perform the sharpening are important, achieving the proper angle is the most crucial part of sharpening a knife. With that in mind, the first two features should be your main considerations.
Manual VS Electric
For us consumers, knife sharpeners can be divided into two main categories: electric and manual. While most sharpening experts will tell you that manual sharpening with sharpening stones is the ONLY way to sharpen your knives, it is a skill that takes time, practice and most of all patience to become proficient. That being said, there are a number of tools available to help you learn to quickly and effectively sharpen your knives using stones. Take a look at our Best Knife Sharpening System Buyers Guide.
However, because of the amount of time it takes to master sharpening with stones, and since it is possible to damage your knives if it is done incorrectly, the best knife sharpener for most consumers may be either an electric sharpener, or a manual sharpener with a guide. These products that help can help you achieve an extremely sharp edge in a minimal amount of time.
By now you probably know that I lean towards electric sharpeners. The reason for this is simple. I have a large number of knives and it takes a LOT less time to maintain them with an electric sharpener. But as I said before, there are plenty of quality manual products out there.
The cost difference can often be substantial, but in my humble opinion, it is well worth it for the times savings.
Since we’ve focused a great deal of time on kitchen knives I thought it would be helpful to briefly outline to two most popular varieties or styles: Japanese and American/European. Let’s take a quick look at the differences between the two.
Japanese Style Knives
Japanese knives have ben around for thousands of years. Traditionally they are made with a single bevel. This means that the edge of the blade is only sharpened on one side. Because of this, the bevel angle on a Japanese-style knife is typically smaller, making it sharper. Some Japanese knives will have a bevel angle as low as 5-6 degrees. When it comes to choosing a sharpener, this is the most important factor. You want to ensure that the product you choose can sharpen only one side of the blade at a time, otherwise it is possible to ruin the edge of the blade.
Japanese knives are also, typically made from a harder steel than their Western counterparts. This allows the sharper edge to hold up longer. This makes Japanese style knives less susceptible to dings and dents on the edge of the blade. But it also makes the steel more brittle. Therefore it is important handle them properly and to use the knives for what they were intended to cut. You wouldn’t want to use an expensive gyutu (chef’s knife) to chop through chicken bones, rather you would use a cleaver. And just as important you don’t wan to toss an expensive knife in the sink as it is possible to shatter hardened steel.
Another important difference between the two types of knives is the shape of the blade itself. This becomes especially important when sharpening. Japanese style knives are typically flat along the blade edge. This the reason they are considered to be so efficient, as more blade can be put in contact with the food being cut at any given time. When sharpening, this translates into a different method of pulling the blade through the sharpener.
Western/European Style Knives
First and foremost a Western style knife is going to have a symmetrical bevel. This means that the blade is sharpened on both sides. The combined angle of the two edges give you the overall angle. Most Western style knives have angles that are in the 18 to 28 degree range. It is not uncommon for them to have factory angles in the high 20′s. This is considerably higher than Japanese style knives.
Blade thickness is another big difference between the two styles. Since Western knives use a softer steel, more material is used to give it strength. This has the advantage of making them very durable. A chef’s knife can be used to cut through chicken bones and other dense materials that could very easily damage a Japanese blade.
The softer steel does make a Western knife more susceptible to damage. It is not uncommon for them to get dings and dents along the edge of the blade from heavy use. But proper sharpening techniques can quickly restore them to their original sharpness and beyond.
Finally, most Western style knives are curved along the blade. This allows the user to apply more pressure to a specific area of the blade. This is crucial when cutting through dense materials such as bone. It also requires that the blade be pulled through a sharpener along this curve so as to properly sharpen it along the entire length of the blade.
While understanding the differences between the two types of knives is important, the single most important piece of information you need to know before you can choose the best knife sharpener for your kitchen is whether your knives are single or double bevel. Meaning are they sharpened on one side or both. Once you know this, you can choose your sharpener accordingly.
Knife Sharpening Services
It is often said (by the experts) that a guided sharpener, whether it be electric or manual, won’t give your knife the same edge as when done by a trained professional. This may be true. But if you own a lot of knives, having them professionally sharpened every six months or so can be pretty expensive. Many pros charge anywhere between $8 and $12 per knife. If you have a dozen knives, you could be paying upwards of $100. Not to mention the fact that you are without your knives for as long as it takes for them to be sharpened.
As you will see from reading some of our other articles and knife sharpener reviews, there are many products out there that can get your blades as close to a factory edge as possible without spending $100 every six months on a professional service.
Before you can choose the best knife sharpener for your particular needs, you need to know exactly what you’ll be using it for. Many sharpeners can handle kitchen knives, scissors, utility knives and more. Others are designed only for kitchen knives. Generally speaking, you’ll get more bang for your buck by purchasing a sharpener that can handle a variety of blades.
There are some exceptions to this rule. If you own an expensive set of kitchen knives, you’ll want to buy a sharpener that is specifically designed to sharpen knives. The reason for this comes from how these products work.
The process of sharpening a knife involves removing small amount of material from the blade of the knife. This is true of both manual and electric models. Choosing a sharpener that is specifically designed for the type of knife you are sharpening helps to ensure that as small amount of material is removed as possible. This helps to extend the life of your knives for many years.
A sharpener that can handle a variety of tools, such as scissors, will still sharpen knives, but can often remove more material than necessary and therefore shorten the life of the blade.
How Do We Rank Products?
There are several categories we used to determine what is the best knife sharpener for the money. First and foremost is user reviews. There’s no better source of information on products than reviews provided by those that own and use the products. Not only do they supply information about the functionality of the product itself, but will often provide great information about how each company handles customer support, repairs, and warranty issues.
Features are another item that affects the overall rankings of the product. Though many products offer similar feature sets, some perform better than others.
Finally, price is the last piece of the equation. We’ve always been a firm believers that price is important, but should never trump quality and service in a decision to buy a particular product.
Here are a couple more products that didn’t make the top 3, but are still great sharpeners.
Wusthof 3 Stage Electric Knife Sharpener
This professional grade sharpener from Wusthof is designed to put a 14 degree edge on both sides of the blade. Like most of the other top rated electric sharpeners it has three stages. The first is used to repair any damage to the blade. The second stage then sharpens the blade. Once sharpened, the blade can then be run through the final stropping stage. This stage hones the edge to factory sharpness and beyond.
It is quick and easy to use. The instructions included with the Wusthof sharpener are extremely clear and easy to follow.
At roughly five pounds, it is about the same weight as most sharpeners in it’s class, and it takes up about as much counter space as well. All in all a great way to keep you knives consistently sharp.
Presto 08800 EverSharp Electric Knife Sharpener
Coming in at the lowest price of all the sharpeners in this comparison, the Presto EverSharp gets great reviews. A bit more basic and with fewer features, it isn’t quite as flexible as some of the other products we’ve covered, but at less that $30 retail, it is a great deal.
If you haven’t invested a great deal of money in your knives, then this can be a great piece for keeping a decent edge on your blades. After all, anything is better than using a dull blade.
Guided Manual Sharpeners
Manual sharpeners and sharpening stones are not necessarily the same thing. Manual sharpeners are similar to electric sharpeners in the way that the function.
Typically they include a guide that the blade of the knife is pulled through to achieve a sharper edge. While they are not typically as fast a an electric sharpener, they are able to create a very sharp edge on a blade, and are often much less expensive.
Another benefit of a many manual sharpeners is portability. Obviously if you’re going hunting or camping you’re not likely to bring along a bulky electric sharpener. Not all of the sharpeners listed below are intended to be carried outside of the kitchen, but several of them are great for hiking, camping or even hunting trips.
Chef’s Choice M4623 Diamond Hone 3-Stage Manual Sharpener
A good example of a manual sharpener, the M4623 from Chef’s Choice is perfect for the kitchen. Much like the electric sharpeners previously discussed, it has 3 stages. Stage one is the most abrasive and will repair and begin the sharpening process. Stage 2 forms the edge of the blade. Then stage 3 is used to hone the edge. If used on a regular basis, Stage 2 and Stage 3 should suffice for maintaining a factory sharp edge on your blades.
Before you make your decision, make sure to do a bit of research about your knives. Are you going to sharpen more than just knives? Do you want to be able to adjust angle of the bevel on your blades? Do you own Japanese or European style knives?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you to pick the perfect knife sharpener for your needs. Then you will be able to quickly and reliably sharpen your blades, making them efficient and safe to work with, as well as extending they’re life.