- 1 The Most Popular Types of Knife Sharpeners
- 2 How to Pick the Best Knife Sharpener
- 3 Reviews of the Best Knife Sharpeners in 2020
- 3.1 1. Chef’ Sharpener CS-T01 3 Stage – Best to Buy in 2020
- 3.2 2. Chef’sChoice XV Professional – Best Electric Sharpener
- 3.3 3. Work Sharp WSKTS-W – Best Knife Sharpening System
- 3.4 4. Sharp Pebble Premium – Best Sharpening Stone
- 3.5 5. Smith’s PP1 Pocket – Best Pocket Knife Sharpener
- 3.6 6. Lansky Deluxe 5-Stone Sharpening – Best Manual Knife Sharpener
- 3.7 7. Utopia Kitchen 10 Inch Steel – Best Honing Steel
- 3.8 8. Knife Sharpener Electric 3-in-1 – Best Electric Knife Sharpener Runner-up
- 3.9 9. WEN 4270 10-Inch Two-Direction – Best for Heavy Duty
- 3.10 10. Smith’s DRET Diamond – Best for Serrated Blades
Finding the best knife sharpener can be as tricky as finding a decent knife. Some sharpening devices only work on specific types of knives. Plus, the resulting sharpness level depends on not only the quality of the sharpener, but also how much time and effort you spend on the sharpening process.
Let’s take a look at the different types of sharpening devices and decide which will best suit your needs.
The Most Popular Types of Knife Sharpeners
1. Pull-through Sharpeners
Pull-through kitchen knife sharpeners come in two varieties: electric and manual.
Electric sharpeners have internal motors that spin sharpening wheels set to precise angles. These grind the blade as you pull your knife through. They feature a coarse sharpening slot with diamond, stone, or metal abrasives, and up to three fine honing and polishing slots with diamond or ceramic abrasives.
Manual pull-through sharpeners look similar to electric machines, but have no motors. You sharpen knives by placing them into the slots and pulling them through. Manual sharpeners cost less but require more time and labor than electric models. However, they can still get your knives plenty sharp.
Pull-through sharpeners are fast and easy to use. They are the best knife sharpeners for cooks who don’t want to spend a lot of time fine-tuning their blades on a series of stones.
2. Sharpening Kits
Sharpening kits offer great customization: They typically have several coarseness options, as well as guides for sharpening your kitchen knives to the desired angle.
Sharpening kits or systems can be manual or electric. They tend to require more time and effort than other sharpeners, and there’s a learning curve—it takes some practice to sharpen your knives without damaging the blades. A good sharpening kit is worth it, though; once you’ve mastered the technique, you can give your blades keener edges than they had fresh out of the factory.
3. Sharpening Stones
Until a few decades ago, a set of sharpening stones was a must-have item for any serious cook. The act of dragging a blade against stone was practically a sacred ritual performed only by the master of a household.
Even with the emergence of super-effective electric machines, whetstones and oil stones still enjoy a special favor among knife enthusiasts. This is thanks to their excellent ability to repair and completely transform dull blades. Stones are also associated with the sense of accomplishment one feels after bringing their blade to a mirror-like shine.
Every stone has a grit number, similar to that of sandpaper. Lower numbers indicate courser abrasives which can remove more material per stroke. Finer grits (higher numbers) are for fine-tuning the edge. When sharpening kitchen knives, a coarse grit of 1000 should only be used once every four to six months. Fine tuning with higher-number stones can be done after every few uses of the knife.
4. Honing Rods
Honing rods, also called sharpening rods or honing steel, are the simplest tools in the world of sharpeners. To improve the sharpness of your blades, you run them along the rod at a specific angle.
Honing rods come in different sizes. People with small, delicate hands will feel more comfortable holding a shorter rod (six to nine inches), as they’re lighter, easier to maneuver, and less fatiguing. A longer rod (10 inches and up) is better for long knives, because it allows you to run the whole length of the blade along it in one go.
Contrary to popular belief, these rods can not only give your dull blade a good polish, but with proper materials (diamond dust for example), they can actually repair mildly damaged blades. With their simple construction, however, honing rods aren’t among the best knife sharpeners to use when you want to bring your kitchen knives to surgical sharpness.
How to Pick the Best Knife Sharpener
Most people have more than one type of knife in their kitchen. They can be categorized in many ways.
In terms of edge angle, most chef’s knives are either Western or Asian style. Western knives, designed for dealing with animal-based foods and tough vegetables, typically have a large, strong blade with a 20-degree edge. Asian knives, meanwhile, are intended more for fish and softer vegetables, and have finer angles (13 – 15 degrees). Wider-angle blades are stronger, while finer angles allow for more precision.
The knives can also be categorized based on their blade grinds, or in other words, the shape of their blade. These edge styles get the names flat, hollow, taper, convex, and chisel. It is impossible for a single sharpener to fix and polish all of the types. However, the best knife sharpener for you is the one that can handle the majority of your knives.
If all your knives belong to a single knife set, it will be easy to find the right sharpener. Determine if yours is an Asian or Western set, as well as the type of blade grind, and buy a sharpener with the same angle.
If you have all the different kinds of knives, from German to Japanese (which is often the case for serious chefs), your search for the best knife sharpener can be a bit more complicated. You will either have to get more than one pull-through sharpener, or learn how to work a semi-manual or fully-manual tool (think whetstones, oilstones, or full sharpening systems).
A word on serrated knives: you don’t need to sharpen a serrated knife regularly, but when you do it’s often difficult to find a device that does the job well. The most that a typical pull-through sharpener, stone, or sharpening band can do is remove some burrs from the pointed teeth, which only goes so far. The many teeth on a serrated edge require a tiny device to get in between them. There are a select few options for properly sharpening serrations, which we will point out as we get to them.
Reviews of the Best Knife Sharpeners in 2020
We checked out the most popular knife sharpeners currently on the market and reviewed the ones we think offer the best performance.
- Chef’ Sharpener CS-T01 3 Stage – Best to Buy in 2020
- Chef’sChoice XV Professional – Best Electric Sharpener
- Work Sharp WSKTS-W – Best Knife Sharpening System
- Sharp Pebble Premium – Best Sharpening Stone
- Smith’s PP1 Pocket Multifunction – Best Pocket Knife Sharpener
- Lansky Deluxe 5-Stone – Best Manual Knife Sharpener
- Utopia Kitchen 10 Inch Steel – Best Honing Steel
- Grocery Art Electric 3-in-1 – Best Electric Knife Sharpener Runner-up
- WEN 4270 10-Inch Two-Direction -Best for Heavy Duty
- Smith’s DRET Diamond Retractable – Best for Serrated Blades
Here’s our picks for the Best Knife Sharpeners.
1. Chef’ Sharpener CS-T01 3 Stage – Best to Buy in 2020
With three stages of repairing, sharpening, and honing, the Chef’s Sharpener handheld sharpening device offers a quick yet long-lasting fix for your knife without bleeding your wallet.
The Chef’s Sharpener is one of the most robust and best-constructed pull-through sharpeners we have ever used. It’s made of solid ABS plastic, with stainless steel covers at both the sharpening slots and the base for enhanced durability and ease of cleaning. It’s hefty and solid, which helps keep it in place as you work.
The CS-T01 has three sharpening stages: coarse, medium, and fine.
In the coarse stage, diamond dust rods straighten the knife edge and remove some of the burr. The Medium stage further de-burrs the edge with tungsten carbide abrasives. Finally, the knife is polished with ceramic rods in the Fine stage.
If your knife needs sharpening, pull it about seven times through each of the slots, starting with coarse first, then medium, then fine. For a fine polish of the blade before and after every use, skip the first two stages and run it eight to ten times through the fine ceramic rods. If you’ve ever tried honing your knife with the base of your china bowl, these rods have about the same effect, except they do it at a more stable angle. They subtly refine the blade, giving it a “sweeter” cut without removing a noticeable amount of material from the edge like the other stages would.
The three stages are what sets it apart from one-stage sharpeners. One-stage devices typically feature a V-shaped abrasive carbide slot. When you run your knife through this slot, it “peels” the blade’s edge, removing quite a bit of material along the way. Without a diamond dust slot to first straighten the edge, the carbide may remove more material than necessary and can sometimes expand chips. The lack of ceramic rods also means tiny chips and dust may not be completely removed and may get into your food.
For stability, the sharpener comes with rubber patches under the base. These are not sticky, yet they do an excellent job keeping the sharpener in one place. This helps prevent slipping and, thus, accidents while you’re working on your knives.
Featuring both substance and style, and offered at a very reasonable price, the Chef’s Sharpener is easily our favorite when it comes to picking the best knife sharpener.
2. Chef’sChoice XV Professional – Best Electric Sharpener
Our team was unanimous in picking the Chef’s Choice Trizor XV as the best electric knife sharpener to buy in 2020. We love that it’s both effective and easy to use, and can even be used to hone serrated knives.
The Trizor XV can bring your knives back to factory-level sharpness. It’s a three-stage unit with two diamond abrasives for coarse and fine sharpening, as well as a flexible abrasive stropping system for a final polish.
The little gadget is one of the few that are powerful enough to reduce your 20-degree edges to 15 degrees, hence the name XV. According to Chef’s Choice (and simple physics, for that matter), the smaller angle usually found on Japanese knives allows them to make more precise cuts than the traditional 20-degree edges found in Europe and the U.S. That said, if you want to maintain the edge of your 20-degree knives, Chef’s Choice also has another sharpener for that.
You will feel a sharp difference in how easily your knives cut, but not just because of the reduced angle. The fine sharpening and polishing stages remove all the little chips that form over time and create microscopic grooves on the blades. This allows them to cut smoothly through the toughest materials.
It’s also easy to use. The sharpening slot guides keep your knife at the proper angle. Since each slot grinds only one side of the edge, it requires more steps, but that also offers this sharpener more versatility. It’s a good idea to page through the manual first for instructions on how to treat specific kinds of kitchen knives, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
3. Work Sharp WSKTS-W – Best Knife Sharpening System
There’s a number of well-rounded knife sharpening systems out there, so this was harder to decide on. Even though it requires more effort than some, we settled on the Work Sharp because it comes in at half the cost of the competition.
If you’re new to the world of knives and tools, know that Work Sharp electric sharpeners can tackle kitchen knives, outdoor knives, and a plethora of other tools.
The Work Sharp includes only one speed option. It has guides for several angles but not one for 15-degree Asian blades. If you have a Japanese santoku, you’ll have to learn to sharpen it without a guide.
On the other hand, the package includes nine belts in three grit levels. The coarse belt is for thicker tools or really dull blades, medium works for normal kitchen knives, and fine is for sharpening serrated blades or honing.
If you’ve only used rods and manual handheld sharpeners all your life, expect a learning curve with the Work Sharp. While there are guides to help you get exact angles, it’s still easy to scratch your blades. Or worse, your knife may come out with a damaged edge, especially when you use the coarse belt. We recommend starting with your cheapest knives until you’ve gotten used to the process.
Even then, it’s best to use the coarse belt only for thick, very dull, or severely damaged blades. Your delicate kitchen knives shouldn’t see that level of abrasives more than twice a year.As a brand, Work Sharp is a veteran in sharpening tools. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that your knives come out razor-sharp after both sharpening and honing. And, as many users have admitted, you will become obsessed with the sharpness and will start looking for more opportunities to use the tool.
4. Sharp Pebble Premium – Best Sharpening Stone
The Sharp Pebble kit has all you need to get started with stone-style sharpening. It’s a modern take on the classic stone with two grit levels, an angle guide, and a guidebook for new learners.
The Sharp Pebble whetstone sharpener comes with everything you need: the double stone itself, a beautiful base to stabilize it, and an angle guide.
The stone is a combination of two waterstones. The blue part, which has a grit or grain density of 1000, is for sharpening dull blades. The white side, meanwhile, has a 6000 grain density for finer honing and finishing. This is the perfect grit duo for newbies and experts alike. It takes a little practice to master, but the simplicity and low cost of the Sharp Pebble make it one of the best knife sharpener options.
Remember that a 1000 grit whetstone is quite coarse, so you shouldn’t use it very often. Once every four to six months is sufficient. Honing with the fine side, however, can be done much more often.
The base is a solid, durable block of bamboo with a slip-resistant layer on the underside. Its upper silicone component grips the stone to give it extra stability. The silicone and bamboo are both easy to wipe clean.
The set, however, is not without flaws. While most customers find the guide rod useful, there are complaints that it leaves marks and scratches. You may want to try it out on your less expensive blades first, especially if you’re not already practiced with whetstones.
5. Smith’s PP1 Pocket – Best Pocket Knife Sharpener
Compact, affordable, yet multifunctional, the Pocket Pal from Smith’s is intended for use on pocket knives and outdoor tools. Think of this little foldable unit as the Swiss Army knife of knife sharpeners.
Small enough to fit into your pocket, the Pocket Pal sharpener has a diamond-coated rear rod that can fold neatly into its shell. Since the rod is tapered to a small point, it can slide between the teeth on your serrated knife, delivering a proper sharpening.
The Pocket Pal comes with two slots for quick sharpening. It has a coarse carbide slot for revitalizing dull edges, and a fine one made of ceramic for providing a smoother hone. This ceramic slot can work on both straight and serrated knives.
Thanks to its three sharpening options, the Pocket Pal can handle any type of pocket blade, from a brawny hunting knife to a straight-edged camping pocket knife. Theoretically, it can even tackle bulky swords and cleavers, though such large blades would take a lot of time.
The Pocket Pal is easy to carry around on fishing or camping trips, and with a concave grip it’s foolproof: You will know intuitively how and where to hold it properly. It’s small and may feel awkward if you have big hands, but that’s the price of portability.
6. Lansky Deluxe 5-Stone Sharpening – Best Manual Knife Sharpener
We picked the Lansky kit as the best manual knife sharpening system knowing it is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It takes time, but if you enjoy the process of giving your blades new razor-sharp edges, you will fall in love with this versatile tool.
The kit comes in a neat box with, among other things, five stones of different grits and colors, making it look like a playkit. And it is fun to play with.
With guide rods and a knife clamp, it allows you to sharpen your knives to various angles with satisfying precision. It can handle any type of kitchen knife: chef’s, butcher, fillet, and even knives for hunting and outdoor uses. The small bottle of honing oil that comes in the package helps too.
With the smallest angle being 17 degrees, the guide rods won’t be so useful on Asian knives, which usually come with edges of 13 to 15 degrees. You can sharpen them without the rods, of course, but it takes more practice and a steady hand.
7. Utopia Kitchen 10 Inch Steel – Best Honing Steel
The Utopia wins our vote as the best honing steel to buy in 2020: It’s solid, does its job well, and comes at a reasonable price.
The honing steel comes in two length options: 10 inches and 12 inches. Made of carbon steel and plated with a thick layer of nickel-chrome, it feels solid and properly weighted (11.4 ounces). It has a solid plastic handle with a “bolster” that balances out part of the weight of the metal, providing comfort during the honing process. This bolster also helps with safety, as it keeps your hand from slipping down while holding the rod in a vertical direction.
Note that while it’s sometimes called “sharpening steel,” the Utopia is really a honing tool—it doesn’t create new edges on your blade. You will still have to give your knives proper sharpening with more serious tools every six to 12 months. This rod’s purpose is to keep the edges keen between more major sharpenings.
The rod does well at what it is designed to do. It will straighten curled blade edges and remove little metal burrs, keeping the blade sharp and smooth. Give your blade a few strokes, and you won’t have any problem with tough chicken skin or ripe tomatoes.
A large ring at the end of the handle allows you to hang it on a rack or hook it on the wall. It’s a minor but much-appreciated feature, because you will need to hone your knives often—ideally before every use. Keeping it somewhere easy to reach would be a good idea.
Pro tip: After cleaning, season the rod with a touch of cooking oil to prevent rust.
8. Knife Sharpener Electric 3-in-1 – Best Electric Knife Sharpener Runner-up
It may not be the most expensive or popular electric knife sharpener out there, but this little sharpener from Grocery Art has features that are superior to many pricier alternatives. It’s lightweight and capable of sharpening scissors and screwdrivers in addition to knives.
The electric Grocery Art sharpener has a very small footprint. It can fit on the smallest countertop and weighs only 1.32 pounds, or one-fourth the weight of the Chef’s Choice. To make up for the lack of weight, there are suction cups at the base to increase stability.
The Grocery Art comes with four slots for sharpening and honing your kitchen knives. It also has one for shears and scissors and one for screwdrivers—a feature rarely seen in other hand-held sharpeners. It provides a sharp blade after just a couple of pulls.
The little motor runs on electricity via a retractable cord on its underside, and it gets hot rather quickly. The maximum time allowed for constant use is 3 minutes. It won’t give you a problem for two or three knives at a time, but “binge sharpening” is probably not a good idea.
9. WEN 4270 10-Inch Two-Direction – Best for Heavy Duty
Looking for a sharpener that works not only on kitchen knives, but also bulky garden tools? You may like the WEN 4270 sharpening system. It’s more of an industrial-grade tool with a versatile jig for various blade angles.
This is a heavy-duty wet/dry sharpening system. It features a 10-inch stone wheel for coarse sharpening, plus an 8-inch leather-stropping wheel for polishing your blades.
You begin with the stone, using the jig and guide for the desired angle. Since the stone is highly abrasive (220 grit), you may want to start with cheaper axes, chisels, or damaged knives until you get the hang of it. Otherwise, you risk leaving ugly scratches on your expensive blades.
You may also want to follow it with a few dressing stones of lower coarseness levels. We recommend the finer 1000 grit and 6000 grit for thinner, smaller knives. Those more fragile knives will also do better if you sharpen them wet. The water can reduce the heat caused by friction and act as a lubricant to minimize damage to the edge.
After sharpening with the stone, your blade should be sharp enough to cut through paper. If you want to give it a final polish, move on to the stropping wheel. You can do it dry, but some sharpening oil for lubrication makes for slightly better results. Your blade will shine like a mirror after this step.
Weighing in at 36 pounds, the WEN is not an appliance you’d want to put on your kitchen countertop for casual sharpening. Rather, it’s designed for serious knife enthusiasts and outdoorsmen who need a strong and versatile sharpener to handle their knives and tools.
10. Smith’s DRET Diamond – Best for Serrated Blades
Serrations are difficult to sharpen, so serrated knives require a more specialized type of sharpener. Smith’s retractable DRET retractable sharpening pen is specifically designed for the job.
The sharpener comes in the shape and size of a pen with a retractable rod at one end. The tapered tip of this diamond-dust-coated rod can get to the smallest crevices between the teeth of your knife, returning them to their original sharpness. Being so compact in size, it can even sharpen gutting hooks.
The DRET is great for single or double-bevel pocket knives, sport knives, and most tactical knives. For small and medium-sized knives whose blades are only partially serrated, this rod can be a lifesaver. While the tapered part is for sharpening the teeth, the half-rounded end of the rod can take care of the straight part of the edge.
Sharpening a long blade will surely be time-consuming. However, when there’s serrations, it’s technically the only effective way to do it.
When not in use, the rod is kept safely inside the handle. It even has a clip to secure it in your pocket.