The Best Knife Sharpener – Buying Guide

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Our Top Rated Knife Sharpener

If you want to learn more, just scroll down, just a bit, to the quick links below.

How do you find the best knife sharpener for you?

Wusthof 3 Stage Electric Knife Sharpener

I am a big fan of this Wusthof Electric Sharpener since it sharpens at a 15º angle. More on that later…

This guide provides the necessary information to make an educated decision about the best knife sharpener for you. There are many considerations and you might not know all the facts just yet.

When I got my first whetstone as a young kid to sharpen my Cub Scout pocket knife, I had no idea how to use it or that there was a plethora of choices for making blades sharp.

I am pretty sure that I didn’t make the blade sharper but I think I felt good about the process.

At the bottom of this page, the top picks based on your individual needs are listed.

Click the buttons below to see the latest & lowest prices on Amazon:

Premium Electric Model – Chef’s Choice 1520


Premium Manual Model – Wicked Edge


Best Economy Model – The Smith’s Electric 

Read here about the best hunting knife sharpener if you are an outdoorsy type…

Find electric knife sharpener reviews…

Learn about the best knife sharpener under 100 dollars here…

 

Why do you need a knife sharpener?

A sharp blade is critical for the performance of your knife and your safety. This applies to any type of knife – chef’s, paring, pocket, survival, switchblade, or even a machete.

A sharp knife is important for safety since a dull blade requires more force to do the job than a sharp blade.

The bottom line is that if you have a knife or knives, then you absolutely need a sharpener to keep your blades in top form.

Some companies do offer the service of sharpening their brand of knives, however, aside from the risk of loss during shipment or damage during handling, if you have to ship your knives to be sharpened then you are less likely to keep them sharp.

Typically, the process can take weeks before you get your knives back. There are professional sharpening services out there and professional chef’s are the typical customers.

Since it can take some time to have your blades professionally sharpened and there is a hassle factor involved, we aren’t bashful about advocating sharpening your own knives.

How much will a knife sharpener cost?

Like so many things in life, you get what you pay for.

There is a very, very large range of prices.  Some are as under $10 (like this one) and the top choices are as high as several hundred dollars (like this Wicked Edge setup).

Like so many things in life, you get what you pay for.

If you’re downright obsessive about your knives (like me) & have many different kinds, then you may end up selecting a sharpening system that has the capability to use many different kinds of sharpening stones

Some of the best sharpeners are the most expensive but they may be easier to use, provide a higher quality sharpness, or use higher quality materials. If you browse on Amazon, then you can see that the vast majority of the knife sharpeners are under $25.

I believe the best value and bang for the buck is in the $50 – $100 range for the majority of consumers.  If you are a knife lover and will get plenty of use out of a sharpener, then the $100 – $200 range is probably right.

Now, if you’re downright obsessive about your knives and have many different kinds, then you may end up selecting a sharpening system that has the capability to use many different kinds of sharpening stones.

Why do blades become dull?

Even the very best edges, made from the finest steel, become dull over time and through use.

It is a fact of life.

Here is how it happens:

The microscopic edge of the blade becomes misaligned and folds over, so instead of one sharp edge of metal you end up with a microscopically jagged blade.

This happens slowly over time and the quality and hardness of the metal have a direct impact on how quickly the blade becomes misaligned.  The cutting surface also plays a very big role in how fast an edge dulls – so don’t use a glass cutting board or cut on top of your marble countertop!

How can I tell if my knife needs to be sharpened?

As mentioned above, when honing is not making an improvement to the use of the knife, then it is time to sharpen.

If the blade does not cut cleanly and quickly, as expected for the application, then you need to sharpen the edge.

A chef’s, or other kitchen knife, should be able to cut fruits and vegetables with nearly no downward pressure, as if gravity is the only downward force needed;

Maybe not a hard carrot or a large potato, but the blade should be able to glide through a zucchini, onion, or apple.

What are the different types of knife sharpeners?

Knife sharpeners fall into a few different categories and we can divide them up a couple ways. There are manual knife sharpeners and electric knife sharpeners.

Both types of sharpeners use a specific material to remove metal from the knife blade, usually stone, ceramic, or diamond.

There are a few kinds of sharpeners out there. Electric, a simple whet stone, & a manual sharpening system are shown above.

There are a few kinds of sharpeners out there. Electric, a simple whet stone, & a manual sharpening system are shown above.

Regardless of the type, the sharpening material has varying grits, ranging from very coarse to extremely fine.

Coarse materials remove the metal very quickly, which is useful for very dull blades or when reprofiling an edge to another angle (More on reprofiling later!).

The finer grits are used later in the process, much like sanding down a piece of wooden furniture.

The very finest grits do nothing more than polish the metal to a gleaming shine.

Manual Knife Sharpeners

The simplest of the manual knife sharpeners are a solid block of the sharpening material. Originally, these were just very hard stones that were abrasive and hard enough to remove metal from the blades.

King Two Sided Sharpening Stone with Base – it even has two grits.
(Click the image for the lowest price from Amazon)

Some areas of the world, like Japan, India, or even Arkansas, have geology that lends itself to many useful stones for sharpening.  These stones were often lubricated with water (like the whetstones from Japan) or oil (like the stones from Arkansas).

In modern times, composite and manmade materials are often used and can be less expensive to purchase than actual stones. These manmade sharpening stones are usually made from aluminum oxide.

Other composites may have some industrial grade diamond dust and particles in the stone which helps to take the metal off the blade even more quickly.

Pros:

  • Simplicity. This is what our ancestors used to sharpen their blades and there is a therapeutic process.
  • Full flexibility for reprofiling a blade to any angle.
  • Diverse range of stones, grits, and quality.
  • No moving parts and very low maintenance.
  • Has the ability to sharpen the smallest and largest blades, think a mini pocket knife to a machete.

Cons:

  • Stones from exotic locations might be expensive.
  • The user must practice and hone his or her craft to ensure the angle of the blade is constant.
  • This is probably the most labor intensive and requires the most time to sharpen a blade.

Cost: $10 – $100+

Target User:  The knife aficionado with lots of time to dedicate to the craft of blade maintenance and sharpening.

Manual Knife Sharpener Systems

Knife sharpening systems help the user keep a constant angle when sharpening the edge.  This is a huge advantage in sharpening since the angle is enormously important.

In short, the single job of the knife sharpener system is to keep the angle of the edge constant.

If the angle is not kept constant the blade may not be as sharp as it could be and the edge might actually have varying levels of sharpness.

In short, the single job of the knife sharpener system is to keep the angle of the edge constant.

Typically,  these knife sharpener systems have some kind of guide rod and angle specifications so that the user can safely and easily keep the angle constant while sharpening.

Lansky, Gatco, and Spyderco sharpeners have guide rods while Edge Pro, Inc. uses a slightly different design.

Click here to see knife sharpening systems at Amazon.

Pros:

  • Generally simple with no external power required.
  • The angle of the blade to the stone is fixed which leads to a very uniform angle.
  • Some flexibility for reprofiling a blade to any angle.  Each manufacturer may have a different set of angles for their version.
  • Wide range of stones, grits, and quality. Again this depends on the manufacturer but generally, a wide range of high quality stones are available, including diamond.
  • Low maintenance with a few moving parts. Generally, very simple mechanically.
  • Easier to learn how to sharpen than with a simple whetstone.

Cons:

  • Stones from exotic locations might be expensive.
  • The second most labor intensive.
  • Some versions have difficulty holding small blades, such as small pocket or paring knives.
  • Eventually, the sharpening stones in the system will need to be replaced. You would have to sharpen a lot of knives but they will wear out.

 Cost: $25 – $100+

Target User:  The knife aficionado with some time to dedicate to maintenance and sharpening.  This is the recommended knife sharpener for someone with an interest in reprofiling his or her blades.

Manual Pull Through Sharpener

These sharpeners, as the name implies, require the user to pull the knife through the sharpening area.

These sharpeners are usually very inexpensive & you will see them for sale around the holidays. Great stocking stuffers!

Click here for the Wusthof Precision Edge 2 Stage Sharpener

Many of these sharpeners are multistage, meaning there are different grits available. The most coarse will remove the metal the fastest and the final stages will smooth out the roughness of the coarse stages.

Two stages are most common but some sharpeners have up to four stages.

Typically, a pull through sharpener has a fixed angle so there is little flexibility and many times the manufacturer does not specify the angle.

If you get the same brand of sharpener as your knives, then you have a pretty good chance of having the matching angle.

Pros:

  • Generally simple with no external power required.
  • The angle of the blade to the stone is fixed which leads to a very uniform angle.
  • Low maintenance with a few moving parts. Generally, very simple mechanically.
  • Easier to learn how to sharpen than with a simple whetstone.
  • Require a small amount of time to touch up an edge.
  • They can sharpen large and small blades in the most common sizes.
  • Small in size so they are very easy to keep in the kitchen.

Cons:

  • There is a sparse selection for the types of stones available. You can get a higher end model with higher quality stones.
  • No ability to reprofile blades.
  • Some models only have one stage which makes the sharpening process slower.
  • You probably cannot fit your machete in the majority of these units.
  • After a certain point in a knife’s life these do not really sharpen so well and the blade needs to be sharpened with a sharper angle.

Cost: $10 – $50+

Target User:  The average kitchen user that is not too concerned if their blade isn’t so sharp and just needs an occasional touch up between major sharpening maintenance.  I have one of these that I received as a gift and I do use it occasionally.

It does help a bit but I think a high end sharpening steel (also known as a honing steel) might do a similar job.  My specific model has a scissor sharpening feature which works pretty darn well!

Electric Knife Sharpeners

Electric knife sharpeners have a similar design to the manual pull through sharpeners, but the key advantage is the electric versions have the sharpening stone attached to a motor. Click here to see electric knife sharpener ratings and reviews. (opens in another window)

For kitchen applications, electric sharpeners are ideal.  There is a wide range of quality and features for electric knife sharpeners based on what materials are used for the sharpening stones.  The best models have three to four stages – like the Chef’s Choice 120

The result is a very convenient way to quickly sharpen your knives.

The convenience factor is huge when you compare the effort required to send your knives back to the manufacturer and wait 4 weeks versus two minutes of sharpening using an electric knife sharpener.

For kitchen applications, this type is sharpener is nearly ideal in most cases.

There is a wide range of quality and features for electric knife sharpeners based on what materials are used for the sharpening stones.  The best models have three to four stages.

The downside is that the angles are fixed and non-adjustable.  Again, for typical kitchen applications this is no problem at all, but for tactical or survival blades you might want more flexibility.

This is the Chef’s Choice M1520. It will sharpen to 15º or 20º which is an awesome feature for an electric model. Click here for the latest price from Amazon.

If you’re a knife lover, like me, then you might want to have the flexibility to reprofile your edges and improve upon the factory sharpness.

Pros:

  • Fast sharpening action, usually in just a few minutes.
  • The angle of the blade to the stone is fixed which leads to a very uniform angle.
  • Low maintenance with a few moving parts. Some versions need to have the metal dust removed periodically.
  • There are some higher end models that do have multiple stages which would help to sharpen edges more quickly when they are very dull.

Cons:

  • There is a sparse selection for the types of stones available. You can get a higher end model with higher quality stones.
  • No ability to reprofile blades.
  • Requires electricity.
  • After a certain point in a knife’s life these do not really sharpen so well and the blade needs to be sharpened.

Cost: $25 – $150+

Target User: The average kitchen user with little time to dedicate to sharpening but needs to have a sharp blade. There are several different models out there that have some nifty features that may be appealing for people with a wide range of knives also – pocket, survival, hunting, or high end kitchen knives.

The best models have two angle options, 15° and 20°, with at least three separate stages.

What angle should I sharpen knives?

The right angle for any given knife depends on the application.  In addition, your tool for blade sharpening may dictate what angles you can sharpen to.

Some of the high end electric knife sharpeners do provide more than one angle to sharpen to, typically 15º and 20º, however most only sharpen to one single angle of 20º.  For full flexibility, you would need a bench stone and you could sharpen to any angle you desired.

A good compromise is a sharpening system with an angle guide, such as the Lansky or Gatco kits, that usually have angles for all typical sharpening needs.

One might think that the sharpest angle possible is the best.

For full flexibility, you would need a bench stone and you could sharpen to any angle you desired.

However, the tradeoff is that the sharper the blade, the more delicate it is and will require more maintenance and sharpening.

If that was not the case, then every blade from a straight razor to an axe would be sharpened to 12º.

chisel ground sushi knife - best knife sharpener guide

Sushi requires a very sharp knife. A less-than-razor-sharp knife won’t be fun to use…and you will end up smushing your rolls when you cut them.

Generally speaking, razors, paring, and fillet knives should be the sharpest of your edges at an angle of 12º – 18º.

Is My Knife Sharp - 4Most kitchen blades, like utility/slicing , chef’s, boning, or carving knives, should be sharpened to 15º – 25º.

The exceptions are Japanese style knives that are usually sharpened to 14º – 16º depending on the knife maker.

The sporting category, including pocket, survival, and hunting knives, sees more intense action and should be sharpened to the 25º – 30º angle range.

The less sharp angle means there is more metal there to cut, thus providing more durability out in the field.

Lastly, a machete or ax should be sharpened down to 30º – 40º providing even more ruggedness and longer lasting sharpness.

There is also the matter of the blade material.

The harder the metal, the sharper the blade can handle while still having durability.

The angles listed above do hold true but if you have a very high quality chef’s knife, you could definitely push the limits and sharpen to a 12º angle, knowing that you would need to sharpen more often and probably warn any house guests that use that knife.

For the sake of argument, let’s focus on kitchen knives.

To dig a little deeper into the steel, many manufacturers of fine kitchen knives, like Shun, Wusthof, Henckels, Global, etc…, use a proprietary steel blend.

Often times, this is printed on the blade and may seem cryptic – X50 Cr MoV 15.

It’s really cool that they put that information on there but what the heck does it mean?

From the Wustof website, we see that that it means:

 

X Stainless steel
50 0,5 % carbon- the carbon content is significant for the sharpness
Cr Chromium for stain-resistant properties
Mo Molybdenum enhances the stain-resistant properties
V Vanadium for hardness and edge retention
15 Contents of chromiumin % (15%)

Essentially, other metals are blended with the steel to obtain some better qualities.  However, those benefits are not without tradeoffs.

The good thing is that the steel is optimized for the kitchen and general durability.

The downside is that the steel is softer than it really could be and that means the edge of the blade cannot hold as sharp of an edge as it could otherwise.

Since the metal is softer, it is easier to sharpen but it also will dull a little bit faster also.  In general, these high end kitchen knives are in the 52º to 58º on the Rockwell scale. The Wusthof steel blend list above is 58º on the Rockwell scale.

Many Japanese made knives as well as custom made knives are in the low 60s, 61º to 63º on the Rockwell scale.  For example, the Tojiro Senkou brand has blades with a hardness of 61º.
7-knife sharpener - knife collecting

The Best Knife Sharpener for Kitchen Knives

For the kitchen chef, you want to spend your time cooking and eating not laboring over your knives for 30 minutes.

This sharpener is made by Chef’s Choice so you know the quality is high.  It comes with a 3-year-warranty & is assembled in the USA.

We select the Wusthof 3 Stage Electric Knife Sharpener because of the very sharp cutting edge that this sharpener provides.

This sharpener boasts three stages with the finest being a honing stage.  The kicker is that the Wusthof sharpens to an angle of just 14°!

That’s really sharp folks, so sharp, in fact, that if you have other knives that require more durability then you might want to look for another sharpener.

So if you have a pocket knife, survival knife, or cleaver, an edge of just 14° would not stay sharp for very long.

The target user for this sharpener would be a person with high quality blades, made with a high quality blend of steel – Japanese style knives are perfect candidates.

This sharpener is made by the Chef’s Choice makers so you know the quality is high.  It comes with a three year warranty and is assembled in the USA.

The Wusthof won’t be sliding around on your counter when you are sharpening since it weighs about 4.8 pounds.

The Best Knife Sharpener for Survival Knives

A prepper or survivalist needs to have the versatility of a manual sharpening system without relying on electricity.  We select the Wicked Edge Field and Sport since it can sharpen from a razor sharp 15° to a durable 30° in 2° increments.

You could sharpen your straight razor, survival, pocket, folding, serrated, paring, chef’s, or pretty much any other knife you may have.

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The kit comes with a portable carrying case and a range of stones in 100, 200, 400 and 600 grits.

5-knife sharpener - knife collecting

Aside from those points, the Wicked Edge Field and Sport has innovations and improvements over other sharpening systems…

…such as the neoprene padded jaws so you don’t have to worry about scratching up your high quality blades and the one knob clamping mechanism that makes clamping down your blade very user friendly.

The Best Knife Sharpener for a Variety of Knives

Maybe you have a full range of kitchen knives because you are a bit of a foodie and you like camping and hiking so you also have several pocket, camp, and survival knives.

I fall into this category myself and I think most people probably do have a variety of knives, at least the people that have read this page.

You need to ask yourself a question:

Would you like to spend a little time bonding with your knives in a therapeutic sharpening session or would you rather spend about two minutes per blade?

You may also want to think about whether you want to have full flexibility to re-profile any of your edges.

They are not trick questions but you will need to think about your needs and how much time you can dedicate to sharpening.

If you want a longer sharpening session & time to bond with your knives…

The Edge Pro Apex 3 Knife Sharpener Kit is the best knife sharpener for you.

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Current Price: $255.00
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It comes with five water stones ranging from very coarse to very fine and a ceramic hone.

The Apex 3 is capable of sharpening to a variety of angles, allowing you to take any blade to the optimal sharpness –  10°, 15°, 18°, 21°, and 24°.

The wide range of stones allow you to sharpen very dull blades quickly.

This sharpening kit even comes with a instructional DVD and carrying case.  All Edge Pro Sharpening Systems are Made in the USA.

If you don’t want to spend too much time sharpening…

The Chef’s Choice 1520 AngleSelect Diamond Hone Electric Knife Sharpener is the best knife sharpener for you.

This is one of the few electric sharpeners on the market that is capable of sharpening two different angles, enabling the user to sharpen a blade to a double beveled edge.

Very cool.

This sharpener is capable of sharpening a blade to 15° or 20° depending on the usage.

Typically, Japanese style knives will be sharpened down to the 15° angle and European and American style knives are sharpened to 20° coming out of the factory depending on the manufacturer.

The three stage sharpening system features diamond abrasives and patented flexible stropping polishing discs that create a double beveled edge, reminiscent of a gothic arch, edge structure recognized for incredible sharpness and durability.

It comes with a three year warranty and is assembled in the USA.

The Chef’s Choice 1520 AngleSelect Diamond Hone Electric Knife Sharpener won’t be sliding around on your counter when you are sharpening since it weighs about 5 pounds.

What is honing? What tool is used to hone a knife? How do I hone my knife?

Honing straightens the misaligned edge of the blade.

Despite the name, “sharpening steel,” the tool does not sharpen the blade.

It is best to hone your knife every time you use it – just before cutting and after you wash and dry the blade.

A sharpening steel is used to hone a knife and is usually a cylindrical rod, roughly about 12 inches long.

Some sharpening steels have a flattened area.

Most sharpening steels are made of hard steel, but some are made of ceramic.

To hone your knife, you run the business side of the blade across the sharpening steel to get the blade edge back in alignment.

Despite the name, “sharpening steel,” the tool does not sharpen the blade.

Honing is also done as the last step of sharpening.

What is sharpening and how is it different from honing?  When should I sharpen a knife?

Sharpening is differentiated from honing because metal is being removed from the blade and a new cutting surface is being created. Once honing ceases to be effective to improve the cutting experience, it is probably time to sharpen the blade.

A very good, high quality blade may only require sharpening once a quarter under the same use.

The intervals between sharpenings varies and it depends on how often and how hard you use your knife, plus the type of metal in the blade.

You may need to sharpen a cheap, inexpensive knife very often, like every 10 – 14 days, if it sees heavy use.

A very good, high quality blade may only require sharpening once a quarter under the same use.

What is the best kind of cutting board to help keep your knives sharp?

The best kind of cutting board to use to keep your knives sharp is an end grain cutting board.

These cutting boards take more effort to make and are correspondingly more expensive, but the upside is that they do not dull edges nearly as quickly as other types of cutting boards.

End grain cutting boards are made of pieces of wood, and the blade comes in contact with the end of the grain rather than cutting across the grain.

Imagine cutting a tree down versus splitting logs into firewood.

This allows the blade to slide between the vertical grain rather than cutting the grain perpendicularly, which is gentler on your knife edge.

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The next contender is a plastic and composite type cutting board.

These are fairly soft and do not tend to dull the blades too quickly.

They are generally cheaper than the end grain cutting boards and have the advantage of being dishwasher safe in most cases.

Most of the time they are more durable than a wooden cutting board.

Bamboo Cutting Board Wooden cutting boards are next and we are talking about the non-end grain wooden cutting boards.

In these cutting boards, the grain runs across the cutting surface.

As discussed above, this is harder on your edge because the knife hits the grain at a perpendicular angle.

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Plain wood cutting boards are usually pretty cheap and can be found at almost any department or grocery store.

Unlike the plastic cutting boards, a wooden cutting board should not be washed in the dishwasher – the heat, moisture, and intense cleaning environment can destroy a cutting board.

The worst kinds of cutting boards for your knives are marble or glass.  Each cut drastically impacts the sharp edge of the blade, dulling with each successive impact.

I have seen more than one sharp knife be noticeably dulled after just one chopping session on a glass cutting board.

Steer clear of these types of cutting boards for cutting and dedicate their use to serving cheese, fruit, or crackers.

Knife Storage

How should you store your knives? Storage is a critical point when you consider ways to keep your knife sharp.

Why?

If you store you knives in a drawer (like I used to), then you are subjecting your precious blades to a harsh environment where they can become damaged.

Knives in a drawer are bumped into by other utensils, gadgets, and anything else that is in the drawer.

Poor storage of knives is one of the top reasons for damage.

The best way to store your knives is on a magnetic strip.

My current favorite is this elegant solution from an expert woodworker in California, USA.  The M.O.C. Magnetic Knife Strip was developed and created by Aaron Weinstock, the founder of M.O.C. Woodworks.

M.O.C Magnetic Strip is a great looking way to hold anything made of metal.

Some people do prefer to keep their knives in wooden blocks which is fine.  However, I just wish I could clean inside the knife slots.

You made it to the end of the page, so you now know quite a bit about sharpening!  If you are looking for a quality knife sharpener, chances are you already have quality knives.

If not, or if you are looking to upgrade, check out our information on knife sets.

Similar to the sharpeners, there is no one best knife set for everyone – it depends on your budget, needs and preference.

A high quality knife set will last a lifetime and makes a great anniversary or wedding present.

Check out these reviews if you want to learn more:
References:

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