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.
Every time you use your knife, burrs and chips develop at a microscopic level. These build up little by little, making you spend a tiny bit more effort with every cut. Precision becomes harder to achieve. Before too long, you will find yourself contemplating how to approach the food with your knife without leaving too many rags or tears. Instead of supporting your creativity, a dull knife holds you back in the kitchen.
The Most Popular Types of Knife Sharpeners
The four most popular types of sharpening devices for kitchen knives include honing rods, pull-through sharpeners, electric devices with abrasive belts, and whetstones.
In this graph, we compare them in terms of ease of use, the maximum level of sharpness each device can offer, and their prices.
How to Pick a Knife Sharpener
1. What Grit is the Abrasive?
Whetstones, sandpaper, and abrasive belts are usually categorized by their “grit”.
Grit is abrasive particles or granules of sand, diamond, or other stones. The grit number indicates how coarse or fine the abrasive is. The more grit an abrasive has (the higher the number), the finer it is and the less material it can take off a knife blade.
Abrasives with low grit numbers can remove a lot of material per stroke, and therefore are very useful in repairing heavily damaged knives. Chefs take their knives to them only once or twice a year to rejuvenate the edge. Finer abrasives can be used more often to fine tune the blade.
The grit system is not consistent between different areas, brands and types of material. It is important to follow the instructions from the manufacturer to get the right grit when buying your stones or belts.
Pull-through sharpeners, even the type with diamond or metal dust, don’t typically come with clear grit numbers. On a multi-stage one, the first stage is usually the coarsest and should be applied only occasionally, while the later stages are suitable for frequent use.
2. What Grind and Angle is the Knife Edge?
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- or 22-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.
Some of the top kitchen knives that are hybrids, with edge angle between 15 and 18 degrees.
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 right knife sharpener for you is 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 a 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 waterstones, oilstones, or full sharpening systems).
3. 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.
How Long Should It Take to Sharpen a Knife?
The amount of time it takes to sharpen a knife depends on various factors: your level of skill, the type of sharpening device that you use, the type, size and material of the knife, the knife’s condition, and the desired level of sharpness.
Per our estimation, here’s the time it typically takes to bring a chef’s knife to the maximum level of sharpness that the sharpening device allows:
- Sharpening rods (for honing): 1 – 3 minutes
- Pull-through sharpener: 3 – 4 minutes
- Electric pull-through sharpener: 3 – 4 minutes
- Electric sharpener with multiple abrasive belts: 10 – 15 minutes
- Sharpening stones: 20 – 40 minutes
Reviews of the Best Knife Sharpeners in 2021
We checked out the most popular knife sharpeners currently on the market and reviewed the ones we think offer the best performance.
- Best to Buy: Cubikook 3-Stage Knife Sharpener
- Best Electric Sharpener: Chef’sChoice XV Professional
- Best Sharpening System: Work Sharp WSKTS-W
- Best Sharpening Stone: Sharp Pebble Premium
- Best Pocket Knife Sharpener: Smith’s PP1 Pocket Multifunction
- Best Manual Knife Sharpener: Lansky Deluxe 5-Stone
- Best Honing Steel: Utopia Kitchen 10 Inch Steel –
- Best Electric (Runner-up): Grocery Art Electric 3-in-1
- Best for Heavy Duty: WEN 4270 10-Inch Two-Direction
- Best for Serrated Blades: Smith’s DRET Diamond Retractable
1. Cubikook 3-Stage Knife Sharpener – Best to Buy in 2021
With three stages of sharpening, plus a design that ensures safe sharpening, the Cubikook CS-T01 sharpener offers a quick, effortless, yet long-lasting fix for your knife. This handheld device is easily our favorite for the best knife sharpener.
- Solid, stable construction
- Easy to clean
- Effective at sharpening and honing
- Affordable price
- Not suitable for severely damaged blades
This compact sharpener features a complete working section with three sharpening stages, eliminating the need for separate tools to maintain your kitchen knives.
The first two stages are designed for serious sharpening (and thus should only be employed sparingly on knives with visible chips and burrs). There’s a coarse slot that boasts two diamond-dust coated rods, which remove sizable burrs and chips on your dull knife. The medium slot, with tungsten carbide blades, further deburrs and smooths it.
Featuring two ceramic rods, the fine slot is the most friendly to the delicate edge. It straightens and refines the edge without removing more material. If you’ve ever honed your knife with a steel or the bottom of a ceramic bowl, this slot has the same, if not improved, effect. Your knife can meet it before every cooking session to get its edge refined and ready for the toughest of foods.
We’ve had our hands on quite a few versions of pull-through sharpeners, and the CS-T01 wins hands down when it comes to construction.
Most pull-throughs employ an awkward design where the working part sits on a tall, hollow base. This creates a high gravity center, making the device prone to tipping.
The Cubikook CS-T01’s working section, meanwhile, is tightly fastened on a wide, flat, and solid base. This gives it the advantage of a low gravity center. The base has two strips of silica underneath to help further stabilize it, effectively eliminating the risk of flipping or slipping as you sharpen your knives.
The main body of the device is made of solid ABS plastic. It boasts stainless steel covers for enhanced durability and ease of cleaning.
All in all, the Cubikook CS-T01 is a well-rounded handheld sharpening device. We recommend it for every home cook who wants an effective sharpener that’s also safe, quick, and doesn’t require too much effort to use.
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 2021. We love that it’s both effective and easy to use, and can even be used to hone serrated knives.
- Easy to use
- Sharpens and hones straight and serrated knives
- Heavy (4.7 pounds)
- High price tag
The Trizor XV can bring your knives back to factory-level sharpness. It’s a three-stage electric sharpener 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. 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.
- 3 sets of rings included
- Reforms razor sharp edges
- Has angle guides
- No guide for Asian knives
- May scratch blade
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.
- Set includes everything you need
- Balanced duo grit
- Ebook guide included
- Good customer service
- Hardness of guide is high and may scratch your knives
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 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, portable
- Tackles both straight and serrated blades
- Has fine honing option
- May feel awkward when held in larger hands
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.
- Easy (and fun) to use
- Does both sharpening and honing
- Works for various knife types and edge angles
- No guides for Asian blades
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 2021: It’s solid, does its job well, and comes at a reasonable price.
- Easy to use
- Effective in keeping knife edge
- Made of durable materials
- Not dishwasher safe
- Doesn’t really “sharpen” knives
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.
- Sharpens and hones knives, scissors, screwdrivers
- Lightweight, portable (1.32 pounds)
- Retractable cord
- Could be loud on operation
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.
- Fast, effective sharpening
- Has jig for angle guide
- Single speed
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.
- Works on both straight and serrated knives
- Coarse abrasive diamond dust (400 grit)
- Not efficient for big knives
- Can be too coarse for thin edges
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.
Why It’s Worth Buying a Sharpener
Do you feel excited every time you try out a new kitchen knife?
Regardless of the brand or material, your new knife seems to always offer the perfect cut. Every motion you make with it is effortless. Precision is on-the-dot. Prepping your meals feels too fast because it is such a joy to use the knife!
With time and use, even the best knives will eventually become dull. You could cut the wrong thing and instantly chip or break the knife, but most of the time, dullness doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a gradual, almost imperceptible process.
The good news is, there are tools you can use to maintain the keenness of your knife’s edge and your delight in food prepping. Those are home sharpening devices.
A good sharpener will burnish, maintain, or fix the edge and prolong the lifespan of your knives. Simple devices like honing rods straighten and keep the edge keen for longer in between sharpenings. Advanced tools like whetstones, meanwhile, can fix severely damaged blades, rejuvenate the edge, and re-define edge angle, effectively keeping your beloved knives at the factory sharpness level.
The right sharpener will help maintain and repair your blades properly as soon as the need arises, all in the comfort and convenience of your own home. Take the time to learn how to use them so food prepping in the kitchen can always be fast, efficient, and enjoyable.
You may even end up finding yourself a new hobby in sharpening.
Top Knife Sharpener Brands
1. Work Sharp
Work Sharp Tools is a brand under Darex, LLC. With three decades of experience, Darex makes some of the best electric sharpeners on the market. Its drill sharpener Drill Doctor has won prestigious awards from Sears Catalog, Handyman Club of America, National Hardware Show, and others.
The experience is employed on Work Sharp Tools, which focuses on manual and powered sharpening devices for culinary, outdoor, and woodwork tools. Knife enthusiasts love its powered handheld sharpeners, which come with whole sets of quality abrasive belts.
Shun belongs to the KAI Group, which has been making cutlery in Japan since the early 20th century. They make fine knives, and certainly know what makes a sharp edge.
Despite the high price tags that come with them, Shun duo-grit stones and honing steels are sought after by cooks and chefs who trust in their high quality materials and craftsmanship.
3. Sharp Pebble
Sharp Pebble also sells knives and strops, but it’s mostly known as a brand of affordable sharpening stones.
Interestingly, Sharp Pebble doesn’t sell their stones separately. They always come in sets of a double faced stone or two or three separate stones, a guide, a stone holder, and occasionally a strop. Despite the budget-friendly prices, these stones offer performance that edges in on that of high-end products.
Cubikook is a rising brand that’s already setting new standards for kitchen tools and appliances.
Variety is not one of its strengths; however, the few products that it does offer are quickly becoming popular among home cooks thanks to their durability, functionality, and ease of use. Its Chef’ Sharpener CS-T01, a handheld pull-through sharpener that comes in solid ABS construction and with three stages of sharpening and honing, is one of the new must-haves in home kitchens in the US.
5. Chef’s Choice
Launched in 1985, Chef’s Choice is a brand under EdgeCraft Corporation. It specializes in small tools and appliances, including kitchen knives, waffle makers, food slicers, egg cookers, and sharpeners.
Chef’s Choice electric sharpeners are made with 100% diamond abrasives and multi-stage technology, making them fast and highly effective devices. Made in cooperation with Wusthoff, these sharpeners are trusted and used by home cooks and professional chefs worldwide.
Lansky is a brand of outdoor knives and sharpening kits. The brand was established about 40 years ago, when Arthur Lansky Levine developed the controlled angle sharpening system and started Arthur Lansky Levine & Associates.
Lansky is most known for its precision sharpening systems. These systems are compact-sized kits with small abrasive stones and honers, clamps, and angle guides that allow the customer to sharpen their knives at consistent angles.
Spyderco is more famous for its pocket knives and doesn’t offer a wide range of sharpening products, but its Tri-Angle Sharpmaker is very popular among knife enthusiasts.
The system, invented more than 40 years ago, employs a simple and effective design that both novices and experts can use to give their blades a new, razor-like edge.
1. Should I Sharpen a New Knife?
A new knife usually comes reasonably sharp. Before putting it on the shelf, the factory has sharpened it to a specific angle and given it bevels that are suitable for the tasks it’s intended for. When sharpening the knife by yourself, you could potentially change the bevel(s) and alternate the edge angle.
If you have very little experience in knife sharpening, the safest bet is to use a new knife until it becomes dull before sharpening it. That is, unless your knife comes already damaged and there’s no way for you to return it.
A professional chef or knife enthusiast may have particularly specific preferences for the knife edge. However, just because a knife is not customized to your preference doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t cut it for you. You may want to give it a thorough visual inspection and try using the new knife for a few days. That will ensure you have a better feel for the knife and know what, if any, adjustments are needed.
If you feel the difference in the edge angle or bevel and it affects your cutting experience, then it’s not too late to take it to the stones. This sharpening typically involves reprofiling the edge to a particular angle, altering the bevel, or creating/removing secondary edges.
2. Do You Push or Pull When Sharpening a Knife?
When sharpening on a stone, the push stroke is also referred to as the edge-leading stroke, and the pull stroke, the edge-trailing stroke. Each of these styles has its own pros and cons.
The edge leading stroke compacts the steel and removes more material. It is the more effective style when you want to fix a damaged edge, but it also causes chipping. The trailing stroke creates a keener edge, but because it stretches the steel, it tends to create foil burr.
You can either push or pull, or combine the two strokes when sharpening a knife.
We recommend the edge leading stroke on coarse (low-grit) stones for edge rejuvenation. You can finish the sharpening session on a fine stone with the edge trailing stroke, but stop after about 30-40 laps before the foil burr forms.
3. What Is the Last Thing to Do After Sharpening a Knife?
After sharpening a knife, you can polish it with very fine sandpaper or stropping leather. This step is optional.
Once the sharpening and honing is complete, it’s crucial to handwash your knife in soapy water and wipe it dry immediately with a soft cloth. Do not leave it wet or dirty, as rust and discolorations can appear really fast in those conditions.
If you have a high-carbon knife, you may also want to coat the knife with vegetable oil to prevent rust.
There are many different variables that decide the usability of a kitchen knife sharpening tool, and there’s no such thing as a perfect device for everyone. We hope our picks and reviews of the top knife sharpeners made it easier to find the one that most suits your needs and budget.