A Professional Guide To Choosing The Best Knife Sharpener
Just like any other tool kitchen knives need to be regularly maintained to keep them in tip-top shape. It doesn't matter if you have a cheap or expensive kitchen knife, at some stage you're going to have to bring life back to that dull blade. By investing in a good knife sharpener and learning a few basic skills you can transform your dull knife to its former glory, with you knife being as sharp as it once was you'll be back to slicing and dicing with a smile on your face.
Let’s be honest, there's nothing more frustrating than a dull kitchen knife. Not only does a dull knife make simple food prep a chore it's also downright dangerous. A dull kitchen knife blade requires more pressure to cut into food, and this increases the likelihood of the knife slipping into your finger. If you're an avid home cook, you should be sharpening your knives at least twice a year or more frequently if you use your kitchen knives every day.
There are a handful of ways to sharpen your kitchen knives at home with some methods proving to be better than others. For example, you can take a more hands-on approach and use a traditional whetstone combined with a honing steel to give your kitchen knives a new sharp edge or you can use an electric knife sharpener or a professional sharpening system.
I’m sure you're sat reading this and scratching your head with more questions than answers at this stage. Don't fret, because in this professional guide to choosing the best knife sharpener we've covered all the bases and we're going to arm you with so much information regarding knife sharpening your brain’s going to explode (well maybe not, but you get our point!).
How Do Knife Sharpeners Work?
All knife sharpeners aim to do one thing, bring life back to a dull blade and all methods will typically follow the same type of process to achieve the end goal. You rub the metal blade against an abrasive surface which removes microscopic amounts of metal to create a thin and sharper edge.
But that’s not all, knife sharpeners need to be able to create an exact angle and not all knives are the same. For example, most Western-style kitchen knives have a 20-degree angle whereas Asian style kitchen knives tend to have a 15-degree angle. Learning how to achieve these exact angles can be a challenge and that's why many novices prefer to use electric machines over a manual approach because the machines help to guide you to correct angle of the blade. But that doesn't mean electric knife sharpeners are better, far from it, more on that later on.
Honing Doesn't Sharpen A Knife
You may have seen cooks swiping their chef knives over a long metal rod, and you're probably under the impression that these honing rods sharpen a knife. Well sorry to be the bearer of bad news but they don't. A honing steel is a great tool to give a quick touch-up by realigning the edge of your blade but they don’t remove any steel, so they aren't technically sharpening your knife. Everyday food prep tasks can slightly bend the edge of your knife which will make it feel dull and less sharp, by using a honing rod you're helping to make the blade straight once again.
Think of a honing rod as an ongoing maintenance tool to keep your knives in good working condition. We recommend that you run your knife over a honing rod a few times just before you put the knife in the drawer so that it’s ready for next time you use it.
Simplifying The Process of Knife Sharpening
The process of sharpening a knife correctly does require a bit of skill and patience but the method is relatively simple, regardless of the method. To correctly sharpen a knife you need to grind the blade on one side until you form a burr and then flip the knife and do the same on the other side until you form another burr.
Once both sides of the blade have formed a burr you then slowly grind both sides with even manipulating pressure until the burr is fully removed and the primary edge has been formed. A knife truly becomes sharp when two sides are brought together as precisely as possible and at the Apex of the knife (the microscopically thin line called the primary edge, the sharp part).
Best Methods For Sharpening Your Knives
When you decide that it's time to give your knives a new sharp edge you'll most likely choose the electric knife sharpener route. Sure for many of you reading this electric is the only way to go if you have cheap knives. But if you have a set of knives that cost a small fortune we highly recommend that you choose a more hands-on manual sharpening approach.
Below we have listed five of the best ways to sharpen your kitchen knives, some are better methods than others and we'll delve into each method in more detail.
Knife Sharpening Systems
Investing in a guided precision device is by far the best route to take, but these sharpening systems are not cheap. However, if you have expensive hand forged kitchen knives that run into the hundreds of dollars, investing in a good knife sharpener like this is a no-brainer.
Most of the best knife sharpening systems will sharpen any size or shape of blade, including serrated knife blades. The benefit of using a professional knife system is that you can sharpen your knives to the exact same angle every time. Simply put, this method will take the guesswork out of giving your blades a razor-sharp edge.
Almost all of the kits come with various tools for knife sharpening such as a range of whetstones, different grit polish tapes, and ceramic hones arming you with everything you'll need to give your blades a new edge.
Quick Overview of the Best Knife Sharpening Systems
Full knife sharpening system review at the end of the article.
Edge Pro Knife Sharpening System
Wicked Edge Precision Knife Sharpener
Whetstone Freehand Knife Sharpening
If your pockets aren't deep enough to invest in a full knife sharpening system your next best bet is a cheaper whetstone or water stone. This manual approach is much better than opting for an electric knife sharpener or other pull through devices. Not only will this knife sharpening method give you the best edge, but because you're in full control of the blade and the grinding angle, this approach will remove the least amount of material from the blade, which electronic devices are prone to doing.
Once you've mastered using a sharpening stone you should be able to take the hairs off your arm, trust us your knife edge will be razor sharp. As strange as it sounds, the act of manually sharpening your knife using a sharpening stone will help you to bond with your blade (we kid you not!).
Quick Overview of the Best Whetstones
Full Whetstone review at the end of the article.
Culinary Obsession Sharpening Stone
Kota Japan Whetstone with Blade Guide
Electric Knife Sharpeners And Pull Through Devices
An electric knife sharpener can be a good option and they do have their place, but we don't recommend using this approach on your best kitchen knives. One of the major issues with an electric knife sharpener is the amount of material they remove from your knife edge; you have no control because the machine is doing all of the work.
For example, run your knife through an electric knife sharpener a few dozen times, and you’ve probably lost a good half-centimeter of width. This may not seem like a lot but when it comes to some high quality forged kitchen knives this small reduction in a blade on a knife with a weighted bolster can throw its balance off rendering the knife almost useless.
Electric sharpeners are best left for the commercial kitchens where chefs typically use cheaper “throwaway” knives and need to get their blades sharp quickly. Sure there are some expensive and well-built machines that can bring life back to a dull knife, but at what cost. If you don’t mind replacing your knives every few years because they've become unusable due to repeatedly being pulled through an electric knife sharpener, go for it.
Electronic sharpening gadgets rob you of one critical component of knife sharpening, using a gadget removes the connection between you and the knife, there’s no sense of pride, no accomplishment. If you value your kitchen knives we strongly suggest you take the manual approach.
Quick Overview of the Best Electric Knife Sharpeners
Full Electric Knife Sharpener review at the end of the article.
Chef's Choice 120 Diamond Hone 3-Stage Professional Knife Sharpener
Wüsthof 3-Stage Chef's Choice Electric Knife Sharpener
Other Knife Sharpening Tools
These tools and devices are typically best left to the professionals. Machines like belt sharpeners and grinding wheels will do a great job but it’s not something you can set up on your kitchen countertop, read a “dummies guide” book and then start sharpening your kitchen knives.
For average everyday home use, these are going to be overkill, you're better off sending your expensive knives to a professional knife sharpener who is trained to use these machines and knows what they’re doing.
Quick Overview of the Best Professional Knife Sharpening Tools
Full review at the end of the article.
Sharpener Tools Misc.
Water Cooled Tool Sharpening System
Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener
Professional Knife Sharpener
If all else fails or you simply don’t feel confident enough to tackle sharpening your blades yourself you could send your kitchen knives to a professional knife sharpener in your local area. By just typing a quick search into Google you should be able to pull up some qualified professionals, with full details of what services they offer as well as reviews.
This a good route to take if you have a reputable professional knife sharpener living nearby and you're of course happy to pay to have your knives sharpened by a professional. As far as we're concerned this is the best knife sharpening option if you have expensive knives, however, the cost can quickly add up if you plan on sharpening your blades a dozen or so times a year.
Best Knife Sharpeners (Top Rated Options 2018)
With so many different methods of knife sharpening, it’s probably become more of a daunting task trying to choose the best knife sharpener than you first imagined. We hear you, and that's why we've done the legwork for you and picked out some great options.
Armed with the information above you should be able to make the right buying decision for your home kitchen knife sharpening needs. Remember the manual approach is often the best way, but if you do decide on an electric device we have picked out the best of the bunch!
Culinary Obsession Whetstone Knife Sharpening Stone
When you first look at a Whetstone you’re probably thinking that they’re all the same, a stone at the end of the day is … well, a stone. However, not every sharpening stone is created equal some are better than others and come with varying grits and attachments that aid in getting the perfect grinding angle.
The Culinary Obsession knife sharpening stone is a top of the line whetstone that’s designed to make your knives razor sharp (maybe even sharper than when you first took them out of the packaging).
The Culinary Obsession stone features two sides, one side for removing more material and the other side for finishing off. With the two sides, you have more options and you can sharpen scissors, chisels, machetes, or even axes.
Sticking with a traditional Japanese look the stone is housed in a non-slip bamboo base that helps to collect any water or oil spillage from the stone and also ensure that the stone is set firmly in place.
Bundled in the package are links to a video course, PDF instructions and a free angle guide, making this whetstone the perfect choice for any novice entering into the world of home knife sharpening.
Kota Japan Whetstone with Bamboo Base and Blade Guide
Our second recommended whetstone is very similar in terms of quality. The Kota Japan Whetstone is also sat on an elegant and functional bamboo base that features rubber non-slip feet. Just like the above Culinary Obsession stone, there are two sides to this stone a 1000 grit coarse side and a 6000 grit polishing side, you start your kitchen knife on the coarse side and finish on the fine.
This stone can be used without oil, simply soaking the whetstone in water 10 minutes prior to use is all that's required, additional water can be sprinkled over the stone during use.
Include in the box is a free knife sharpening guide ebook to help you get the most out of your whetstone and bundle in the kit is an angle guide to help ensure you're grinding at the correct angle each and every time.
Edge Pro Apex 4 Knife Sharpening System
The Edge Pro sharpening system is a patented device that guarantees a sharp knife edge no matter your level of expertise. There are 4 versions (at the time of writing), an Apex 4, 3, 2, and 1. Each bundle contains more or fewer tools and attachments to aid in sharpening your kitchen knife or any knife for that matter, including serrated knives.
In the Edge Pro Apex 4 Knife Sharpening System, you have everything you need and then some to bring life back to your dull knives. You have at your disposal various types of whetstones (coarse to ultrafine) from 120, 220, 400, 600, & 1000, different grit polish tapes, a ceramic hone, detailed instructions and a black carrying case to keep all of your bits and pieces together.
Whether you're a seasoned knife sharpening pro or a novice just getting their feet wet this kit includes everything you’ll ever need to give your knives a razor sharp blade that (in most cases) is better than the factory finish. Highly recommend!
Wicked Edge Precision Knife Sharpener Kit
Coming in at a very close second is the Wicked Edge Precision Knife Sharpener kit. I’m sure you've already discovered that ‘factory sharp’ is not sharp at all, typically manufacturers use a 240 or a 400 grit belt grinder to put an edge on a new knife. This sharpening process almost always leaves small burrs along the edge of the knife.
This is where the Wicked Edge System excels, it takes your dull kitchen knife and by utilizing a unique vise to clamp your knife it gives your blade an edge so sharp it’s almost unreal. The clamp holds your knife and on either side, there are two arms that have sharpening guides attached. As you've probably guessed, these arms and guides will allow you to precisely control the exact sharpening angle required for your knife; it takes the guesswork out of where a lot of novices often struggle - getting the correct angle.
The kit contains other tools to aid in your blade sharpening. For example, the two sets of diamond stones (100, 200, 400 and 600 grits) that allows both sides of the knife to be sharpened simultaneously, unlike the above Edge Pro system.
Chef's Choice 120 Diamond Hone 3-Stage Professional Knife Sharpener
As we've already clarified in this article electric knife sharpeners aren't always the better option, and more often than not they can do more harm than good. But if you just can't live without an electric device the Chef's Choice 120 and the below Wüsthof (also made by Chef's Choice) are the best of the bunch.
The Chef's Choice 120 utilizes a three-stage system to bring life back to dull knives and takes the guesswork out of the finding the correct angle required for your knife. The EdgeSelect function easily adjusts for most knife types from general kitchen knives, to sporting, hunting, and even serrated knives, with the Chef's Choice you’ll have all bases covered.
The three-stage system starts off with diamond abrasive, coated disks in stages 1 and 2 and the 3rd stage then polishes your blade to remove any fine burrs. A built-in magnet collects any leftover metal residue for easy cleaning.
Wüsthof 3-Stage Chef's Choice Electric Knife Sharpener
Another popular choice is the Wüsthof 3-Stage Electric Knife Sharpener which is also made by Chef's Choice. Wüsthof is among some of the best kitchen knife manufacturers in the world so if they have endorsed the Chef's Choice you would presume that it does a good enough job at sharpening your knives. However, we still wouldn't sharpen our best hand forged Wüsthof chef knife in this but we're sure others would.
The Wüsthof 3-Stage Chef's Choice Electric Knife Sharpener is almost identical the above Chef's Choice 120, so much so we can’t really distinguish them apart. Both devices can handle almost any type of knives albeit serrated, a larger butcher knife or a hunting style of knife, and both units utilize elastomeric angle guides to eliminate the guesswork out of getting the correct grind angle.
Which one you prefer is down to personal preference, if you love the Wüsthof brand this would be the obvious choice, but under the “hood” both units are identical as far as we are concerned.
Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener
Time for the serious toys, these are the best of the best when it comes to knife sharpening and to be honest these should be left to the professionals. But with that said, with a bit of practice even a novice could master the Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener.
The Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener has been designed with home use in mind and it’s a scaled-down version of a larger industrial knife sharpener. It can sharpen any knife and tool you own and by using flexible abrasive belts you can sharpen not just straight bladed knives, but also curved knives, filet knives, serrated blades, garden shears, mower blades, you name it the Work Sharp can probably sharpen it!
The built-in angle sharpening guides ensure that you're getting the correct angle each and every time. If you don't mind a slight learning curve and want a real multipurpose blade sharpening machine this unit is a great choice for the hobbyist!
Tormek Water Cooled Tool Sharpening System
I think we saved the best till last, this is a knife sharpener the professionals use, it might not be a good option for many of you reading this but if you have deep pockets and the space this is the best sharpening system for you.
The Tormek features a jig system that allows you to keep the blade firmly in place and the freedom to sharpen almost any blade. The grinding wheel is water cooled and the stone soaks up the water to help prevent overheating and potential warping on your knife blades.
The Tormek Water Cooled sharpening machine does it all, from bringing life back to dull blades to giving a new edge to old chisels, there’s nothing the Tormek can't sharpen. For home use, this is probably the world's best knife sharpener, but you really have to be a serious enthusiast to have a setup like this at home!