Do you have a drawer full of dull knives?
Not only are they a pain in the butt to work with, they can also be dangerous as the blade tends to bounce and change directions as you cut.
I’ve spent countless hours reading reviews to find the best knife sharpener for my kitchen. My conclusion? There is no one-size-fits-all solution. As far as I’m concerned, the best model is the one that gets the best edge on my knives in the shortest amount of time possible.
Our Top 3
If this is what you’re after, here is a great list of the top electric sharpeners on the market. And if you want to skip all the information that I spent days compiling then you can just jump straight to the one I recommend (and bought).
Not interested in an electric model? If you’re interested in systems that utilize traditional sharpening stones take a look at our Knife Sharpening Systems Comparison Guide
But for those that want it done fast and right here are the top 3 models on the market.
Our Top 3 Models
#1. Smith’s Edge Pro Electric Sharpener
Our overall winner for best knife sharpener is the Edge Pro Electric from Smith’s. While they aren’t as well-known as some of the other brands in this comparison, there are several reasons why this product is superior to the rest of the field. Here are the highlights:
- Speed – this unit is as fast as any other in the comparison
- Flexibility – can sharpen a wide variety of angles
- Consistency – the design of the grinding wheels keeps consistent contact with the blade.
The most important feature of this particular unit is the ability to select the angle at which you wish to sharpen your blade. Why is this important?
Different knives have different angles. A paring blade will have a steeper (sharper) angle than a chef’s knife. To maintain this blade properly it should be sharpened to the factory angle.
The Edge Pro has a knob that allows you to easily adjust for the type of knife you’re sharpening. The knob is labeled showing everything from hunting to kitchen knives. Just select angle for the type of knife you’re sharpening and away you go. Doesn’t get any easier than that. It even has a special hidden serrated blade sharpener in the side of the unit.
Even with all of this functionality the Edge Pro is one of the most competitively priced products in this category. The speed and flexibility it offers for quickly getting any blade back into shape makes it the best knife sharpener in our comparison.
# 2. The Chef’s Choice Angle Select
Chef’s Choice is a well known brand in the industry. They’ve been making quality products for decades. The Angle Select is one of the most flexible products in their lineup. While it doesn’t offer all of the options of the Edge Pro, it does give you the capability to change the angle of sharpening from 15 degrees to 20.
It is capable sharpening both Western and Japanese blades since it only sharpens one side of the blade at a time. Just be sure to read the instructions before sharpening a Japanese blade.
The operation of the Angle Select is very simple with sturdy guides that keep the blade in the correct position for proper sharpening.
Before more recently buying the Edge Pro, I owned this unit . As a test I sharpened one of my favorite knives with it. It’s a Gerber. And while they are no longer around, they had a reputation for using extremely hard steel in their blades. The Chef’s Choice was able to restore a factory finish to this blade with no problem. In fact I still use this unit to sharpen this particular knife as it seems to handle the hard blade better than the Edge Pro.
# 3. Chef’sChoice 15 Trizor XV EdgeSelect
The third place model in our best knife sharpener comparison is also from Chef’s Choice. The Trizor XV takes a different tack from most of the sharpeners we’ve covered. It is capable of sharpening both European (Western) knives and Japanese blades. It’s important to know that the angle on this model is set to 15 degrees. This is sharper than most Western blades come from the factory.
As a result, the first time you use this sharpener you will be removing a good bit of material from the blade. The instructions clearly state this, but be forewarned. (Since I know everyone reads the instructions, right?)
This has the effect of making your blades sharper than their original factory condition. It can also affect the durability of the blade though. Knives with harder steels can handle this better than those made with softer. It’s worth doing your homework on your knives before purchasing this model.
This sharpener has three stages. The first grinds the blade down to accept the 15 degree angle. This is where you’ll see most of the blade material removed. Then the second stage develops the beveled edge. Finally the the third stage uses what is known as a stropping disc to smooth the bevel to a keen edge. You can also use this final stage to sharpen your serrated blades.
Most reviewers liked the performance of this unit putting it at 4.7 of 5 stars. Even some professional chef’s sing the praises of this unit. Just keep in mind that it is grinding down your blade to a different angle. Full review here.
Looking for something else? Here are our top 10 sharpeners from every category.
TOP 10 OVERALL
|Smith's Adjustable Edge Pro||$$$$||Read Review||4.9 out of 5|
|Chef's Choice Angle Select||$$$$||Read Review||4.3 out of 5|
|Chef'sChoice Trizor EdgeSelect||$$$$||Read Review||4.7 out of 5|
|Chef's Choice Professional||$$$$||Read Review||4.5 out of 5|
|Norton Three Stone Sharpening System||$$$$||Read Review||4.9 out of 5|
|Spyderco Triangle Sharpmaker||$$||Read Review||4.3 out of 5|
|Edge Pro Apex 1 Knife Sharpener Kit||$$$||Read Review||5 out of 5|
|Smith's Adjustable Manual Knife Sharpener||$||Read Review||4.4 out of 5|
When it comes to sharpeners there are three basic styles. Electric models are by far the most popular. They’re quick and easy to use. They don’t take up a ton of space. In fact most models can easily be stored in a drawer.
Manual models are the second most popular style. They are less expensive than electric, but they also take longer. For those that are budget conscious they can be a great value. Manual models also take up a minimum of space.
Sharpening stones are the third type. While professional knife sharpeners swear by stones, they are difficult to use without a great deal of practice. There are some well-designed systems out there that are changing this. But generally speaking these are for the pros.
So what should you use? Some people swear by their electrical sharpeners and others wouldn’t touch their prized knives with anything but a traditional stone. It’s really a matter of personal preference. How much time and effort do you want to put into sharpening your knives.
If you’re like me you want the fastest and easiest method. After all cooking is what I enjoy, not fiddling with some sharpening gadget.
The Best Way to Sharpen A Knife
While sharpening pro’s will always say that stones are the superior method, most consumers (myself included) just want a method that is fast and reliable. After doing a bit of research I did find a few sharpening stone based systems that are actually pretty intuitive to use. As a result I’ve included them in the list of top 10 products.
That being said I’d still recommend the electric models as the best knife sharpeners for most people as they are going to offer the most speed. After all, if we were patient about maintaining our blades we wouldn’t have a drawer full of dull knives right?
For the most part all of the products in the list operate in a very similar manner.
For Most Electric Knife Sharpeners Are Best
A professional knife sharpener is going to tell you that the only thing that should ever touch your blades is a sharpening stone. Once you’ve mastered the art of using stones you will remove very little from the blade as it is sharpened. This helps preserve and extend the life of the blade.
However, as I mentioned before, it requires a great deal of practice to be able to use stones effectively. That leaves you with hiring a professional to do it for you. And that can get pretty expensive.
An electric model is going to be the best solution for the majority of consumers. The best electric knife sharpeners are easy to use and sharpen quickly. They have guides that take all the guesswork out of making sure you sharpen the blade to the proper angle.
On the downside they are expensive. And manual models work well too. Just not as quickly. So which model should you get? Answering the following questions will help you decide.
- What sorts of knives will you be sharpening? Kitchen? Western or Japanese? Hunting knives? Pocket knives?
- Where will do a lot of your sharpening? In the kitchen? In the shop? In the field?
- How much time are you willing to: A. Dedicate to finding out how to properly use a sharpener and B. Sharpening each of your knives?
I’m guessing that for most of your (myself included) the answer to the first question is going to be kitchen knives. And of course you’ll probably be sharpening them in the kitchen. Which means you need a sharpener that stows away in a drawer or cabinet.
I’m also guessing that you don’t want to spend a ton of time learning how to properly use the sharpener. Like me you want something that is fast, easy, and effective.
For me the answer was simple. I want to spend my time cooking, not sharpening my knives. And therefore an electric model makes the most sense.
The models listed above offer a great deal of flexibility and they will work on a wide variety of blades.
If the price of these models is scaring you away, then check out some of the manual sharpeners in our reviews section. Just expect to spend more time on the process.
Features of the Best Models
Getting the best kitchen knife sharpener for your needs is a matter of determining what features you want and how much you’re willing to spend. There are a few important features that should be considered above the rest. Some apply to both manual and electric models. Here they are.
The Best Knife Sharpeners Allow Angle Selection
Knives are designed based on a number of different variables. Of these steel strength and angle are the two most critical. Many Japanese knife makers choose to go with a harder steel and a lower angle (sharper blade). Western blades are typically made from softer steel and have a higher angle (not as sharp).
The sharpness of the knife is determined by the bevel angle, which is measured in degrees. The lower the angle, the sharper the knife. But other factors come into play. An extremely sharp knife with a lower bevel angle won’t be as durable as one that is slightly less sharp and made with softer steel. Harder steel will actually chip since it is more brittle. Great care needs to be taken with hard steel knifes. Dropping one on the floor or tossing it into the sink could actually cause it to break.
A knife made with softer steel and a higher bevel angle won’t be as sharp, but can actually be more durable because it is able to take abuse without cracking or chipping.
Short story long…(sorry, this is important)
The ability to set the sharpening angle to specifically match the angles of your knives can help preserve and extend the life of the blade. Since the manufacturer designed it to operate at it’s factory bevel angle, keeping the knife at angle is the best option.
For whatever reason this feature isn’t the one that gets the most marketing hype, but it is probably one of the most important to consider when buying.
The Edge Pro manual and electric both incorporate this particular feature and that is the primary reason we selected it as the best knife sharpener overall.
Number of Stages
Regardless of the type of product you buy, the basics of knife sharpening are always the same. In the first stage you are grinding down any imperfections or damage to the blade. This creates a consistent surface for applying a clean edge.
Not all sharpeners have a repair stage so keep this in mind if many of your blades are nicked or damaged severely.
In stage two a stone that is less coarse is used to raise a burr. This burr will eventually become the cutting edge. When doing simple maintenance on a blade you can generally skip straight to this stage.
The final step, or stage three, is the stropping stage. This is where you polish out the burr and create a keen edge on the blade of the knife.
Materials Used for Sharpening
When it comes to materials used in the sharpening of a blade there is a considerable variety out there. They include natural stones and composite materials that have been designed specifically for this task.
Natural stones have been used for thousands of years for sharpening tools, weapons, and knives. Some of the best natural stones come from quarries in Arkansas. While there are several different types they are generally known as Arkansas stones.
Composite or man-made stones are made up of a variety of materials and are generally considered to be more long lasting that natural materials. Much of the time this is a matter of personal preference.
Many of the best electric knife sharpeners choose man-made diamond abrasives that are bound to wheels for the most effective sharpening. The coarseness of the abrasive changes as your progress through the various stages of the sharpener. Ceramics, steel, and other naturally occurring and man-made stones are also common materials.
Sharpening professionals generally prefer either natural or manmade stones. And while the type of stone is important, it plays a secondary role to using the proper angle to sharpen the blade.
Electric Models VS Manual
For all intents and purposes the best home knife sharpeners can be split in two types: manual and electric. Most knife sharpening pros swear by using manual sharpening stones. But as I mentioned before, it takes time and practice to become proficient in their use.
Best Knife Sharpening Systems for Beginners
There are a few models of sharpening systems that rely upon the use of stones. They are guided meaning that the angle is locked in. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of restoring your blades.
If this is a method in which you have some interest I would encourage you to take a look at my sharpening system reviews. These devices lock the blade at the specific sharpening angle, allowing you to quickly (compared to basic sharpening stones) sharpen your blades. Essentially they take the guesswork out of using stones. The best knife sharpening systems typically cost somewhere between $125 and $400. That might sound like a lot, but it’s a relatively inexpensive way to sharpen your knives like a pro would. Just be prepared to spend a bit more time than you would with an electric model.
These systems also tend to take up more space, so most likely you’re not going to want to store it in the kitchen.
Sharpening stones would be last on my list for most consumers. While they have been used for thousands of years for this purpose, it’s more work than most home chef’s are going to want to do. They also tend to be somewhat messy as they require an oil or water lubricant.
If not used properly, they can also cause more harm than good.
Here’s a great video of the Apex system in action.
Best Electric Knife Sharpeners
At this point it’s probably pretty clear that I prefer electric sharpeners. I have a lot of knives in my kitchen. And sharpening them with an electric model frees up time for me to do the thing I love: cooking.
They are fast, efficient, and practically foolproof. There are expensive models, but there are also some more economical models as well. I would encourage you to look in this category before attempting to find a manual type sharpener.
To give you a better understanding about kitchen knives in general I wanted to touch briefly on the two main types out there. They are usually categorized as either Western which are sharpened on both sides of the blade, and Japanese which are only sharpened on one side.
Types of Kitchen Knives
Since there’s a wide variety of knives out there, let’s touch on a few of the more common types. Most people use Western style knives, but not knowing the difference can cause serious damage to your blades.
The Japanese have excelled at making knives for thousands of years. They typically come in two different formats.
- Single-bevel blades are sharpened only on one side. As a result the bevel angle is typically smaller which in turn makes it sharper. While most Western-style knives have angles no smaller than 15 degrees, some Japanese knives are sharpened to 5 or 6 degrees.
- Double-bevel blades are sharpened on both sides. These are similar to Western-style knives, but they are often sharpened to 16 degrees as is the case with many Shun knives.
If you own Japanese knives, this is the single most important factor in choosing the right electric knife sharpener. Depending on which type you own you might need a sharpener that is capable of sharpening only one side at a time.
The steel used in Japanese knives is also much harder than that used in Western knives. Since the bevel angle is lower, the steel needs to be harder so that the blade can hold up to use.
Harder steel is also more brittle. This is why Eastern-style knives must be handled with such care.
The other big difference in a Japanese and Western knife is the shape of the blade itself. A typical Japanese knife will be flat along the length of the blade. This has the effect of putting more blade in contact with the food while you’re cutting. This also changes the way it should be sharpened. Pulling straight back through the sharpener is important here.
Western Knives (European)
Not to be outdone by the Japanese, Western style knives also have a history that goes way back. In particular knives from Germany are well known for their efficient design and durability. Compared to Eastern style knives there are a few important differences.
The biggest difference is that a European style blade will be sharpened on both sides (called a symmetrical bevel). When you take the angle from both sides and combine it, you get the total angle. Generally speaking they range from 28 high end to 18 on the lower end.
The overall thickness of the blade itself is also very different. European knives are generally made with softer steel so they need the additional metal to lend strength to the blade. This is the main reason they are so strong. A good German chef’s knife will have no problem cutting through bones and then slicing through a tomato. Bones are typically a no no with Japanese single sided blades.
The Western style knife isn’t impervious to damage, but a properly maintained blade should be able to withstand a decent amount of punishment. Regular honing is one way to make sure your knife stays in good shape. You can find some honing steels here.
The final difference is that their blades are curved. This puts more pressure on one particular part of the blade at a time. This is especially important when cutting bones and other hard materials.
When sharpening it means that the blade must be pulled back along this same angle. This ensures that the knife is sharpened along the whole length.
The most important point to take away from this is that you should have a good understanding about what type of knives you own before investing in a sharpener.
Best Pocket Knife Sharpeners
Pocket knives can be a bit challenging to work with on an electric sharpener. They often have shorter, folding blades as well as a wide handle. This makes it difficult to sharpen along the entire length of the blade. The best knife sharpener for your kitchen knives won’t necessarily perform well on pocket knives.
Luckily there are some inexpensive options out there when it comes to sharpening your pocket knives. Here’s another post in which we talk about some great options for under $25.
The other upside besides the price is the size of these models. They’re perfect for throwing in a pack or keeping in your vehicle. They’re not necessarily designed to repair damaged blades, but they do a great job restoring a dull knife back to a razor’s edge.
The Blade Medic from Smith’s in particular is a great little unit. It’s easy to use and can fit just about anywhere. I actually have a couple of these little guys stashed around the house and in the car.
Another option for pocket knives is any of the knife sharpening systems we’ve reviewed. They allow you to work on just about any size blade with ease.
Hunting Knife Sharpeners
When it comes to hunting knives I almost always recommend going with a stone based system. Most hunters love their knives as much as their dog or their kids and are terrified of scratching or marring the blade in any way. An electric model is much more likely to cause harm than good. Most models don’t allow you to adjust the sharpening angle, and hunting knives come with a wide array of bevel angles.
Products like the Apex, KME, and Wicked Edge are designed to ensure the sides of the blade are protected during sharpening. They also allow you to match the EXACT angle of the blade. This helps improve the durability and longevity of the knife. Besides all that, you’ll never get your knife as sharp with an electric model as you can with a sharpening kit or system. They allow for precise control and pressure throughout the entire process.
Serrated Knife Sharpeners
Sharpening serrated knives can be fairly challenging. Thankfully most serrated blades are pretty tough and so they don’t require frequent upkeep. Most electric models will only chew up a serrated blade. The Edge Pro from Smith does have a slide out attachment for sharpening serrated blades. It works fairly well. But the best way to get a good edge back on a serrated blade is to use a rounded honing rod.
But for most people that would be fairly inconvenient. Therefore we recommend going with a product like the Chef’s Choice manual sharpener. It operates the same basic way as their electric model, but since it’s manual you can control the sharpening process more carefully.
It’s not perfect, but there’s nothing more frustrating than tearing up a perfectly good baguette instead of cutting clean through it.
Professional Knife Sharpening Services
Sharpening services are great. But they are expensive. Typically you’re going to pay between $8 and $12 per knife every time you get them sharpened. This can really add up if you have a lot of knives. You also have to deal with the inconvenience of not having your knives around while they’re being worked on.
I have used services in the past and they were great. But I didn’t care for having to take them somewhere and then go pick them up. I’m more inclined to do it if I have an electric knife sharpener around the house.
That being said… When a professional truly knows what they’re doing it’s tough to beat the edge they put on a blade. It will be clean, sharp and should last for a good long while. Any sharpener worth their salt will take excellent care not to damage the blade in any way. And of course they can work on just about any knife in the world.
Ceramic Knife Sharpeners
Ceramic knives are too hard to be sharpened by stone-based sharpeners. On top of that, it’s very easy to crack or chip them in the process. There are only a couple models of sharpeners out there designed to work with ceramic blades. The best knife sharpener for ceramic blades is the Precisharp manual sharpener. It will work with both steel and ceramic.
Humans have been using stones to sharpen blades for thousands of years. Back in the day it wouldn’t be uncommon for anyone and everyone to know how to use a stone to sharpen their knife. But those days are long gone.
While there truly is no better way to get the perfect edge back on your knife than with a sharpening stone it is a method that requires a great deal of practice to do correctly. Here’s a great video showing the proper technique.
As you can see it requires a decent amount of skill. And even then it can take a while, especially with blades that are damage. For this reason we typically recommend going with one the products listed above.
When considering various sharpeners take into consideration their flexibility. Some units are capable of sharpening tools and scissors. Some are capable of sharpening serrated blades, while others are not.
These factors may not be the most important in making your decision, but don’t shortchange yourself with what you buy.
How Do I Rank Products?
My primary method of ranking products is based upon customer reviews. Amazon.com is a great source for information on all sorts of products. It’s how I was able to find the electric knife sharpener I currently use.
I encourage you to dig through reviews of the products you’re considering before making your purchase. The best knife sharpening tool for one person might not be ideal for someone else. It’s also a great place to score some valuable information on how the company handles customer service and repairs.
The product attributes are obviously something else to look at. But I’ve covered those pretty thoroughly earlier in the article.
Last but not least is price. Some of the products that rank at the top of our comparison are expensive. But I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for. If you only pay $30 for an electric unit, don’t expect to get the same performance as from a $200 unit.
I hope that this guide has been helpful in your search for the best knife sharpener. Please feel free to post any questions you might have about my knife sharpening reviews in the comments section. I’ll try to get back to you as quickly as I can.