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. Six made the cut, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Read quick reviews of the top-performing knife sharpeners from our test, then keep scrolling for buying advice and full reviews of these and other models.
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 on your part.
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 Tested
To find the best knife sharpeners, we identified 20 popular models for kitchen and other small knives; compared the cost, build, and features of each; and called in the most promising ten options to test their performance ourselves. First, we dulled knives by scraping them against 80-grit sandpaper for two minutes. At this point, they could barely manage to make more than a knick on a piece of paper, let alone slice into it. We then used the sharpeners per the manufacturer instructions to return sharp edges to the blades. Repeating the paper test and slicing ripe tomatoes gave us a good impression of how effective each sharpener was. We didn’t saw into the fruit, but rather let the knives rest on the tomato as we slowly applied force to the handle until the blades cut through. Six sharpeners impressed us enough to earn recommendations.
—BEST CULINARY SHARPENER—
Chef’sChoice Trizor XV
Sharpening Angle: 15 degrees | Abrasives: Diamond
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’sChoice 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.
—BEST VALUE ELECTRIC SHARPENER—
Sharpening Angle: Not specified | Abrasives: Sapphirite
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.
—BEST MANUAL CULINARY SHARPENER—
Sharpal 191H Knife & Scissors
Sharpening Angle: Not specified | Abrasives: Carbide and ceramic
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 left most 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.
Work Sharp Benchstone
Sharpening Angle: 20- and 25-degree guides included | Abrasives: 320- and 600-grit diamond and ceramic
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.
—BEST FOR POCKET KNIVES—
Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener
Sharpening Angle: 20- and 25-degree guides included | Abrasives: 220- and 600-grit diamond and ceramic
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.
—BEST FOR TOUCH-UPS—
Sharpening Angles: 17, 20, 25, and 30 degrees | Abrasives: 600- and 800-grit ceramic
Measuring about 4.25 inches from end to end, the C-Sharp is small enough to slip in your pocket. All four sharpening slots, each set at a different angle, feature 600-grit ceramic abrasives. We appreciated that Lansky included a finer ceramic rod as well, giving us the ability to sharpen serrated blades too. Despite its lower grit, the ceramic wasn’t as quick to shave away dullness as other abrasives we sharpened on. As a result, we liked the C-Sharp best for weekly touch-ups. For heavier duty jobs, consider Lansky’s QuadSharp; it has a similar design but features carbide in the sharpening slots.
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