A manual knife sharpener is a handy tool designed to revive the keen edge on your kitchen knives without investing much money, time, and effort. They’re also great for keeping your knives serviceable between deep sharpenings.
While even the best manual knife sharpeners won’t perform to the level of electric ones or whetstones, the right device can deliver reasonable sharpness and a nice, smooth edge.
Our kitchen experts have tested a bunch of manual sharpeners and have identified what tends to make some better than others. Read on to learn how to find a good sharpener. After that, we’ll give you a rundown of our top recommendations.
- Updated Jul 6, 2022:
Product ratings are updated following the implementation of Test Methodology v1.1 for manual knife sharpeners.
How We Test Manual Knife Sharpeners
This review article presents the results of 10 months of continuous testing in our lab.
We’ve tested and rated 14 manual sharpeners for Performance, Ease of Use, and Design.
Since pull-through sharpeners are ‘convenience’ sharpeners, speed and sharpness are the most important. As such, these two factors are weighted heaviest among all the test criteria.
For speed, we measure the time it takes for a sharpener to restore a uselessly dull knife to the point that it can slice through a lemon. The maximum level of sharpness, meanwhile, is determined using our Practical Sharpness Scale after 6 minutes of sharpening.
Since we want devices that strike a balance between sharpness and edge integrity, we take into account the smoothness of the completed edge and the amount of metal that got shaved off during the process.
We also evaluate the sharpener’s tabletop stability while we work with it and analyze features that positively or negatively affect its balance. We describe the working section as a whole and try to explain how it feels to sharpen with each device. We want you to understand what it will be like to use each device before you choose which to spend money on.
As with other sharpening devices, we will continue testing new products and update our list of top picks as necessary.
Why Trust Us
We purchase all the products of our own accord and for testing purposes only. We do not procure sponsorship or donations and have no stake in the reputation of the brands.
Our testing procedures are data-driven, transparent, and collaboratively developed. We establish most testing procedures in house, but we consult with outside experts when necessary. Each test is rigorous and transparent; we detail the process, provide the data, and present evidence.
Since we are testing kitchen equipment, we have a team of professional cooks that help us evaluate the results of tests, including taste-testing where necessary.
How Our Recommendations Are Made
Recommendations are based upon the resulting scores of our testing procedures. We take into account the specialized strengths of a product, the situation it’s best suited for, or the personal circumstances it is likely to best match.
Reviews of the Best Manual Knife Sharpeners in 2022
If you need a quick recommendation of which manual knife sharpener is best for a specific purpose, the list below should help. Here are our picks:
- Best to Buy in 2022: Cubikook CS-T01
- Runner up: Priority Chef 2-Stage
- Best Small Sharpener: Sunrise Pro
- Best for Edge Preservation: Wamery
- Most Reliable Performer: Kitchellence
Check out our in-depth reviews for each of these products below.
1. Cubikook CS-T01 Knife Sharpener - Best to Buy in 2022
Things We Like
- Excellent stability
- Affordable price
- Consistent sharpness
- Solid and sturdy construction
Things We Don’t Like
- Small ceramic rods
- Flaky brand label
The Cubikook Chef’s Sharpener CS-T01 received the highest overall rating of all the manual pull-through sharpeners we’ve tested so far. It’s fast, effective, and has a design that minimizes the risk of accidents while you’re sharpening. And for all it offers, the price couldn’t be more affordable.
The CS-T01 employs a three-stage sharpening section with diamond-coated abrasive rods, tungsten blades, and ceramic rods, all working at a 20-degree angle. This is one of the most common arrangements among pull-through sharpeners, so there was stiff competition. This Cubikook device rose very neat to the top in both our speed and sharpness test.
It transformed a chef knife from uselessly dull to highly serviceable within 90 seconds, and took only a few more minutes to enable the knife to cut through the slippery skin on a raw chicken breast.
Thanks to a ‘prep’ slot, the sharpener removes very little metal from the knife edge. Its ceramic rods, though modest in size, do a nice job honing the edge to near perfection.
It doesn’t have the most comfortable grip, but with a wide base and modest height, the Cubikook enjoys the great stability granted by its low center of gravity. Its sturdy build and adequate size also contribute to a safe and effortless sharpening experience.
2. Priority Chef 2-Stage Sharpener - Runner up
Things We Like
- Modest height, low center of gravity
- Full, flat base
- Gimmick-free design
- Great edge retention
Things We Don’t Like
- Cheap base pad
- Small slot openings
The Priority Chef sharpener may have a modest build, but that doesn’t stop it from placing as one of the top performers in our tests. Its usability and budget-friendly price make it a good choice for first-timers.
The Priority Chef’s working section features wheels rather than rods, but they’re not the motorized type of sharpening wheels. One set of wheels is diamond-coated for sharpening and the other is ceramic for honing your knives. Its grind angle is smaller than most, at 17 degrees.
We’re not sure if it’s the abrasives or the narrow angle, but the sharpener regenerated a dull edge very quickly while barely removing any material from the knife. Its performance in all aspects was far better than the Chef’s Choice 4643, another wheel-based sharpener that costs three times more. In fact, the Priority Chef enjoyed a better performance rating than our Best Buy, the Cubikook!
Similar to the Cubikook, the Priority Chef has a full base and low center of gravity which combine to keep it stable and balanced during sharpening.
However, its build quality isn’t a match. The base and base pad look cheap and shoddy, and its plain stainless steel grip may feel slippery and cold to the touch. Thankfully, the good fundamental design compensates for the materials and you won’t have to worry about the device tipping or wobbling.
3. Sunrise Pro Knife Sharpener - Best Small Sharpener in 2022
Things We Like
- Strong, sturdy build
- Extremely quick sharpening
- Great sharpness
- Affordable price
- Strong suction base (while it works
Things We Don’t Like
- Suction base is surface-discriminatory
- It can peel off a lot of metal
Most manual sharpeners don’t have big footprints, but if you’re looking for a particularly small one that works, the Sunrise Pro is worth checking out.
The Sunrise Pro features two tungsten carbide blades that form a 20-degree V-shaped slot. They took just one minute to make a sandpaper-damaged knife sharp enough to slice through a whole lemon. Granted, they shaved much more material off the knife than we’d consider reasonable, but these blades did their job faster than any others we’ve tested so far. Most kitchen knives will be ready within 30 seconds of meeting them.
The sharpener features a suction-cup base, and on the right (flat and clean) surface, it stays firm and stable, allowing you to sharpen without holding it. The device also enjoys a solid construction and sturdy build, despite its low price. And unlike the similarly designed Sharpal, the visual cues on this one make it near impossible to misuse it.
A major weakness, however, is the fact that you need a perfect surface to stick it to—it can be dangerous to sharpen when the suction base does not work. Its tendency to eat away at the knife’s material can also turn some people off. This one is great as a convenient quick-fix sharpener; just don’t rely on it as a long-term maintenance tool for your knives.
4. Wamery - Best for Edge Preservation
Things We Like
- Extra sharpening slot for scissors
- Intuitive slot order
- Wide base
Things We Don’t Like
- Shabby build
- Excessive height, high center of gravity
Many pull-through sharpeners shave off a great deal of material from the knife before arriving at a sharp edge—the Smith’s Pull-Thru and the Sunrise Pro above are notable examples. Not the Warmery, however; this sharpener only removes what’s really necessary to create a keen edge.
The Warmery features one sharpening slot for scissors and three for kitchen knives. Instead of the usual arrangement where the diamond-coated rods work as a ‘prep’ stage, we start with the tungsten carbide blades before moving on to the rods. Interestingly, this resulted in a much smaller amount of swarf, the metal debris removed from the blade. The knife was left with a nice, smooth edge too.
The sharpening speed was impressive: At its fastest, the Warmery took only 70 seconds to give life back to a uselessly dull knife. You must point the tip of the knife slightly downward while sharpening to get a consistent edge. Admittedly, it didn’t put the knife very far up the sharpness scale, but was effective enough to enable most normal food prep tasks.
We’re not sure of the grinding angle, since it’s not listed on the package. We suspect it to be within the 20 - 22-degree range.
The reason this sharpener didn’t get great ratings despite its decent performance is its shoddy build. The device is tall, awkward, and lightweight for its size. It also doesn’t seem to be made of quality materials. It’s still working after almost a year, though, and has probably paid for itself by now.
5. Kitchellence Knife Sharpener - Most Reliable Performer
Things We Like
- Easy to use, intuitive design
- Soft, comfortable finish
- Extra weight near the base for stability
- Affordable price
- Included glove for added safety
Things We Don’t Like
- Tapered base
- Awkward base pad
We’ve got two Kitchellence sharpeners in our lab and have put them both through a lot of testing. While they’re not exceptional on the sharpness front, their components are holding up better than most. And, after almost a year, we can still trust them to produce a decent edge.
The Kitchellence is a three-stage sharpener with a slot layout that’s identical to the Cubikook’s, except its sharpening rods are thicker and feel much more substantial. The sharpener is not the fastest nor does it produce a particularly keen edge; but its performance is well above average and has remained consistent ever since we got it. The fact that it scores among the top in material retention is reassuring, too.
The Kitchellence has a strong, robust construction; all parts feel solid and fit together securely. While we don’t like its tapered base, it’s heavy enough to stay balanced and stable during sharpening. Its soft, matte finish is especially comfortable to the touch, and the wide sharpening slots allow you to place your knife with confidence.
For those looking for a quick repair, the Kitchellence is probably not your best bet. But if you want a reliable sharpener that delivers decent results every time, you can count on it.
- Sharpal 191H: Similar to the SunrisePro, the Sharpal has a suction cup for a base that can be a little tricky to use. If you like the compactness of the SunrisePro but don’t mind spending a few more seconds for a smoother knife edge, go for this one.
- Gorilla Grip: The Gorilla Grip sharpener looks like a twin of the Kitchellence, and it enjoys the same sturdy construction and straightforward working section. It’s quicker to deliver a keen edge and can sharpen to a slightly sharper level. On the other hand, it peels more steel off the knife compared to the Kitchellence.
Things to Keep in Mind When Buying a Manual Knife Sharpeners
After more than 10 months of continuous testing and years of sharpening experience, here’s what we reckon are the most important things to consider when buying a sharpener.
The Abrasives: Material and Layout
The abrasives are what do the work. Nothing can save a sharpener with ineffective abrasives.
Most manual pull-through sharpeners employ one or more sets of sharpening discs, sharpening wheels, crossed rods, and/or crossed blades. On these devices, the grit is a loose term, referred to as ‘Coarse,’ ‘Medium,’ or ‘Fine.’
Crossed abrasive blades, usually made of tungsten carbide, are the most aggressive and can sharpen very quickly because they’re designed to literally shave steel off your knives. The disc, wheel, and rod types, made of ceramic or metal coated with diamond dust, are more edge-friendly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re less effective.
We found that the common abrasive layout—diamond-coated rods for prepping the knife, tungsten carbide blades for sharpening, and ceramic rods for honing—hits the sweet spot in most cases. It’s generally more effective than starting with carbide blades and gentler on the edge than a blades-only layout.
Devices with sharpening discs or wheels are more tricky to choose between—a small detail in the disc design can make a huge difference, and unfortunately the only way to tell is to test them out.
Grind Bevel and Angle
Manual knife sharpeners only sharpen dual-bevel knives, usually at a fixed grind angle. The standard sharpening angle is 20 degrees, which works for most Western knives, but there are also devices made with a smaller angle to accommodate Asian knives.
Some sharpeners, such as the Zwilling 4-stage sharpener or Chef’s Choice 4643, feature separate slots for each type. In rarer cases, such as with the Smith’s Pull-Thru, you can alter the edge angle to suit your knife, but adjustable abrasives can be less steady and thus less consistent.
If your knives are mostly dual-beveled and have roughly the same grind angles, then a good pull-through sharpener with the right angle will handle most of your sharpening tasks.
However, if your collection is a mix of bevel types and edge angles, you’re better off finding a set of whetstones or an adjustable electric sharpener.
The height, width, and length of a device has a significant impact on the sharpening experience.
A device that’s too small will not work for big, heavy knives. Mini sharpeners also tend to cram the grip and working section close together, which translates to a higher risk of cutting yourself if the knife is misplaced during sharpening.
A sharpener that stands high off the table, meanwhile, has a higher center of gravity, making it more prone to tipping. If this height is combined with a long and narrow base, your wrists will get quite the workout trying to keep it balanced.
Pick a pull-through sharpener with a modest height, substantial grip, and a large, wide base with anti-slip pads.
Manual Knife Sharpeners Versus Electric Knife Sharpeners
Manual sharpeners and electric sharpeners differ in many ways other than price.
The difference in sharpening time is negligible; however, a manual sharpener won’t bring your knives to the level of sharpness that an electric one can.
Most manual sharpeners use abrasive blades and rods, which can create thinner and narrower primary edges than the large wheels on an electric sharpener can. The knives are thus more prone to chipping and become dull faster. The lack of substantiality in the abrasives also means they’re more quickly to wear out.
On the other hand, manual sharpeners are convenient to use. They have small footprints and don’t require batteries or electricity. They’re also quiet and cleaning up afterward is a breeze.
Electric sharpeners offer greater sharpness with better edge retention. Their size and design allow them to stay effective longer than their smaller manual counterparts. However, electric devices tend to take more time to get used to. Because they sharpen automatically once you turn them on, it’s very easy to destroy a knife edge when you’re not paying attention.
All electric sharpeners produce loud noises—typically comparable to that of a hairdryer. Some shoot metal dust up into the air so there may be some amount of cleanup required.
As such, whether to go with a manual or electric sharpener can be just as much a matter of preference as a matter of budget.
30 - 180 secs
30 - 120 secs
Level 6 - 8
Level 8 - 9
Edge retention time
1 - 2 weeks
4 - 8 weeks
Ease of use
Very easy to use
Easy or moderately easy to use
1 - 2 years
3 - 5 years
$10 - $60
$50 - $150
*Measured using our Practical Sharpness Scale
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 is a brand owned and operated by EdgeCraft, whose products are available in over 80 countries worldwide. It specializes in small kitchen appliances, including knife sharpeners, food slicers, and waffle makers.
The brand is more well known for its electric sharpeners (such as the Trizor XV), but it does offer a wide range of manual sharpeners. Its sharpeners typically sport diamond-coated discs and boast a strong build with good balance.
Founded in 1814 in Germany, Wusthof is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of kitchen knives and cutlery products. The brand has also expanded its product lines to electric and manual sharpening tools.
Wusthof manual sharpeners are easily recognizable by their bold designs, raised hand guards, and heavy weight.
Sharpal is a Canadian-based brand specializing in sharpening devices. The brand offers a wide range of sharpeners for outdoor, garden, sports, and culinary tools.
Sharpal manual knife sharpeners tend to incorporate a scissor sharpener and are usually found on the affordable side of the price spectrum.
Having been on the market since 1886, Smith’s has developed a rich collection of manual and electrical sharpeners as well as whetstones.
Smith’s tends to utilize unique designs when creating sharpening tools. Some of their manual sharpeners allow you to adjust the edge angle for more precise sharpening—a feature rarely seen on other manual tools.
AccuSharp is a line of manual sharpening tools developed by Fortune Products.
The brand is famous for its hand-held devices, which allow you to bring the sharpener to your knife blade instead of the other way around as is usually the case with other sharpeners. AccuSharp products tend to be very affordable, hence their popularity among home cooks.
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.