Best Knife Sharpeners Tested, Rated and Reviewed

"I like the Japanese knives. I like French knives. Whatever's sharp."Wolfgang Puck

A dull knife makes kitchen work harder, and it is downright dangerous. When a dull knife is placed against something like the skin of an apple or onion it can skid along the surface and fly toward your fingers. A sharp knife easily sinks into the food, needs less pressure, and gives you more control.

 

There are three major types of sharpening materials: Carbide, ceramic, and diamond. All actually remove a miniscule bit of metal to produce a new, evenly sharp edge. All of the materials have their uses and price points, and diamond has the longest life by far. These sharpening materials all come in various “grits” of coarseness or fineness. Generally, you first sharpen with a coarse grit first, then move to a fine grit to finish off your blade with a razor sharp edge. The smaller the grit number, the coarser the material. So 350 grit is more coarse, and 600 is more fine. Across all three materials, there are literally hundreds of knife sharpening devices out there. For these reviews, I selected a representative cross-section of the most common ones. But first a look at sharpening steels and strops.

 

Sharpening steels. These are not sharpeners. Steels cannot remove nicks or sharpen dull blades, and they don’t remove any steel. Instead, they realign the rolled metal edges of knife blade into a straight line, which makes the blade cut better. They are very common and can be used daily to slightly improve a blade’s performance. Steels are easier to use than real knife sharpeners and they are inexpensive. There are three kinds: smooth, ridged, and diamond coated. Because they do not actually sharpen, we did not test any steels at this time. But we do recommend keeping a steel on hand to keep your knife cutting at its best. Here is a link to one we recommend.

Strops. A strop is a flat piece of leather, often attached to a thin strip of wood. They have a little flexibility or bend and are used in a similar fashion to steels. However, they are even less effective at sharpening, merely realigning the edges of knives. We did not test any strops, but they are another decent option for honing a knife between uses. We prefer steels.

Four sharpener  designs

ceramic knife sharpening rods

1) Sharpening rods. Two rods, either ceramic or coated with diamond dust, are set in a holder usually at 20˚, 25˚, or 30˚. The rods are used by sliding your knife from top to bottom while pulling or pushing along the entire length of the blade and keeping the blade against the rods. This method is easy to learn and a good way to keep relatively sharp knives sharp. Sharpening rods are fairly inexpensive and can often sharpen serrated knives. They are not useful for sharpening a dull knife.

sharpening rods with knife being sharpened in rods

2)  V-sharpeners a.k.a. Pull through sharpeners. These are two hardened pieces of tungsten carbide in a hand-held or table-top device in a V-shape. The knife blade is pulled through the V’s several times to sharpen. They are small and easy to keep in a kitchen drawer, can be used to very quickly sharpen blades, can remove small nicks, and are inexpensive. They are, however, inconsistent, as one pull can be too strong and remove too much metal, while a weaker pull does nothing for the other side of the blade. Sometimes the carbide can catch on nicks on the blade, making them worse.

electric knife sharpener

3) Electric sharpeners. Countertop electric sharpeners get the job done quite nicely and much faster than any hand operated sharpening device. They can be moderately to very expensive but do the trick efficiently. Once your blades have been sharpened, you need to use an electric sharpener only once or twice a month to maintain a fine and sharp edge. Most models have either two or three slots, similar to the V-sharpeners, with discs designed for a range of sharpening from rough to very fine. If improperly used, electric sharpeners can wear down a blade rather quickly though, so use caution and moderation with them.

knife blade resting on a stone

4) Sharpening stone kits. Many experts consider stones to be the best material for sharpening knives. They are also, by far, the most time-consuming to use. A sharpening stone kit typically comes with several flat stones of different coarseness. You start with the roughest and progress to the smoothest. Each stone is lubricated with water or mineral oil. Pick one, you can’t use both.

Water stones need to be soaked in water for at least an hour. With oil stones, you can drizzle oil on the stone just before you begin the sharpening process. Use only mineral oils. Vegetable oils can harden, clog, and ruin a sharpening stone. If you’ve got free time, and don’t mind a repetitive, and somewhat tedious process, have at it.

We are not reviewing sharpening stones at this time. Instead, we will conduct a much more detailed review and test of the best among the huge variety of stones available. We’ll also review the best and worst methods of using sharpening stones.

onions, carrots and tomatoes for knife sharpener test

How I tested

I bought middle of the road chef’s knives at a big box store and all of the tests described below were conducted on these knives. I also tested the sharpeners using some of my own knives, including Henckels, Gerber, Wusthof, and Victorinox chef’s knives.

 

First, I dulled each knife by running it across a very rough brick a dozen times. I even tapped the blade on a corner of the brick to get some nicks. Then I tested a couple of the dulled knives to see if they were sharp enough to cut a tomato. I guess I did a good job, none of the knives could do more than gouge and mangle the tomatoes. I then followed the instructions for each sharpening device to sharpen the blades as well as I could. After sharpening, I tested each knife by slicing a tomato that sat alone on a cutting board without being held in place. Then, if necessary, I held and steadied the tomato on the board while trying to slice it. Next, I held and sliced a yellow onion that still had brown skin on it. I also tried to slice off the green tops from carrots in a single stroke. And I cut a thin slice from a styrofoam peanut (this method was suggested by knife master A.G. Russell). Finally, I held an 8 1/2 x 11” piece of ordinary printer paper in my hand and tried to slice it into several pieces.

 

gold medal seal

ceramic knife sharpening rods

AG Russell Ceramic Rods. This V-sharpener uses ceramic rods set at 15° per side, creating a combined 30° angle on the blade edge. The sharpening rods consist if 90%+ alumina ceramic that the manufacturer claims will last for many years. The rods are sturdy but made of ceramic, which can break if you drop the sharpener on a hard surface. To sharpen, you merely stroke your knife straight up and down, drawing the knife down one side of the "V" and then the other, as if scraping something off the surface of the rods. I was able to produce a razor sharp edge. I’ve come to use this sharpener daily just to keep my knives super sharp. I haven’t had to clean the rods yet, but when they darken due to the accumulation of metal particles from your blade, you can easily clean the rods and bring them back to their optimum sharpening capability: Simply use an eraser made from rubber embedded with silicone carbide particles, which costs $4.95 on the manufacturer’s website. The walnut base holds the two ceramic sharpening rods upright at the proper V angle, measures 10 1/4" long, and cleverly hides the rods for travel or storage. The company also offers optional diamond rods which can be used to restore the edges of very dull knives. Then you can hone your blades to ultra-sharpness with the ceramic rods.

Tomato and onion: Easily cut thin slices

Carrot tops: Easily removed with one stroke

Foam peanut: Easily cut a thin slice

Paper: Easily cut several clean slices with no hesitation

gold medal seal

electric knife sharpener

Chef’s Choice 120 Diamond Hone Pro EdgeSelect Electric Knife Sharpener. This unit features three-stage precision sharpening for chef's knives, butcher knives, sporting knives, and serrated knives. Stage 1 consists of coarse 100% diamond coated discs to sharpen very dull or damaged knives. This section of the sharpener is not used often and has a removable cover to make sure you use it only when absolutely necessary. Stage 2 consists of finer diamond discs to hone a micro-edge bevel on your blade. The stage 2 slots can be used for routine sharpening and re-sharpening. Stage 3 is for polishing and produces an even finer micro-bevel and superb sharpness. Stage 3 is also the only stage used for serrated knives. Unlike other electric sharpeners, the EdgeSelect 120 has a feature that allows you to clean and re-shape the sharpening discs themselves.

I was surprised at how dull my serrated knives were. Before sharpening, I cut a French baguette on one of the hard ends. After sharpening, I cut the other end of the baguette. Now I have a sharp serrated knife!

To operate the sharpener, you turn on the unit, put the knife blade into one of the slots on the appropriate stage and pull toward you. For an 8” knife, you pull for about 4 seconds. As you pull, built-in springs hold the knife securely against the angle guides in that slot. To sharpen the other side of the blade, you use the other slot in that stage, and pull the knife toward you again. Usually 1-2 pulls through Stage 2 and Stage 3 will sharpen or re-sharpens any knife. This sharpener is expensive, but you should never need another sharpener and it keeps a variety of knives super sharp. Warranty: three-year household warranty.

Tomato and onion: Easily cut thin slices

Carrot tops: Easily removed with one stroke

Foam peanut: Easily cut a thin slice

Paper: Easily cut several clean slices with no grabbing

silver medal seal

dianova diamon knife sharpener

Dianova Cook Double Sided Diamond Sharpener. This hand-held sharpener and its diamond grit surfaces did a very good job sharpening several of my straight edge steel knives. It also nicely sharpened several pairs of my wife’s scissors and other blades. The device measures 10” long, has a handle constructed of strong composite material, and is lightweight and easy to use. It has three functions, including a coarse side for initial sharpening, a fine side for final sharpening, and two rounded edges, which serve as a sharpening steel for honing your blades. The diamond grit surfaces are made from monocrystalline diamonds with a coarse grit rating of 350 and a fine grit rating of 600. I used 5 to 6 strokes on both sides (coarse then fine) and was very happy with the level of sharpening for this hand tool. Warranty: 100% money back guarantee.

Tomato and onion: Easy with the tomato, a little harder to get thin slices with the onion

Carrot tops: Easily removed with one stroke

Foam peanut: Slight resistance and minor tearing but provided a nice slice

Paper: Easily cut several slices with only slight resistance

silver medal seal

priority chef knife sharpener

PriorityChef Knife Sharpener. With only two slots, this sharpener is very compact, which makes it easy to handle and use regardless of whether you have large or small hands. One slot is for coarse sharpening, the other for fine. The manufacturer recommends running knives 6 to 12 times through each slot, depending on the dullness of the blade. As with many other sharpeners, diamond coated wheels do the work. The small size and low weight allow this sharpener to be stored in a kitchen drawer and carried along on a road trip. The ergonomic handle and non-slip cushion on the base make it stable, comfortable, and safe to use. Often sold for under $20, this sharpener is a bargain yet does admirable job of keeping your knives sharp. Warranty: 60-day 100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back.

Tomato and onion: Sliced easily in nice thin slices, onion took a little more pressure but also produced good clean slices

Carrot tops: Easily removed with one stroke

Foam peanut: Sliced off a nice piece

Paper: Sliced paper OK with only a slight rip

bronze medal seal

v sharp classic knife sharpener

V-Sharp Classic II (a.k.a. Warthog Sharpeners) . With several parts, this sharpener looks a bit like Rube Goldberg device and functions reasonably well. Its heavy duty black-finished steel frame (1.14 pounds), rubber non-slip base, and thumb grip make it very stable. The adjustable blade guide can be fine tuned to sharpening angles of 20˚, 25˚, and 30˚. Double sided 325 grit diamond rods and finishing steels allow you to sharpen and hone both sides of your blades at once. The fancy package includes an instructional DVD, and the unit is easy to use and works quickly. However, the resulting blade sharpness is slightly less than average. Warranty: Three years.

Tomato and onion: Easily sliced but difficult to get really thin slices, the onion took a fair amount of pressure

Carrot tops: Removed with one swipe

Foam peanut: Cut a jagged slice, then a nice thin one

Paper: Sliced cleanly twice, then the third one ripped

not recommended seal

sharpening rods with knife being sharpened in rods

Bavarian Edge Kitchen Knife Sharpener. Heavily advertised on TV, this device has two independent spring-action arms made of tungsten carbide, which move and adjust as you push and pull your knife through the sharpener. For coarse sharpening of a chef’s knife, you hold the knife at a slight angle with the handle elevated and pull the blade through 3 to 4 times. Then you reverse the angle, position the knife tip higher up, and pull toward you 4 to 5 times. The instruction booklet also includes methods for sharpening serrated knives and single bevel Japanese knives. Accumulated carbon particles can be easily wiped off the two sharpening arms. This device is primarily for honing, not sharpening, and you’ll get the best results on a knife that is already relatively sharp. “As Seen On TV” ads show a plastic credit card being sharpened in the unit, then used to cut into a tomato. The device is advertised as the “World’s Best Knife Sharpener,” but it isn’t.

Tomato and onion: Not great results, tore a few slices in the tomato and the blade had trouble going through the tough layers of onion skin

Carrot tops: Took a couple of swipes to get the tops cut off

Foam peanut: Tore the Styrofoam and never got a clean slice

Paper: Never able to get a good slice, tore the paper each time

not recommended seal

knife sharpener professional system

Knife Sharpener Professional Kitchen Sharpening System. This was our least favorite sharpening system of the lot. It comes with no instructions whatsoever, and we had to search online for an assembly manual. Once put together, the device has multiple connections that are too loose to provide consistent sharpening angles for the four provided sharpening stones. To stabilize the unit, it must be mounted on a thick wood block. The clamping device that holds your knife in place often rubs against the sharpening stone itself, which dramatically decreases the stone’s useful life over time. After a few strokes of the sharpening arm, several of the connecting bolts come loose. Once you get the hang of using this device, it does work. But the sharpening is tedious and awkward, and it’s a pain to change the four sharpening stones (120, 320, 600 and 1,200 grades of coarseness). The manufacturer advertises its “perfect industrial design, beautiful appearance.” But this device looks somewhat inelegant and is clunky to use.

Tomato and onion: Not too easily sliced, had to hold both

Carrot tops: Took two strokes

Foam peanut: Tore the Styrofoam while cutting

Paper: One clean slice, two that tore the paper

 

detail of sharp, unsharp, and resharpened knife blades

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