High-quality knife sets can only go so far without proper maintenance and regular upkeep. Thus, it makes sense to treat these knives with the best manual knife sharpeners. These tools can be found in almost all kitchens, and they aren’t expensive at all compared to other options. Plus, manual knife sharpeners have remained popular among cooks and chefs of all levels— even considering the emergence of motorized, electric sharpeners— for all the right reasons.
How to Choose the Best Manual Knife Sharpener
We thought it would serve you well to provide the readers with a detailed buying guide, along with our picks and reviews for the best manual knife sharpeners. That way, you can browse through options all the more easier and make more informed choices. Here are a few things to bear in mind.
One would assume that with the prominence of powered knife sharpeners, these manual sharpeners would fall into obscurity. It’s quite the contrary, much to our pleasant surprise, to learn that cooks and chefs of various levels still use the original sharpening method.
What’s more, it’s a good thing that the best manual knife sharpeners don’t cost a fortune. Rather, they are available for purchase from $10 all the way to $40. Several aspects factor into the final cost, so let’s break things down into smaller categories:
Splurge Level: from $30 to $40
Products in this price range are all tri-stage. Materials selected as abrasives are of high quality and durability, the most common of which are either diamond or sapphire. Regarding performance, these manual sharpeners work with blades of various designs, styles, materials, length, and edges, even those of specialty knives. Certain models can correct and repair heavily damaged or deformed knives.
Middle Tier: from $20 to $30
Tri-stage sharpeners are now downgraded to dual-stage ones, though you may still be able to find a triple-stage sharpener on rare occasions.
High-grade materials for the abrasives are still in play, but they are now used with moderation rather than liberally like the ones on the tier above. Instead, you’ll find the stages equipped with some sorts of carbide or ceramic.
Diamond now is often limited to the final honing stage, which is reserved for making small tweaks here and there or specialty knives of delicate nature and unconventional designs.
Cost-Effective Level: from $10 to $20
Similar to the mid-tier units, you can expect little to virtually none of the fancy features. The abrasives are now carbide tungsten, synthetics, ceramic, or a combination of all three. They can sharpen regular kitchen knives adequately, just not as well as premium models.
Low-Budget Level: below $10
Manual knife sharpeners of this price range are pocket-size, which comes in rather handy when you’re out in the open, like when you’re camping, going hunting or fishing. They may come in as single-stage or dual-stage units.
And understandably, they aren’t fit for specialty blades or tools other than knives, no matter how well-advertised their product description is.
2. The Blades
Regular kitchen knives are the norm, but hardly anyone uses a single knife for all kitchen tasks. There are bound to be other types of knives in the kitchen, but to put things in a nutshell, we’ll classify all knives based on origin, angle, and bevel.
If we’re going by origin, there’re Western knives and Asian knives.
While we’d love to do a full-on comparison between the two, it deserves an entry of its own rather than being crammed into a section. Instead, we made a comparison table for your convenience.
|Western knives||Asian knives|
The angle is formed between one edge of the blade and an imaginary line splitting the blade in half lengthwise. And the best manual knife sharpeners will shed off micro bits of metal to give you the desired angle.
Here’s the gist: the bigger the angle, the stronger and more durable the blade, but at the cost of a gradual loss of sharpness. If we’re going by angles:
- 30° to 35°: found in cleaver and butcher knives
- 25° to 30°: signature to outdoor utility knife like hunting knives and pocket knives
- 18° to 25°: the majority of knives belongs here, including chef’s knives, boning knives, and filet knives
- 12° to 18°: found in Japanese knives like the santoku, kataba, or fileting and paring knives.
Double and triple bevels are the norms for knives, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any other types. You can find other bevels, too.
The best manual sharpeners work with most knives, but it would also be nice to get one that incorporates a sharpening slot reserved for scissors as well. That way you won’t have to purchase an additional scissor sharpener.
3. Material of Abrasives
Manufacturers get to experiment with a wide range of materials for the abrasive— which is the surface that straightens, hones, and polishes the blade directly. The most common materials for the abrasive, but not limited to, are as follows:
- tungsten carbide, and
The way we ordered these materials are in descending order, in terms of price, hardness & durability, and effectiveness as abrasive.
4. Stages & Slots
The majority of manual knife sharpeners work with regular household kitchen knives with satisfactory results. But if you want to take things to the next level, there are models equipped with slots reserved for specialty blades, like serrated knives or pairs of scissors.
From our experience:
- Single-stage units are suitable for those in need of a quick fix.
- Dual-stage units— which are the majority of pull-through models— are plenty functional for casual cooks.
- Tri-stage units would only make sense for chefs who can spot the subtle difference in no time and actually understand its significance, which is time-consuming to explain and cannot be taught to the untrained eyes.
On the rare chance while you’re running the knife through each stage, the blade won't budge for even one millimeter once inserted between the slots. Your instinct would tell you to either apply more force to pull back, which spells troubles in the making.
If you’re not careful, you risk giving yourself a cut— whose severity goes from a mild scratch to a deep wound that needs medical attention, and somewhere in between.
Pick models with a firm handle that offers tight grip. Also, you should select slip-proof models, either by the unit’s own weight or rubber feet that keep the sharpener stationary, preventing it from slipping or sliding off the countertop.
We’ve also taken other factors into our selection process, like ease of use, ease of cleaning, sharpening time, and other miscellaneous aspects. We’ll get to this part as we review each product individually.
Reviews of the Best Manual Knife Sharpeners in 2021
If you need a quick recommendation of which manual knife sharpener suits what purpose best, the list below should be enough. Here are our picks:
- Cubikook Sharpener CS-T01 3-Stage — Best to Buy
- Chef’s Choice ProntoPro Diamond Hone 4643 — Best Chef’s Choice
- Smiths’ Adjustable Angle Pull-Thru 50264 — Best Smith’s
- Sunrise Pro Supreme Manual Knife Sharpener — Best One Stage
- KitchenIQ 50009 Manual Knife Sharpener — Best Two Stage
- Smith’s Pocket Pal PP1 Manual Knife Sharpener — Best Pocket
- Wamery Manual Knife Sharpener — Best for Knives & Scissors
For our in-depth reviews for each specific product, please find them below.
1. Cubikook Sharpener CS-T01 3-Stage — Best Manual Knife Sharpener to Buy
The Cubikook Sharpener CS-T01 Tri-Stage is our first pick of the batch for all the right reasons. The ABS-plastic handle feels safe to hold, while stainless steel covers the base and sharpening slots, giving the whole thing a sense of sturdiness and legitimacy.
Excellent overall performance
Great value for the money
Works with specialty knives
Doesn’t work with micro-toothed serrated knives
Cannot repair severely damaged knives
In case you didn’t know, this sharpener is also among our top picks for the best kitchen knife sharpeners to buy this year.
A Close-Up Look
A stylish look is only half of the game: substance matters, too. The strategic blend of various materials for the abrasives that makes the CS-T01 a standout among the mass.
Diamond dust rods in the coarse stage straighten the edge, forge a new cutting angle, and remove burrs. Tungsten carbide in the medium stage further deburrs and corrects the blade— while the fine-honing stage uses ceramic rods to refine and give the blade a mirror-like finish.
The manufacturer advises ideally seven strokes for each stage before moving to the next, though you’re free to make adjustments as needed.
For a straightforward polish job before and after each use without over-grinding the knives, skip the first two stages and run the blade through the final stages eight to ten times. Every cut should feel lighter and smoother without sacrificing too much metal from the edge.
The first stage, which is the coarsest and most abrasive of the trios, is often reserved for yearly maintenance, so approach with caution and at your own discretion.
Meanwhile, for mild nicks, chips, and scars, the final two stages should suffice. The unit works masterfully with a bevy of knives except for micro-toothed serrated knives.
To keep the unit from sliding or slipping off the countertop, rubber patches at the bottom of the base keep it firm and stationary, preventing accidents and injuries from ever taking place.
The CS-T01 is compact enough not to eat space on the countertop, too. You can either put it in a drawer or hang on a rack after use.
A nice blend of beyond-expectations functionality and sleek design, picking the Chef’s Sharpener CS-T01 as the top product feels like a no-brainer.Check Latest Price on Amazon
2. Chef’s Choice ProntoPro Diamond Hone 4643 Manual Knife Sharpener — Best Chef’s Choice
It’s hard to pick a representative for a sharpener brand with an abundance of well-rounded products. If we’re pressed to make only one choice, there’s no beating the Chef’s Choice ProntoPro Diamond Hone 4643.
Works with various knives (including Asian, Western, > serrated blades)
Diamond abrasive for all stages
Weird handle design
A Close-Up Look
The unit uses pure diamond for all three of its sharpening stages, which explains the name. In combination with the criss-cross sharpening pattern, no wonder this sharpener boasts such an impressive sharpening prowess.
Upon a few strokes, the end result will bear an arch-shaped cutting angle, a revitalized blade with a mirror-like polish— hallmarks of a properly sharpened knife.
The Diamond Hone 4643 works in all types of knives, from straight to serrated, from Western to Asian, for that matter. To our pleasant surprise, the Pronto Diamond Hone 4643’s grinding slots are compatible with knives whose angles measure between 15° and 20°.
The unit works wonders with double-bevelled blades, which are commonly found on regular chef’s knives, santokus, bread knives, hunting knives, filet knives, and pocket knives. Off the list are ceramic knives, scissors, machetes, and axes.
The rubber handle— while offering a firm grip and doesn’t cause calluses— is awkwardly designed like an arch, which feels uncomfortable for some users. Unless you have something specific against this design, it isn’t much of a concern.
The unit measures 9.25 inches long by 2 inches wide by 2 inches tall and weighs merely half a pound. It’s under warranty for up to one year, according to Chef’s Choice.
To give credit where it’s due, the Chef’s Choice ProntoPro Diamond Hone 4643 is one of the most well-rounded manual knife sharpeners as of the moment this article is published. Its performance is something to behold and admire.Check Latest Price on Amazon
3. Smiths’ Adjustable Angle Pull-Thru 50264 Manual Knife Sharpener — Best Smith’s
Smith’s offers a wide range of knife sharpeners, but few have such versatility and functionality like the Pull-Thru 50264. Besides conventional kitchen knives, this manual knife sharpener’s specialty also includes filet and pocket knives, too.
Multiple > adjustable angles (6)
Works with serrated knives
Various materials for abrasives
Awkward stage placement
A Close-Up Look
At first look, you may think the Pull-Thru 50264 is a tri-stage model, but it’s actually a dual-stage with a sharpening slot for serrated knives. Smiths’ use carbide and synthetic hook grooves for the coarse stage, while ceramic rods for the fine stage.
Straight, double-bevelled knives are the norm, but the unit also works with serrated knives, albeit on a fixed angle.
To our astonishment, there are multiple sharpening angles, meaning you can tend to various knife classes and designs. Such versatility is rather rare among manual knife sharpeners.
When selecting an angle, press the adjustment knob while dialing it to the desired angle. Here’s the manufacturer’s guide, in the ascending order of the sharpening angle:
- 16° per side: fileting & Asian knives
- 20° per side: pocket & Western knives
- 22° per side: hunting knives
- 23° per side: tactical knives
The handle and the base are covered with rubber for slip-resistance and stability. In addition, the Pull-Thru 50264 is under a three-year limited warranty.
For those who prefer something else from the same brand, the Smith’s 50090 Edge Pro Pull-Thru is also worth considering.
If you’re a cook who also enjoys camping and survival trips to the open wild, you’d better pack up the Smiths’ Pull-Thru 50264 before the next trip. There aren't many manual knife sharpeners that offer this much flexibility.Check Latest Price on Amazon
4. Sunrise Pro Supreme Manual Knife Sharpener — Best One Stage
If you need to perform a quick fix on your knife set without overspending on sharpening tools, a single-stage manual knife sharpener ticks all the boxes, like the Sunrise Pro Supreme. It may not be the sharpest tool in the drawer— no pun intended, and quite literally— but it gets the job done.
Suitable for left-handed > ambidextrous knife-wielders
Works with serrated knives
Powerful suction for safety
Unknown sharpening angle
Unfit for fine-toothed serrated knives > Asian knives
A Close-Up Look
Unlike conventional manual knife sharpeners— which somewhat shape like a knife themselves, with a handheld handle— the Sunrise Pro Supreme doesn’t have a handle.
This sharpener is cylindrical with the grinding slot on top of the unit, meaning there’s no left or right side. Ambidextrous or left-handed knife-wielders often struggle to find the right tools, but they won’t have second thoughts about the Sunrise Pro Supreme upon spotting it.
The abrasive is tungsten carbide, and the angle is permanently fixed. It works fine with regular kitchen knives and, much to our surprise, serrated knives, too.
Title: Sharpening a serrated blade on the Sunrise Pro Supreme
However, there’s no mention of the exact angle, so we strongly advise against using the unit on specialty knives, with fine-toothed serrated blades and Asian blades in particular.
Among the sharpeners featured in this article, this is the smallest unit of them all, fitting inside the palm of your hand. It wouldn’t take up too much space in your kitchen or backpack when going camping.
At the bottom of the Sunrise Pro Supreme, there is a suction cup that keeps the whole thing stationary and steady, meaning you can use this unit without holding it down. It’s also advisable to adhere the sharpener to a flat surface like the countertop or dining table.
The Sunrise Pro Supreme may not be fanciest nor the most versatile among other sharpeners, it calibrates the tips and sharpens blades with satisfactory results. When time is of the essence, it provides a quick fix on mild nicks and chips, to boot.Check Latest Price on Amazon
5. KitchenIQ 50009 Edge Grip Manual Knife Sharpener — Best Two Stage
The KitchenIQ 50009 Edge Grip is a bite-sized sharpener that will be handy when space is premium. There aren't many outstanding features about it, but you can rely on it giving a decent performance.
Ceramic > carbide abrasives
Deep sharpening slots
Decent overall performance
Works with straight > serrated blades
Unfit for Asian blades
Reverse stage placement
A Close-Up Look
From initial inspection, it seems like a regular dual-stage manual knife sharpener. There’s no handle, but there’s a rubber-covered area that lets you rest your unoccupied hand while the other runs the blade through the slots.
Regarding abrasives, the coarse stage uses carbide while the fine stage uses ceramic rods. Both do their intended jobs with fair results on an assortment of straight and serrated blades— as long as they’re European or American.
One thing we find strange is that other than placing the Edge Grip on a flat, even surface like the kitchen countertop or table, you can also put it on the edge of said surfaces; thus explaining the unit’s name.
While this design prevents larger knives— like a butcher knife or a cleaver— from chipping themselves or scratching the surface, it feels awkward for some users if they’re unfamiliar with it. But you can place the Edge Grip on a flat surface and use it as is, in case you’re wondering.
Another irk lies in the reversed sharpening stages, which normally goes from left to right to match the majority of right-handed cooks. This would cause confusion for those who are unaware.
Other than the awkward design, the KitchenIQ 50009 Edge Grip is a serviceable manual knife sharpener. Its price tag is probably the biggest attracting point that appeals to a large number of buyers on multiple retailing platforms.Check Latest Price on Amazon
6. Smith’s Pocket Pal PP1 Manual Knife Sharpener — Best Pocket
When preparing for the next hunting or fishing trip, don’t forget to bring along the Smith’s Pocket Pal PP1. It’ll prove its value in due course.
Works with serrated blades
Great for camping, hunting > fishing trips
Diamond rod included
Reversible > replaceable components (carbide blades > ceramic stones)
Fixed sharpening angle
A Close-Up Look
Living up to the name, the Pocket Pal PP1 fits nicely inside your pocket, or it can serve as a nice additional accessory to your keychain, given its lanyard hole.
You wouldn’t normally expect much from a pocket-sized knife sharpener, that is until giving this unit a try. The abrasives are nothing short of impressive, featuring a diamond rod, carbide, and ceramic. Besides pocket knives and utility hunting knives, you can use the tapered diamond rod to sharpen gut hooks as well. Use it as you would with a regular diamond rod, per Smith’s instructions.
And when the unit loosens its effective over time— what sharpener doesn’t, anyway?— you can replace the carbide blades and the ceramic stones.
When you’re done with the sharpening, clean the PP1 with a damp cloth and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Under no circumstance should you rinse the unit with any water. That would void its three-year limited warranty.
Understandably, the Smith’s Pocket Pal PP1 can be no match to the full-sized conventional knife sharpeners. While its performance is average at best, this is the best you can hope for and expect when you’re going camping, hunting, or fishing. And it’s a good thing that the unit is a bargain, too.Check Latest Price on Amazon
7. Wamery Manual Knife Sharpener — Best for Knives & Scissors
It’s not just knives that need sharpening. And it makes little to no sense when you have to purchase two separate sharpening tools; one for knives and one for scissors. The Wamery manual sharpener gives you the best of both worlds, all in the same unit.
Works with straight knives > scissors
Unknown abrasive material
Doesn’t work with serrated blades
A Close-Up Look
Up to this point, this is the only manual sharpener that incorporates scissor-sharpening function. The Wamery has four stages— scissor, coarse, fine, and fine-honing. Other than the final honing stage featuring ceramic, other information on the abrasive on the other stages and slots are unavailable.
The handle is silicone rather than rubber, but the same comfy sensation between the fingers feels similar. At the bottom, there’re non-slip pads that keep the unit steady and firm.
By no means the Wamery is a bad product, but it pales in comparison to other manual knife sharpeners. On the bright side, at least you can use this two-function-one-price unit for regular kitchen knives and scissors, though you might want to use another sharpener if you have specialty knives.Check Latest Price on Amazon
Comparison Table of the Best Manual Knife Sharpeners
|Model||Abrasive Material||Stages > Slots||Sharpening Angle||Warranty Info|
|Cubikook Sharpener CS-T01 3-Stage||Diamond, ceramic, sth carbide||3||Fixed||---|
|Chef’s Choice ProntoPro Diamond Hone 4643||Diamond||3||Adjustable, 15° > 20°||1 year|
|Smith’s Adjustable Angle Pull-Thru 50264||Carbide, ceramic, synthetic abrasive||3||Adjustable, from 14° to 24°||3 years limited use|
|Sunrise Pro Supreme||Tungsten carbide||1||Fixed||---|
|KitchenIQ 50009 Edge Grip||Ceramic > carbide||2||Fixed||---|
|Smith’s Pocket Pal PP1||Ceramic > carbide||2||Fixed||3 years limited use|
|Wamery Manual Knife Sharpener||Ceramic||4||Fixed||---|
Manual Knife Sharpeners Versus Electric Knife Sharpeners
The comparison could serve as an individual entry by itself. We’re not going to do that, however. Here are our sum-ups.
|Manual knife sharpeners||Electric knife sharpeners|
|What’s great about them||- No electricity needed|
- Ultimate control over end results
- Little to zero chance of over-grinding and over-shedding the blade
- Works with all blades
- Space-saving > portable
|- Immense grinding prowess
- Fast > convenient
- Built-in safety mechanisms
|What’s not so great about them||- Take time to master techniques|
- Slow overall process
- Effort-taking > time-consuming
- More prone to accidents
|- Rely on electricity
- Expensive on the whole
- Unfit for delicate and specialty knives (save for specialized models)
- Usually heavier and takes more space on countertops
Of course these are our takeaways, and everyone is entitled to his or her own personal opinions, so let’s agree to disagree on certain points.
If you decide manual knife sharpeners aren’t for you, we suggest taking a look at our picks for the electric knife sharpeners.
How to Use a Manual Knife Sharpener
- Place the knife according to the spring guide (the heel should be touching the base of the sharpener)
- Apply downward pressure on the handle, and pull the knife backward in a slow, steady fashion.
- Pull the blade through each stage in the order specified (usually from left to right to suit the majority of right-handed knife-wielders)
- For each stage, pull the blade through from five to ten times depending on how dull the blade. Don’t overexert yourself or apply too much pressure: you could jeopardize the geometrical symmetry and balance of the blade.
- Move on to the next stage when you feel satisfied.
Note: the middle and final stage are enough to give the blade a quick, effective sharpening without shedding too much material.
The first stage is often the coarsest and most abrasive stage. It’s meant for repairing heavy damages and deformations, so it would shed a considerable amount of metal off the blade. Due to its rough nature, you should only use it when:
- Doing in-depth maintenance (ideally once per year)
- Repairing heavy damages & deformations
- Converting a Western knife to Asian-style one
Best Manual Knife Sharpener Brands
Chef’s Choice by EdgeCraft is one of the most prominent knife maintenance tool brands. It’s far ahead of other competitors of overall success and customer awareness, and it’s not even close.
Their products use pure diamonds for the abrasives, which would explain the rather high production cost and final price tag. Nonetheless, customers know that upon choosing Chef’s Choice, they aren’t simply buying a premium product: they’re entrusting their precious knives to a high-quality knife sharpener with impressive prowess.
Founded in Arkansas in 1886, this brand has an impressive history in the making. Yet, it doesn’t enjoy the same success as Chef’s Choice does.
Given its presence in the field for such a long time, its product range should have been widely diversified, but that’s not the case. It may take some time before this brand can catch up with other competitors, but that hardly deters Smith’s from trying.
There are various ways of transforming dull knives to razor-sharp blades, but manual knife sharpeners do it better than others. They aren’t necessarily the most expensive or the fastest of all knife sharpening tools. But they hold their own quite well against other competitors while not costing buyers a fortune.
We hope our buying guide and review have been helpful and informative. If you have any experience with any of our picks or just feel like sharing tips and comments, we’d love to know more. Just head straight to the comment section, and type away.
A writer and entrepreneur, Luna’s day doesn’t start at the computer keyboard, but in the kitchen. Half of her working hours are spent on mixing ingredients for her recipes. The other half involve working with the tech team to research and test the tools and appliances that promise to make kitchen work effortless and mess-free. From a kitchen knife or water filter to the Instant Pot, if it can help save time and effort for the home cook, Luna and her team are on it. Luna’s extracurricular pastimes include camping, travel, and photography.