Cutting things with a dull knife is an absolute nightmare. Whether or not you like to cook on a regular basis, having a knife sharpener is important because you never want to find yourself in a situation where your knife is just stuck in the middle of cutting through a potato. Even when buying a knife sharpener, you should know about the difference between the products available on the market, so let’s dive into the world of sharpeners and see which models are better for you.
Types of Knife Sharpeners
Not all knife sharpeners are identical, so let’s go over the main categories that you’re likely to come across as you’re shopping for one:
These are designed to make the sharpening process quite simple. They are portable sharpeners that are quite limited in terms of how many slots they actually have. They are often preferred by cooking professionals because they are super easy to manipulate (and these are people that really know their way around working with kitchen utensils). The design of a handheld sharpener will either require you to drive the knife through the slot (if the sharpener is placed on a flat surface) or have the sharpener held in your hand and slide down the length of the blade.
This type is typically designed to offer a two or three-stage process for knife sharpening. These sharpeners usually allow you to “fine tune” your knives regardless of whether they have full blades or sharp ones. When buying an electric sharpener, it’s really important to study all the manufacturer’s instructions so that you can get the perfect angle.
These are considered to be the old-fashioned way of sharpening a knife. These stones are generally made from one of three materials: silicon carbide, aluminum oxide, and Novaculite. These stones often go by the names Crystolon, India, and Arkansas. Crystolon and India are man-made stones, while Arkansas are natural stones. Each of these three types is suitable for a specific purpose: Crystolon is good for initial coarse sharpening, India is more suitable for fine sharpening, while Arkansas stones have different grit variations.
Serrated knife sharpeners
Designed to be used with serrated blades in particular. The thing is, if you have to sharpen knives with serrated blades, then it’s important that you make sure that the sharpener you want to buy can be used with this type of blade.
They don’t actually sharpen knives, but rather hone the blades. They are available in four different types: regular cut steels (the most common type), diamond steels (coated with diamond abrasives), combination cut steels (one surface for honing and another one for minor sharpening), and ceramic cut steel (made from ceramic and good for minor sharpening).
The shape of the blade’s edge, also known as the bevel, is going to determine what type of sharpener works best. Different bevel types are available on knives that serve different cutting purposes, so the most common types of bevels include:
- Convex bevels are characterized by an outward curving taper. This design houses more metal behind the edge for strengthening purposes. This is a bevel commonly found on cleavers.
- Chisel bevels have one side of the blade grounded down while the opposite edge lies flat. Asian culinary knives usually have chisel bevels, which tend to have really sharp edges.
- Flat bevels have a taper starting at the blade’s spine. It is one of the sharpest types of bevels, but also one of the hardest ones to find (since there is a lot of metal that needs to be removed for this design).
- Double bevel knives are commonly found in the Western kitchen. Even if this type of blade isn’t the sharpest one, it’s one of the most durable ones, because of its construction that aims at having a thin blade with a back bevel for reinforcement.
- Sabre bevels have a V shape and share a few similarities with the flat bevel. The main difference is that the taper begins at the middle of the blade instead of at its base.
- Hollow bevels are tapered inward, thus creating a very sharp edge (and sacrifices durability in the process). You are likely to find this type of bevel on sharp razors.
When you read information about the blade’s angle, know that it refers to how much the blade is sharpened on each side. However, the angle refers to the sharpening on both sides. For instance, a knife with a blade sharpened at a 20-degree angle will have 40 degrees in total, so keep that rule in mind. Generally speaking, knives that have a greater blade angle are more durable but less sharp. Here are the blade angles to keep in mind:
- 12-to-18-degree angles are common on knives that require extreme sharpness, like those used for filleting. The blade is weaker, so it’s paired with knives that are used for fine slicing.
- 18-to-25-degree angles are the ones you’re likely to find on most kitchen knives. They offer a decent balance between durability and sharpness, and they are used on carving, boning, or chef knives.
- 25-to-30-degree angles are often left for outdoor utility kitchen knives. These blades are designed to work in rougher conditions (for instance, you are likely to find them on hunting knives).
- 30-to-35-degree angles are common on knives that are used for chopping, such as cleavers, as this particular part of cooking requires more force, and these blades offer better durability.
Pros & Cons of Knife Sharpeners
When analyzing the advantages and drawbacks of knife sharpeners, it’s important to look at everything with that subjective eye. What poses as a benefit to someone may not be an advantage to another person (same goes of cons, as well), but it’s important to know what are the good and bad parts that might come out of investing in a knife sharpener:
Pro: There are a lot of types to choose from. If you’re willing to put in the elbow grease, you can invest in sharpening stone. If you want to sharpen the knife in just a couple of minutes, you can get an electric sharpener. You have a lot of freedom in this chapter.
Cons: You have to learn a few things about them and the knives you use for these sharpeners to be efficient. Pretty much everything we’ve explained in this buying guide is need-to-know information if you’re looking to get the best out of a sharpener without ruining your knives.
Pro: It’s a good long-term investment. The alternative is to take your knives for professional sharpening each time, and while this will save you some trouble, it does cost more in the long haul.
Cons: You need to properly learn how to sharpen knives before you get down to business. That means that you might need something like eye protection, since tiny metal fragments/abrasive particles can fly all over the place. Your hands need to stay out of the blade’s path and manufacturer instructions for the sharpener need to be followed precisely.
Knife Sharpener FAQ
What do professionals use to sharpen knives?
The opinions on this matter are quite divided, as some chefs prefer sharpening their tools themselves, while others prefer sending knives to professionals that can handle the blade sharpening for them.
What is the best knife sharpener?
Since there are so many different types of knife sharpeners available on the market, determining which ones are the best is a matter of analyzing their strengths and weakness and determining what it is that YOU need. For instance, electric sharpeners are fast and easy to use, but they are more expensive and have a higher noise output. Sharpening stones can help you sharpen blades to perfection, but it can be difficult to master the correct sharpening technique.
Should I sharpen my knives professionally?
Well, there are ups and downs to taking your knives to a professional service. While this requires less effort on your behalf, since there’s someone else handling the sharpening for you, it is a well-known fact that professional sharpeners tend to sharpen the blades way too much, meaning they remove a lot of metal in the process.
Best Knife Sharpeners
Our first suggestion for today is this ceramic knife sharpener with three slots, dedicated to fine, medium, and coarse blades. It’s made from stainless steel and ABS to make sure that it doesn’t break down anytime soon. It is a manual knife sharpener that uses ceramic rods for fine sharpening and tungsten blades to give you smooth blade edges every time. The coarse stage uses diamond-coated sharpening to provide maximum abrasion. The medium stage has tungsten carbide blades to realign the edges of your knife. Lastly, the fine stage uses ceramic with low abrasiveness for knife blade touch-ups.
Let’s look at Chef’sChoice Trizor XV EdgeSelect sharpener, a product with a few aces up its sleeve. It has a three-stage sharpening system that works together to provide you with proper blades for different kinds of cooking needs. The first two stages are pleated with diamond abrasives so dull edges will become as sharp as they can be. The third stage is based on the power of a patented abrasive system to make sure that serrated knives last as long as possible. As far as noise output is concerned, the Chef’sChoice Trizor XV EdgeSelect sharpener has between 65 and 75 dB.
If you’re looking for that one beast that can sharpen more than just your knives, you may have found it. This sharpener has a design that allows you to change the abrasive grit belts (which cover all your sharpening needs, by the way. Not only does this work on knives, but it can be used with a variety of other tools as well, including shovels, garden pruners, and even scrapers. It can sharpen kitchen knife blades at a 40-degree angle and outdoor tools at a 50-degree angle. The product is backed by a full year of warranty and it shouldn’t be used with power converters.
As we mentioned in the first half of the article, a lot of people think about sharpening their knives and a sharpening stone is the first tool that comes to mind. This one right here is a double-sided whetstone that sits on top of an elegant bamboo base. One of the sides has a 1000 grit that’s good for sharpening blades, while the other side has a 6000 grit and can be used for honing the blades. It is made with aluminum oxide and has a non-slip rubber base for your safety, so that the stone won’t slide while you’re working with knives.
Hunting knives are a very particular category in itself, with blades that have to be stronger compared to those that one usually needs in the kitchen. This sharpening tool has a tapered round rod with diamond coating that allows you to sharpen both serrated and regular blades. You have a carbide slot and a ceramic stone one, so that you can get the best and sharp blades every time. Both the stones are reversible and replaceable. There is also a lanyard hole so that you can carry the sharpener with you on your trip without even misplacing it.
Here is another solution for your dull knives, this time in the form of color-coded stones that serve different sharpening purposes. What you’ll get inside the package is an extra-coarse black hone, a coarse red hone, a medium green hone, a fine blue hone, and an ultra-fine ceramic yellow hone. The set also includes honing oil and a multi-angle clamp. The clamp is perfect for when you have to sharpen thicker blades. You also get a guide rod for each of the hones, and everything is delivered to you in a convenient storage case.
Here we have yet another product from Work Sharp, this time in the shape of a combo knife sharpener. It is designed to create convex edges that actually make precise cuts on your kitchen knives. It is designed to be a long-lasting tool that comes with abrasive belts and a ceramic hone, but also a honing guide to make it easier for you to learn how to properly sharpen and fine-tune your knives. The tool works with a bunch of different blades and can even be used to sharpen serrated knives.
Next up, we have the RUIXIN PRO RX-008 knife sharpening tool, with quite a few features that are worth mentioning. It comes with four whetstones and a reversible design so that you can sharpen both sides of the blade whilst maintaining the same edge and angle. It has a 360-degrees rotation design and works with water, eliminating the need for any sharpening or honing oils. Made mostly out of the stainless steel, the sharpener does include a few plastic parts, but that shouldn’t compromise its durability too much.
The Smith’s CCKS is a simple and straightforward sharpening tool that weighs only 1.6 ounces, being a perfect lightweight and travel-size sharpener that can accompany you wherever needed. It is designed with crossed carbide blades so that you can set up the edge real quick and proceed to sharpening the blades in no time. The sharpening angles are pre-set so that you can use the tool straight out of the box. It has non-slip rubber feet for more stability and safety.
It’s perfectly normal to be confused by the many different types of knife sharpeners out there, but once you learn the characteristics of each type, as well as what your kitchen knives need to be as sharp and as long-lasting as they can be, this will all seem like a good investment. Don’t let dull blades stand in the way between you and those perfect meals that you’re craving for!