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As far as routine chores go, we put sharpening knives on par with flossing. We all know we should be doing it more frequently than we probably are. Proper maintenance of your blades makes for safer, more efficient cutting in the kitchen or the field. That’s where a good knife sharpener comes in. We evaluated a slew of models—including manual and electric options and those designed for kitchen knives or your EDC—to find out which is worth your hard-earned buck. Eight made the cut, if you’ll pardon the pun.
The Best Knife Sharpeners
Best Overall: Chef’s Choice Trizor XV
Best Value Electric Sharpener: Presto EverSharp
Best Manual Culinary Sharpener: Sharpal 191H
Best Multipurpose: Work Sharp Benchstone
Best Value Manual Sharpener: Smith’s 2-Step
Best Sharpening Position: KitchenIQ Edge Grip
Best for Touch-ups: Longzon 4-Stage
Best for Pocket Knives: Work Sharp Guided Field
Getting A Keen Edge
Knife sharpeners come in a variety of builds, but they all work similarly: Hard abrasives grind away a blade’s dulled edge to form a smoother, sharper one. Carbide and ceramic are two common and wallet-friendly abrasives, whereas diamond, which is the hardest, offers more durability at a higher price. It’s worthwhile to pay attention to the material type and its grit. Not every manufacturer shares this measure of particle size, but knowing what it is indicates the best use for the abrasive. Think of it like sandpaper. A coarser lower-grit abrasive is ideal for the initial sharpening and should be followed by a finer higher-grit option that produces a smooth finish. Some sharpeners also include a ceramic honing rod or leather strop. This third stage polishes the edge and removes any remaining metal shavings. For routine maintenance, start with a medium grit in the 1,000 to 3,000 range, then progress to a fine or ultra-fine abrasive in the neighborhood of 3,000 or higher. Reserve coarse abrasives below 1,000 for reshaping damaged blades.
You also have a choice between electric sharpeners that have abrasives on motorized wheels or belts and manual models, such as pull-through options that have V-shaped sharpening slots and whetstones. Electric sharpeners are fast and easy to use but are more expensive and have more parts that can break. Pull-through manual sharpeners are more affordable but require more effort on your part than their electric counterparts. Multipurpose sharpening stones give you the most control as you sharpen, letting you remove only as much metal as necessary to return a keen edge. Stones work just as well on kitchen knives as they do on smaller blades like scissors, fixed-blade knives, and pruning shears. However, they don’t have preset sharpening angles, demanding more patience and practice.
If you’re happy with how your knife cut when it came out of the box, sharpen it to the same angle it initially had. The factory edge is typically 15 or 17 degrees for each bevel on Japanese kitchen knives and around 20 degrees for Western knives. Pocket and outdoor knives are usually between 20 and 30 degrees for a single bevel. Blades with narrower angles are sharper but won’t retain their edges for as long as wider angle blades. For normal wear and tear, sharpening your knives every three to six months will give you the best performance. And keep in mind that not all sharpeners are equipped to properly maintain serrated blades. For that, you’ll need a ceramic rod that fits into the serrated grooves. In most cases, we don’t recommend using these sharpeners for serrated knives, contrary to the product manuals.
How We Test
To find the best knife sharpeners, we identify popular models for kitchen and other small knives; compare the cost, build, and features of each; and call in the most promising options to test their performance ourselves. First, we dull knives by scraping them against 80-grit sandpaper for 2 minutes. At this point, they barely manage to make more than a knick on a piece of paper, let alone slice into it. We then use the sharpeners per the manufacturer instructions to return sharp edges to the blades. Repeating the paper test and slicing ripe tomatoes gives us a good impression of how effective each sharpener is. We don’t saw into the fruit, but rather let the knives rest on the tomato as we slowly apply force to the handle until the blades cut through. In our testing, eight sharpeners impressed us enough to earn recommendations.
We tend to agree with the sharpening purists of the world who tout the benefits of using whetstones. But we found ourselves questioning our allegiances after we used the Trizor. Its electric design is undeniably convenient and proved very effective. In just nine passes per side, our chef’s knife smoothly tore a long slit into the piece of paper. The knife needed more force to break the tomato’s skin, but once it did, it sliced through the fruit cleanly. By comparison, the knife required ten times as many strokes on one of the sharpening stones we tested before it was usable. Credit the Trizor’s diamond abrasives, which shaved the metal easily, and its acute sharpening angle. Chef’s Choice also thoughtfully included a third stage designed for stropping, which is rare to see on electric sharpeners. The obvious hangup: cost. But if you’re committed to an electric option, your money will be well spent here, and your knives will be sharper in no time.
The EverSharp is an electric sharpener with a price so far below the going rate of most competitors that our skepticism kicked in. But we were pleasantly surprised at its quiet motor and proficiency. The machine and its synthetic ceramic abrasives, which Presto calls Sapphirite, did a fine enough job of honing our knife once we had adjusted to its peculiarities. Chief among those is the EverSharp’s auto-stall function, which stops the sharpening wheel if you’re applying too much force. It’s a smart feature but touchy, and we tripped it more than once before getting the right pressure. We also saw sparks several times as we sharpened. Our initial concern faded after consulting the manual, which reassured us that this can happen with high-carbon blades. Ultimately, the EverSharp wasn’t as easy to use as our top electric pick, but it’s still a great deal if you’re willing to spend slightly longer on the sharpening process.
When your paring knife needs a quick tune-up, grab this pint-size manual sharpener. It’s small enough to fit inside your silverware drawer or sit discreetly on your countertop, meaning you’ll spend less time setting it up than a bulkier electric machine that you have to fish out from the cabinet above the refrigerator. Clamping down the lever behind the sharpening slots activated the suction cup base, and once that was engaged, the 191H didn’t budge on countertops. This design allows for one-handed operation. As for sharpening ability, it took north of 70 passes between the two stages to restore a good cutting edge to our dull test knife. Still, this was faster than other manual models we tried, and if you’re mostly using it for twice-monthly touch-ups, you’ll need considerably less elbow grease. Finally, we appreciated the addition of the leftmost abrasive that’s built for sharpening scissors. It quickly cleaned up the edges on a pair we’ve had for several years that hadn’t been sharpened before. Useful and inexpensive, the 191H is a good choice for regular light-duty blade maintenance.
For one sharpening system to tackle every dull blade in your house, pick the Benchstone. The tool has three sides, each with a different abrasive that’s designed for dry sharpening. It was nice to avoid soaking or dousing anything with water, like traditional whetstones require. Instead, we simply rotated it to our desired sharpening surface and got to work. We also appreciated being able to engage or lock out the Pivot Response feature, which allowed the stone to tilt with our strokes. Although it was less of a concern with our very dull test knife, beware of removing more metal than necessary on the coarse diamond abrasives, and consider regularly honing your undamaged blades on the ceramic face to extend the length of time between more rigorous sharpenings. If you’re just learning how to sharpen by stone (or it’s been awhile since you last used one), the removable angle guides are helpful and beginner-friendly. Work Sharp also makes a set of 15- and 17-degree angle guides that are appropriate for Japanese-style kitchen knives. Lastly, it’s worth noting that the abrasives are smaller than some stones, which might make it more difficult to sharpen anything larger than a 10-inch kitchen knife.
At a glance, Smith’s 2-Step sharpener seems too small, and too simple, to warrant consideration. Surprisingly, we discovered it was actually quite effective. In less than a minute, we were able to cut a new edge on abused kitchen knives with the carbide side of the sharpener and finish them up on the ceramic side. This made them sharp enough that we could slice through paper, although not quite perfectly cleanly. Still, we were impressed that knives that had bounced around the dishwasher with the silverware could be made sharp and useful so quickly. Using a tomato to gauge how sharp we got our test knife, we were able to slice into it with moderate pressure, without sawing—drawing back on the knife with minimal pressure, we were able to easily make clean slices. While we wouldn’t necessarily use the Smith’s diminutive 2-Step on expensive chef’s knives, it is certainly a handy sharpener to quickly tune up an assortment of run-of-the-mill knives.
The KitchenIQ is a simple, 2-stage sharpener for straight and serrated knife blades. Unlike some larger sharpeners, its compact size means you won’t be struggling to find a place to store it when not in use—it will easily fit in a drawer with all your miscellaneous kitchen utensils. While testing, we found the non-slip base worked well, both flat on the countertop and at 45 degrees along the counter edge. You can quickly clean up dull blades with the coarse, carbide side and then finish honing on the ceramic side. Doing this, we could sharpen blades well enough to slice paper and push through the tomato with moderate pressure. We couldn’t get an edge as sharp as we could sharpening with a proper whetstone, but few sharpeners will.
Longzon’s 4-Stage has coarse, medium, and fine options for knives, as well as a dedicated sharpener for scissors. We were able to hone our test knife just a little sharper than with some of the other 2-stage sharpeners, cutting cleaner through paper. We also found that we could tune up the edge on a blade using the medium and fine stages, without taking as much material off. The non-slip base worked well for us, with no slippage in testing, and the longer handle kept our hands well away from the blade during sharpening. This Longzon will take up more room than some of the smaller models here, but it still fits easily in a drawer. The only drawback of this sharpener is that the deep sharpening channels mean that some larger kitchen knife handles may prevent getting the heel of the knife all the way down to the sharpening elements.
Portable but not pocket-size, the Guided Field Sharpener is ready to hone just about anything with an edge, anywhere you take it. That’s because it’s outfitted with two stone-like diamond abrasives, four ceramic rod surfaces, and a leather strop. We’ve used it with plain- and serrated-edge pocket knives and fixed blades, but it can also sharpen fish hooks, broadheads, and—in a pinch—a hatchet or an axe. However, we’ve found the smaller sharpening surfaces are easiest to use with blades less than 4.5 inches long. That makes it an ideal tool for EDC maintenance. Despite its smaller size, the large thumb grip provided plenty of purchase for a secure and safe hold. We also appreciate that nearly all the sharpening surfaces are removable for the occasional cleaning and replaceable should they wear out. The Field Sharpener, then, is a remarkably capable and long-lasting tool that you’ll want to keep within easy reach.
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