After testing more than a dozen sharpening tools on a wide range of kitchen (and other) knives we’ve come to the conclusion that the Apex System from Edge Pro Inc is the best knife sharpener for the home chef.
It offers the flexibility to sharpen an enormous variety of knives at angles between 10 and 24 degrees. It’s manual operation is simple to use and ensures that no damage is caused the temper of your blades.
The solid construction stable platform ensures fast and efficient sharpening of practically any knife.
Dull knives are incredibly frustrating to use. They're also dangerous as the blade tends to bounce and change directions during cutting.
#1 Pick: Apex 1 Sharpening System
- Simple to Use
- Infinite Angle Selection
- Works with any knife
- Won't damage blade temper
Ideal for high end knives or for those that want only the best and most durable edge for their blades
Our Budget Pick
- Easy to Use
- Multiple Angles
- Works with any knife
- Won't damage blades
Ideal for less expensive knives that you want to keep in good working order. Not as flexible but a great value!
We spent countless hours researching and more that 20 hours testing various sharpeners in our kitchen. Our conclusion? The best knife sharpeners have two things in common:
- They work with a wide variety of knives and blade angles.
- They won't destroy the temper of the steel by heating the metal during sharpening.
Both of these are critical to not only sharpening a dull knife, but to extending the life of blade for years to come. With that in mind here are our top 3 sharpeners.
**While a manual option is not for everyone, they did give the best overall results. Our second place option was an electric model.**
Best Knife Sharpener Reviews - At a Glance
|Wicked Edge Sharpening System|
|Chef's Choice Angle Select|
|Chef's Choice Trizor XV|
#1. Apex 1 Knife Sharpening Kit
The Apex 1 claimed the top spot in our comparison. In terms of portability the Apex can’t be beat. This sharpener is easy to set up on just about any flat surface. It also comes with a case making it easy to pack up and store.
Why a Manual Sharpener You Ask?
While most consumers initially look for electric sharpeners because they are supposed to be fast, they can also destroy your knives.
All electric models use grinding wheels. Because of the speed at which they spin, they generate a significant amount of heat. This heat transfers to the blade and can affect the hardness of the steel. It can literally RUIN your knives.
Electric sharpeners can often cause more harm than good. They generate heat along the length of the blade, causing it to lose it's strength and durability.
Most electric models also only allow you to sharpen at one angle. This is also a huge disadvantage. The blade angle and hardness are two core design components of any knife and shouldn’t be changed.
Because the Apex system is manual it does not generate heat. And it is infinitely adjustable in terms of sharpening angle. This means it can be used on anything in your kitchen knife set.
The manufacturing quality is top notch. The sharpening stones glide smoothly along the length of the blade ensuring a consistent bevel.
It’s capability to sharpen knives both large and small is also a big plus. And the safety features such as the built-in stops and guards ensure that you won’t hurt yourself in the process.
What We Like
- Extremely flexible design allows exact matching of bevel angle
- Manual Operation ensures no damage to steel temper.
- Sharpen knives of almost any length and up to 3 1/2″ in width.
- Great safety features and great price.
- Works on Western, Japanese and serrated knives
Things We Don't Like
- unfortunately the manual operation is a deterrent to many consumers
- doesn’t work well on filet knives
Operation & Performance
The Apex sharpener system is specifically designed to be easy to set up and break down. The base has suction cups on the bottom, allowing a stable platform from which to work. All you need is a smooth surface such as a kitchen counter. The suction cups can be removed if you’re going to attach the unit to a work bench.
While most sharpening systems (like the KME) use clamps to hold the blade in place. The Apex uses a patented guide instead. This allows you to sharpen longer and taller blades. There aren’t really any length restrictions and blades as tall as 3 1/2″ can be accommodated on this system.
Allowing for a range of anywhere from 10 to 24 degrees, the Apex offers a great amount of flexibility. There are settings for the most common angles, but you can select any angle you like depending on the blade.
- Apex Model Edge Pro Sharpening System
- 220 Grit Medium Fine water stone
- 400 Grit Fine water stone
- Micro-fiber Towel
- Water Bottle
- Instructional Manual
- Black Cordura Carrying Case
There are quite a few accessories for this particular knife sharpening kit. They are all available separately, or included in the higher end kits. There’s an Apex 2, 3, and even 4. Basically the only thing that changes is the number of stones, accessories, and an instructional DVD.
While the manual operation of this sharpener might be off-putting to some consumers, the Apex system is VERY simple to operate. It can sharpen knives at just about any angle and will get your knives sharper than they've EVER been. Changing stones is quick and painless, and the manual action ensures no damage to the tempering of your blades. We highly recommend it.
#2. Smith's Edge Pro Adjustable Electric Sharpener
Our overall winner for best electric sharpener is the Edge Pro 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.
What We Like About the Edge Pro
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 flexibility it offers in selecting various angles based on the knife blade makes it the #1 electric model in our comparison.
Things We Don't Like
Our biggest complaint with any electric knife model, including this one, is that the spinning discs that do the sharpening will heat the blade all along it's length. This causes an overall weakening of the steel and shortens the usable life of the blade.
This must be balanced against the fact that most consumers prefer electric models because of how fast they operate.
We also found that the Edge Pro tends to heat up pretty quickly. We were only able to sharpen 4-5 knives before we had to wait for it to cool down. Obviously this is not a problem if you're only sharpening a couple knives at a time.
We're not huge fans of electric knife sharpeners, but the Edge Pro Adjustable from Smith's is far and away the best choice in this category. It offers a wide variety of sharpening angles, interlocking discs for a consistent bevel, and handy options like a slot for serrated knives. For those that aren't willing to go the manual route, this is far and away the best option.
#3. KME's Sharpening System
While a relative newcomer to the market, KME has delivered a fine product. This sharpener was originally designed for arrowheads, the product has now become a very capable knife sharpener.
The KME comes with a set of stones, but can use just about any 4″ stone on the market. You simply attach the stone to the rod using the supplied clamps. The blade angle is adjustable to anywhere within 17 and 30 degrees. You simply raise or lower the the slot on the frame of the unit and then lock it.
To protect the blade while it is clamped into the unit KME uses a neoprene finish. Both large and small knives can be sharpened by choosing one of the two lines on the clamp. Smaller blades should be placed not the first line, and larger on the second. Clamping the blade in place is as simple as tightening the supplied thumb nut.
The diamond stone series includes a coarse, fine, and extra fine stones.
Operation & Performance
Once you have the blade locked in place, select the stone you want to start with and place it into the slot on the carrier. The thumb-nut on the end tightens on the stone, holding it in place.
The next step is to slide the rod into the ball joint that is built into the angle selector. The ball joint is a relatively new feature and allows the stone to travel smoothly along the entire length of the blade.
Since you have to sharpen both sides of most knives, KME has included an easy way to flip the knife over without removing it from the clamp. This is a great time-saving innovation that saves you from the aggravation of having to re-seat the blade in the middle of sharpening.
For serrated knives you can also purchase the tapered rod. It’s made diamond so it should last as long as the rest of the kit.
If you have re-curved blades you can also purchase the 3 level grit diamond honing rod. And of course there are stropping stones that can be purchased for this sharpener as well.
What We Like
- simple and flexible design
- clamp flips to avoid re-clamping balde
- works with just about any 4″ stone
What We Don't Like
- clamp isn’t great with odd blade geometries
- the base is not as stable as the Apex System
The KME stone-based sharpening system is a very high quality product. Our biggest gripe is the instability of the base. On top of that, you have to pay extra for it. The lowest angle setting is 17 degrees so it's not quite as flexible as the Apex. And it costs more. A great product, but the Apex is better.
Best Way to Sharpen Kitchen Knives
When it comes to sharpeners there are four basic styles.
- Electric sharpeners - by far the most popular. They’re fast, easy to use, and don’t take up a ton of space. In fact most models can easily be stored in a drawer.
- Manual models - 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 stone systems - the third type. Stones are what the pros prefer. They offer the greatest amount of flexibility and will not damage the tempering of the steel of your knives.
- Sharpening stones - the original method of sharpening. They require a great deal of practice to master and are much slower than the other three methods.
Which Type is Best for You?
Here are a few simple questions to help you decide what type of sharpener is best for your kitchen.
- What sorts of knives will you be sharpening? Kitchen? Western or Japanese? Hunting knives? Pocket knives?
- What is your budget?
- Are you primarily interested in speed or accuracy?
Comparison of Sharpeners
Accuarate, (requires skill)
Potential to Damage Steel
Can Damage Tempering
Mostly Fixed Angle
If you're interested in speed electric models are the way to go. They're not as accurate and will struggle with smaller blades like paring and pocket knives. They also have a hard time sharpening knives with a large bolster (like Wusthof's). Second in terms of speed are sharpening systems.
For those on a tight budget manual sharpeners are fine. They are slower, but will get the job done. They can also handle a wide variety of knives and will not impact the tempering of the steel.
For those concerned with accuracy and ensuring the long life of their blades a stone-based sharpening system is the way to go.
Best Electric Knife Sharpener Reviews
If you're looking for an electric sharpener that won't damage the temper of your blades check out our Tormek T7 review. It's a low RPM water cooled sharpening system that is designed to sharpen quickly without impacting the temper of the steel.
We prefer stone-based sharpening systems, but the vast majority of people want the fastest and nothing else. With that in mind we highlight some of the most highly rated electric models below.
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.
Winner: Smith's Edge Pro Adjustable Angle Sharpener
While it took second place overall in our competition, the Edge Pro adjustable from Smith's easily takes first place among electric sharpeners. Since we highlighted it at the beginning
The biggest reason? You can adjust the sharpening angle to a wide variety of angles. This is especially helpful when sharpening kitchen knives such as a paring knife, filet knife, or even a chef's knife.
This flexibility coupled with the simple operation makes it easy to get a consistent bevel along almonst the entire length of the blade.
As with most electric sharpeners it has difficulty sharpening knives with a large bolster as the wide heel of the blade won't fit into the slots. But it's other capabilities more than make up for this issue.
Second Place: Chef's Choice Angle Select
Chef's Choice has been around the kitchen knife sharpening scene for quite some time. The Angle Select is a solid product, but lacks the flexibility of the Edge Pro. It offers 2 sharpening angles of 15 and 20 degrees and utilizes only diamond abrasives.
The unit is a two-stage device. The first slot uses a 15 degree angle for Japanese style knives and other sharper knives such as a paring knife. The second slot is for 20 degree blades such as European style chef knives. The third slot is for honing of either type.
Since it only sharpens one side of the blade at a time, it is capable of handling both Western and Japanese style knives. You'll want to read the instructions thoroughly before running one of your expensive Japanese knives through this sharpener just to be sure you're doing it correctly.
Operation & Performance
Using the Angle Select is very easy. The guide slots are magnetized to help keep the blade in the proper position for consistent sharpening all along it's length.
There is a bit of difficulty in sharpening knives such as a Wüsthof that have large bolsters. The extra width doesn't allow you to sharpen all the way to the heel. This is not a problem that is unique to this product though. Most electric models struggle in this area.
For more information check out our full review of the Angle Select.
What We Like
- ability to select between 2 popular angles (15 and 20 degrees)
- magnetized guides for consistent angle
- quick operation
- no overheating issues
What We Don't Like
- sharpening discs damage steel tempering
- lack of flexibility of blade angle
If you're familiar with the Chef's Choice name you know they make a quality product. That being said, the Angle Select can't compare to the Smith's in terms of flexibility of choosing your sharpening angle. It's a solid second choice, but for the money we recommend the Edge Pro sharpener instead.
Third Place: Chef's Choice Trizor XV Edgeselect
The third place model in our 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.
The name Trizor refers to the bevel shape this unit creates when sharpening the blade. It's not a traditional shape and you should be aware that the first time you use this it will remove a fairly significant amount of material from the blade.
It creates a very sharp edge, and seems somewhat durable, but we're not a fan of anything that removes that much material. Additionally the shape of the bevel is not what most knife manufacturers intended when designing the strength and hardness of the steel in their blades.
Operation & Performance
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. Chef's choice offers other models that are lower priced and will not reprofile the blade angle.
You can also use this final stage to sharpen your serrated blades.
Read our full review of the Trizor for more information.
What We Like
- creates a very sharp edge
- simple operation
- very fast
What We Don't Like
- sharpens every knife to the same angle
- utilizes a bevel shape different than manufacturers
- removes a lot of material during first sharpening
- generates enough heat to damage temper of the blade
The Trizor's claim to fame is the unique bevel shape it creates that is supposed to be both strong and sharp. That being said, it doesn't offer anywhere near the flexibility of the Edge Pro. The amount of material it removes from the blade during the first sharpening is a serious turnoff. It does create a VERY sharp edge, but we feel this is achieved by sacrificing the durability of the blade. As a result it would be our last choice in an electric sharpener.
Important Features of Electric Sharpeners
Selecting 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.
Ability to Select the Sharpening Angle
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 electric model. It can sharpen anything from a chef's knife to a paring knife.
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 honing or 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 sharpening tools 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 man-made stones. And while the type of stone is important, it plays a secondary role to using the proper angle to sharpen the blade.
Knife Sharpening System Reviews
There are quite a few products on the market labeled ‘systems’, but how are they different from traditional sharpeners? For starters, the three products we’re comparing utilize a rod and stone based method.
Best Knife Sharpening Systems
Traditional sharpening stones require you to move the blade across the stone at a specific angle along the entire length. This requires a great deal of patience and practice to do correctly.
These systems utilize the same principles but in reverse. The knife is locked into a clamp that holds it in place at a specific angle. The stones are then dragged across the blade. This allows even a complete beginner to create a consistent bevel along the length of the blade. And since you can adjust the angle to anything you like, they allow you to sharpen a wide variety of knives.
The three products differ slightly in how this is accomplished. But the basic idea is the same. Each allow the user to quickly and safely sharpen knives back to their factory edge and beyond.
Winner of Best Knife Sharpening System: Apex
As our top choice overall the Apex sharpener easily wins out in the knife sharpening system category.
It offers the most solid construction, simple operation, and best results of any of the sharpening tools we've tested so far.
You can read more about it towards the top of this article or you can read our full review post here.
Second Place: KME Precision Sharpener System
The KME was our third choice overall and the second place finisher in the sharpening system category.
While not quite at the same level as the Apex, the KME system is still very solid. It offers a different spectrum of sharpening angles, and our only real complaint is the instability of the base compared to the other systems we tested.
You can read a more comprehensive review of this sharpener up above or our full review here.
Wicked Edge Precision Knife Sharpener
The last product in our best knife sharpening system comparison is the Wicked Edge Precision sharpener. Founded by Clay Allison and Devin Kennemore back in 2007, the company was started to provide a quality product for outdoor enthusiasts.
The biggest difference between this sharpener and the other two is that the Wicked Edge uses two rods rather than one. This enables the user to sharpen both sides of the blade at the same time, speeding up the entire process.
- Infinite angle adjustment between 15-30 degrees
- Works with any knife
- Won't affect steel tempering
- Requires additional parts to sharpen smaller knvies
- Most expensive of the group.
The sharpening angle ranges from 15 to 30 degrees. This angle must be set on both sides of the sharpener. The process of setting the angle is easy, but some care must be taken to ensure that both sides are set the same. Otherwise you’re edge will be uneven.
Operation & Performance
Working both sides of the blade simultaneously does reduce the amount of time need to sharpen a blade. For beginners it’s best to start out slowly. You want to make sure you’re raising a good burr on both sides of the knife blade.
The Wicked Edge system comes with the blade vice and eight stones. They range in grit from 100 to 600. Two of each is included. The granite base shown in the picture does NOT come with standard kit. This is a bit of a disadvantage since the unit is typically priced $100 higher than it’s competitors in this competition.
Some features, such as the ball joint of the KME, are only included as upgrades on the Wicked Edge.
What We Like
- sharpens both sides of the blade at one time
- simple and fast operation
- works on a wide variety of knives
- easy to lock in blade angle
What We Don't Like
- won’t work on filet knives
- requires noting how each knife is mounted to ensure consistency across sharpenings
- most expensive of the group
The Wicked Edge Precision blade sharpener is a high quality product. But we have a hard time swallowing the price tag that comes in at nearly twice the other two in this comparison. You can sharpen both sides of the knife simultaneously, but doing so requires a good bit of practice and we didn't find it to speed up the process all that much. It's a beautiful product, especially if you choose to get the stone base. We just can't justify the extra $$$.
Budget Option: Spyderco Tri Angle
Given the high price of the first three sharpening system options we thought it made sense to include a more budget conscious option. The Tri-Angle Sharpmaker from Spyderco is just that.
While this sharpener isn't as easy to use as the other systems we've covered, it still offers excellent results at a significantly lower price. The Spyderco unit is set on a flat surface and the knife blade is dragged along each of the stones. Once the motion is mastered you can quickly create a very sharp edge in very little time.
Advantages of Sharpening Systems Over Electric Models
Knife sharpening involves removing a small amount of material from the blade. The less material removed during this process, the longer the knife will last. This is one of the main reasons professionals don’t like electric models. They tend to remove more metal in the interest of speed.
Additionally, electric sharpeners only allow for a couple angle settings. This means that if the angle of a sharpener doesn’t line up with the angle of your knives, the first sharpening will remove a significant amount of material. This process is typically called re-profiling. Most of the electric products on the market do this to one degree or another. Because they are designed to work on a wide variety of knives there is a trade off of accuracy for flexibility.
Most knife makers base their blade angles on the strength of the steel used, so this can be bad for the strength and durability of the blade.
The Edge Pro electric (our #2 pick) is an electric model that allows for a great deal of flexibility in choosing your angle. But even this unit can’t match the flexibility of these rod and stone sharpening systems.
One of the most important factors in the sharpening process is creating a consistent edge. Consistency equates to durability. And durability means you have to sharpen less frequently, thereby extending the life expectancy of your knives.
Consistency is where sharpening systems separate themselves from the other products on the market.
10 - 24 Degree Angle
15 - 30 Degree Angle
17 - 30 Degree Angle
Infinite Angle Selection
One of the most impressive features of these sharpeners is the ability to select an infinite number of angles. This means if you want to sharpen your 15 degree paring knife, you can match it EXACTLY. Or maybe you want to sharpen a hunting knife that has a 30 degree angle. No problem.
If you want to avoid re-profiling your knives and keeping the factory angle, these sharpening systems are probably your best bet.
Wide Variety of Sharpening Stones
Another important feature of these products is the wide variety of stones that are available for each. An electric sharpener will generally have at most 3 stages for repairing, sharpening, and polishing the blade edge. These products have significantly more flexibility in terms of grit levels, and stropping capabilities.
Basically they allow you to put a professionally polished edge on your blades every time without having to send your knives off or taking them somewhere.
The kits we cover in this comparison each have a pre-set number of stones that come with it, but the manufacturers sell additional stones in varying grits as well.
Simplicity of Operation
Mankind has been using stones to sharpen their blades for hundreds of thousand of years. But sharpening and honing a blade to a razor’s edge is a skill that takes a good amount of practice. Keeping the blade at the same angle as it travels along the surface of the stone is imperative to creating a consistent edge. In fact you can even damage the blade if this motion is performed improperly.
The beauty of these systems is that they combine the simplicity of a guided sharpener with the results of a sharpening stone. Once the angle is selected and the blade is locked in place, you simply slide the stones along the length of the blade. Beginners can get the same results as professionals but without spending hours and hours learning the techniques.
There are other systems on the market such as the Lansky we reviewed here. But this unit doesn’t offer the stability and accuracy as the products in this comparison.
In addition to models that are geared towards kitchen knives there are lots of models out there geared towards other types of knives as well. Let’s take a look at a few.
Pocket Knife Sharpeners
A pocket knife 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. Tools designed 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. It's perfect for touching up a pocket knife, or every-day-carry knife like the North Fork from Benchmade. 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.
Sharpeners for Hunting Knives
When it comes to sharpening a hunting knife we almost always recommend going with a stone based sharpener. 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. So if you’re looking for the best hunting knife sharpener I would recommend one of the following.
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.
Sharpeners for Serrated Knives
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. If you’re looking for sharpener specifically for serrated knives 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. The Apex 1 system above can also sharpen serrated knives with a honing rod attachment.
It’s not perfect, but there’s nothing more frustrating than tearing up a perfectly good baguette instead of cutting clean through it.
Sharpener for Ceramic Knives
In recent years ceramic knives have gained a great deal of popularity. This is mostly because they cost significantly less than knives forged from steel. 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 model 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.
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.
Understanding Your Kitchen Knives
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. Western knives are the most common, but Japanese knives are growing in popularity every year. Not understanding the difference between the two can lead to serious damage to your blades when you go to sharpen them.
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 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)
Most of the sharpener reviews on this site are geared toward Western-style knives. But there are some capable of sharpening both. 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.
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 We Rank Products?
Our primary method of ranking products for our knife sharpener reviews is through testing and customer comments on various forums and online communities. It’s how I was able to find Edge Pro Apex, which is what I currently use.
We 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 the sharpeners we reviewed in the comments section. I’ll try to get back to you as quickly as I can.