In the kitchen there are few things are more frustrating than trying to accomplish a task without the proper tools. And if you’ve tried cutting anything with a dull knife, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It can be slow, tedious, and dangerous. Whether 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. The purpose of this site is to help you quickly and easily determine the best knife sharpener for your particular needs.
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In researching a sharpener for my own kitchen, I came across dozens of websites professing to know the best way to sharpen knives, and literally hundreds of products available that claim to be the best at getting it done.
What I Found
After spending days comparing features, prices and reviews I narrowed my selection down to these three sharpeners:
#1. Chef’sChoice AngleSelect Knife Sharpener
#2. Chef’sChoice 15 Trizor XV EdgeSelect Electric Knife Sharpener
#3. Chef’sChoice Edge Select Pro Electric Sharpener M120
Now, 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. And Eastern or Japanese knives can be entirely different.
To save you the time of digging through the mountains of information out there, here are a few quick questions you need to 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 describes you, then an electric knife sharpener is the solution for you. Here is a breakdown of the three best electric knife sharpeners on the market. Each of these sharpeners provides you with the flexibility to sharpen a wide variety of knives with varying angles.
#1. Chef’sChoice AngleSelect Knife Sharpener
The Chef’s Choice AngleSelect is one of the most highly regarded sharpeners on the market. It allows 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. Quite possibly the best sharpener of the bunch, 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)
#2. Chef’sChoice 15 Trizor XV EdgeSelect Electric Knife Sharpener
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 that sharpening a set of Japanese knives. This is because Western knives come from the factory at 22 degrees. 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.
#3. Chef’sChoice Edge Select Pro Electric Sharpener M120
Another fine choice for both professionals and amateurs alike, the Chef’s Choice Edge Select Pro M120 comes in at number 2 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 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 convinced, the following is a guide to further help you make your choice.
Determining the Best Sharpener For Your Needs
In this guide we’ll go into detail about the best knife sharpener for use in the kitchen, garage, and in the field. We’ll cover the pro’s and con’s of each and rank them accordingly. We’ll also cover the different types of sharpeners available and the advantages of each.
As you will see from reading some of our other articles and sharpener reviews, there are many techniques to properly sharpening and honing the blade of a knife. And depending on the intended function of your knife, you need to know what that technique is. Not only does properly maintaining a blades edge keep it sharper, it also ensures that the blade will maintain its sharp edge for longer periods of time. Proper care and maintenance will also extend the life of the blade itself, so you can depend on your knives for years of service.
For the purposes of most 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.
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.
It is often said that an electric sharpener 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.
For that reason, many consumers choose to go with an electric knife sharpener. Since they are much easier to master than manual sharpening, you are much less likely to cause damage to your blades. Manual sharpening systems often require hours of practice just to master the basics. And because you can sharpen knives in a matter of minutes, an electric sharpener can save you a great deal of time and frustration.
We’ll take a look at both types of systems and you can decide which is best for you.
Since the vast majority of readers are probably not looking to become professional knife sharpeners, we’ll cover electric and guided sharpeners first. If you would prefer to skip straight to the section on sharpening stones, click here.
Choosing Your Sharpener
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.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll be looking at kitchen knife sharpeners. So lets take a quick look at the different types and designs. In terms of kitchen knives, they usually come in two varieties: 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.
Electric Knife Sharpeners
There are a large number of manufacturers of electronic knife sharpening systems. Many of them look the same, and most operate in a very similar manner. The idea behind the electric knife sharpener is to take the guess work and difficulty out of getting a fine edge on the blade without doing any damage to the metal.
Some sharpeners do a better job at this than others. Let’s take a quick look at a few of the things you should look for in any electric knife sharpener.
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.
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.
Adjustable Bevel Angle
The bevel angle determines the sharpness of your blade. The lower the number, the sharper the knife. However, there is a tradeoff between sharpness and durability. The lower the bevel angle the more prone a blade is to dulling and chipping.
While not as important as the number of stages or abrasive material, an adjustable bevel angle allows you to set the sharpener to the specific angle of your knives. This allow you to achieve varying levels of sharpness for different knives. An example might be sharpening a paring knife to a lower angle than a chef’s knife.
For most kitchen knives, an angle between 18 and 25 degrees is best. This allows for maximum sharpness while not degrading the durability of the edge. Kitchen knives including chef’s knives and boning knives will function perfectly well between these bevel angles. Certain others such as the previously mentioned paring knives might have a slightly lower bevel angle.
Even some of the best knife sharpeners on the market don’t include this feature however, so if flexibility is important to you, make sure to choose a product that includes a bevel angle selector.
What Makes a Good Knife Sharpener?
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.
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.
These are just a few of the many electric sharpeners available.
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.