Overview on Knife Sharpeners
Eventually, it happens. Your once pristine set of steak knives have lost their surgical sharpness. Your kitchen scissors can no longer cut a penny the way the salesman showed you.
The bottom line: it’s time to get a knife sharpener. Here is the definitive guide to knife sharpeners – it’s long, but it covers everything. Now, if you aren’t sure if your knife is sharp, you may want to read this first.
With thousands of models available to choose from, making sure you get the most bang for your buck can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be. Today, we’ll take a look at how you can give your cutlery the sharpest edge for the lowest price.
Best For the Money – 2016
I analyzed several of the highest rated sharpeners and summarized the reviews, specs, and cost. If you have questions, let me know in the comments.
How to Choose the Right Sharpener
All knife sharpeners fall into one of two categories:
With manual sharpeners, there are fixed abrasive surfaces in each slot which you drag your knife across for several passes.
Electric models operate on the same principal, with the difference being that the abrasive surfaces rotate, meaning that each stage of sharpening can be completed in a single pass.
While some prefer the control of manual systems, I personally opt for electric versions which are FAST. (See the Top 5 Electric Sharpeners)
If you’ve never purchased an electric knife sharpener before, it’s a good idea to get an understanding of how they operate.
Typically, a sharpener will have two to three sharpening stages, progressing from a coarse abrasive to a fine one to create a triple bevel edge.
- The first stage will have a coarse abrasive which will remove the most metal and prepares dull knives for a sharp edge.
- The second stage uses a finer abrasive material and a steeper angle to create what is called the secondary edge.
- The third stage, known as stropping, uses the finest abrasive material and the steepest angle to create the blade’s primary cutting edge.
When you’re shopping for a knife sharpener, a good place to start is to identify some the most reputable manufacturers. Some of the most trusted names in the industry include Chef’s Choice, Wusthof, Shun, and Presto.
Each company has a variety of different models to choose from so you can find the right one to meet your needs and fit your budget. See my review on a great 15º sharpener.
Important features to consider
All knife sharpeners are not created equal. While different companies boast different features, there are three critical ones to keep in mind. The first is Angle Select technology.
This means that as you progress through the stages of sharpening the angle of your abrasive surfaces will change, becoming steeper as your abrasives become finer.
This creates a beveled edge, ensuring that your blade will stay sharp through repeated use. On some higher end models, there is even the ability to adjust the finest abrasive to twenty degrees for American and European style blades to fifteen degrees for Asian style blades.
Edge Select technology means that the sharpener has different abrasive materials for each stage of the sharpening process.
The first stage is generally made of coarse grit diamond or tungsten carbide and progresses to the final stage which is typically made of ceramic or a fine grit diamond.
Avoid any sharpeners that claim to give your knife a sharp edge in just one pass. These units use a generic medium grit abrasive and will leave you with disappointing results.
Last, but certainly not least, is safety. Like fire, the knife is a tool which must treated with respect. Reputable manufacturers understand this and include safety features to help keep their customers safe.
Look for units with slip resistant rubber feet which keep the sharpener firmly planted on your countertop. Your sharpener should include a comfortable handle so that you can easily hold the model in place while you’re using it.
Assist rollers help protect your knives from over sharpening. And since you are removing bits of metal from your knives, especially during the coarsest stage, look for models with a safety cover to contain the fine metal dust.
When you’re shopping for a knife sharpener, determine whether you prefer electric or manual sharpeners. Search for customer reviews of the manufacturer, or better yet, of the specific sharpener you are considering. Ensure that your sharpener will come equipped with Edge Select, Angle Select technology, and safety features to protect you and your blades.
Purchasing a knife sharpener is an investment, but once you know what to look for you can be confident that you’re getting the best value for your money. A quality knife sharpener is easy to operate, effective, and will keep you blades sharp for years to come.