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It doesn’t matter which knife you buy, they all need to be sharpened eventually. And it's a good idea to keep your knives sharp because a sharp knife is safer to cut with than a dull one. Dull knives can drag or skip while cutting and can increase your chance of injury. How often you need to sharpen depends on how often you use the knife, what you cut, and what surface you cut on.
While many people feel that hand-sharpening is best, it takes some skill. Electric sharpeners are easier to use than traditional sharpening stones. Which sharpener is best for you depends not only on your skill but also on the types of knives you use. In the end, you might decide that you need more than one sharpener if you have a wide variety of knives.
Here, the best knife sharpeners for all your needs.
Best Overall: Brod & Taylor Professional Knife Sharpener
A nearly foolproof manual sharpener that looks like modern art, the angle that the knife is inserted into the sharpener determines how aggressive the sharpening is (yes, there is a correct angle for sharpening your knives). You can start by sharpening the knife then hone it to a fine finish in the same slot. If the knife doesn’t need sharpening, you can use this for honing only. This sharpener self-adjusts, and sharpens the knife edge to its original angle, so you don’t need to know the edge angle to sharpen the knife correctly, and there’s nothing to adjust. The tungsten carbide sharpeners will last a long time but can be replaced when necessary.
Best Manual: Priority Chef Knife Sharpener for Straight and Serrated Knives
This manual knife sharpener comes at a bargain price and will sharpen both straight and serrated knives. Not only does it sharpen knives for instant sharpness it does so in a way that they stay sharp for longer.
It has two wheels, a coarse diamond coated one that will shapen your knife to a double-edge finish while the second wheel hones the knife to improve any small imperfections. Users love this tool because it gets the job done and doesn't take up a lot of real estate in the kitchen.
Best Electric: Presto Professional EverSharp Three-Stage Electric Knife Sharpener
This sharpener can be used on metal knives of any thickness, from thin filet knives to thicker chef’s knives and cleavers. The interchangeable blade guides hold the blades at your choice of three different sharpening angles, and a slider lets you choose thick, medium, or thin blades.
The sharpener creates a slight micro-serration on the edge of the blade that results in a super-sharp edge. It might take a short while to get the technique of pulling knives through the sharpener perfected, but then it’s simple to use. This cannot be used to sharpen ceramic knives.
Best Stone: Lansky Deluxe 5-Stone Sharpening System
This sharpener includes five different sharpening stones along with a knife clamp that holds the knife during sharpening and a guide that allows you to select the proper blade angle. Honing oil is also included. The stones have finger grips for a secure hold and are color-coded so you know which are coarser and which are finer. Unlike traditional whetstones, with this system the knife remains still while you move the stones along the blade. This manual system allows you to sharpen knives at four different angles but requires some practice to become comfortable with the technique.
Best Sharpening Steel: Wusthof 10-Inch Sharpening Steel with Loop
Technically, a sharpening steel doesn’t sharpen a knife, it actually hones or straightens the fine edge that gets bent during use, which makes the knife seem dull. That bending isn’t visible to the naked eye, but it still affects the way the knife cuts.
This steel has an easy-to-hold handle and loop for hanging, or it might fit in your knife block. This steel is magnetic, so it collects any metal dust created during the process. Knives should be honed regularly, so a sharpening steel is an important tool to have in your kitchen. This steel is also available in shorter and longer lengths.
Best High-End: Chef’sChoice 15 Trizor XV EdgeSelect Professional Electric Knife Sharpener
This sharpener is easy to use and robust enough to convert your 20-degree knives to a higher-performance 15-degree angle with two bevels. Spring guides automatically adjust the angle of the knife, making it simple for anyone to use. It has three different stages for perfect sharpening. Stages one and two use diamond abrasives to create the two bevels as well as micro-grooves, while the last stage polishes the knives, turning the micro-bevels into micro-flutes that “bite” into the food being cut for excellent performance.
This sharpener can be used for both straight and serrated knives. The first time this sharpener is used on a knife it will take a bit longer since it’s cutting a new edge angle. Subsequent sharpenings will take much less time.
Best Belt Sharpener: Work Sharp Culinary E5 Kitchen Knife Sharpener with Ceramic Honing Rod
When knives are made, it’s likely they’re sharpened on a belt similar to the one in this award-winning sharpener. A belt is less harsh, but still efficient, and can sharpen a dull knife in just about 90 seconds. This has three different settings to shape, sharpen, or hone the knives, depending on how dull they are. To make sure the knives aren’t overworked, the sharpener turns itself off at the end of the cycle.
This can also be used to sharpen serrated knives, scissors, and shears. To keep knife dust off the counters, it has an integrated vacuum that sucks in the dust during the sharpening process. As a bonus, this includes a ceramic honing rod to touch up knives between sharpening. Guides on the rod show the proper angle for honing, so it takes the guesswork out of using it.
Best Budget: Zulay Kitchen Premium Quality Knife Sharpener for Straight and Serrated Knives
This efficient little sharpener certainly won’t break the budget, but it will do the job, keeping knives in good shape. This is a two-stage manual sharpener that can handle both straight and serrated knives. While it’s manual, it’s still easy to use, since you simply pull the knives through the slots.
The bar handle is easy to hold, keeping the sharpener stable while keeping your hand far from the blades. Meanwhile, the nonslip bottom keeps the sharpener from moving on the counter. The coarse slot is for your dullest blades, while the ceramic slot finishes the sharpening process by honing and polishing, and can be used for blades that are just a little dull. When you’re done sharpening, this is small enough to fit in a drawer for neat storage.
Best for Ceramic Knives: Shenzhen Knives Electric Diamond Knife Sharpener Tool for Ceramic Knives and Stainless Steel Knives
Many sharpeners use ceramic as the abrasive, but that won’t work for ceramic knives—they need diamonds. This has two different grits of diamond grinding stones for coarse sharpening and fine honing, and it can even grind off small chips in ceramic blades. Of course, this can also be used for stainless steel blades since they’re even softer than ceramic, but it can’t handle serrated blades or scissors.
The slots are designed to keep the blades at the proper angle, while the raised design of the slots lets this accommodate most styles of knives, even when the blade is level with the handle. The diamond wheel cartridge is removable for cleaning, when necessary.
What to Look for in a Knife Sharpener
By Sara Tane
Whether you’re working with a whetstone or a manual or electric sharpener, there are typically two grit options so that you can effectively sharpen your blade. Stones are double-sided and sharpeners have two settings. The level of grit will indicate how much metal is shaved off the knife’s blade during sharpening. Typically, a coarse grit (anything less than 1000 for whetstones) should be used on a severely dulled knife that might have nicks, indentations, or chips. Next, medium grit (ranging from 1000 to 3000 grit) is great to sharpen a knife that is dull but not damaged. Lastly, fine grit (4000 to 8000 grit), which is similar to honing steel, is used for a gentle touch-up to refine the edge of your blade. To effectively sharpen a blade, it’s ideal to use at least two different grits so that the blade is at its best.
Any time you’re looking to purchase a new kitchen gadget, evaluating its size is essential. Do you have the storage space for it? Will it fit comfortably on your counter when you’re using it? Is it large and bulky or is it light and tiny? The electric sharpeners are typically bigger than the manual ones, while the stones are the most compact (just make sure you’re storing it in a location where it won’t get roughed up).
The number of grit options that a manual or electric sharpener offers will also affect its size. The good thing about the size of these sharpeners is that it doesn’t affect what blade size it can work on. Whether you’re sharpening a paring knife or a 10-inch chef’s knife, any size sharpener can be used on the blade.
This category mostly pertains to whetstones, as they come in a variety of different materials. There are water stones, oil stones, and ceramic stones. Water stones, as the name implies, require at least a 5-minute soak in water to sharpen a blade. This is the most common kind of sharpening stone, and most are double-sided so they’re great for saving a dull blade or touching up a nearly sharp blade.
On the other hand, oil stones are typically much more durable. These stones do not require a soak because they’re already pre-filled with oil (though you can always add a little bit more oil to help sharpen). Like water stones, they’re two-sided so they can offer different levels of grit. Oil stones typically have a longer lifespan than water stones, even though it may take a little bit longer to sharpen a dull blade on an oil stone than a water stone.
When it comes to knife sharpeners, most use a ceramic material as the abrasive. However, if you have ceramic knives, this will be ineffective, so you’ll need to look for a diamond sharpener (which also works well on a steel knife).
Knife sharpeners can cost you anywhere from $6 to $100. Now, that’s a range! If you’re working with expensive chef's knives that you use fairly regularly, it’s probably in your best financial interest to invest in a quality knife sharpener that won’t degrade the quality of your pricey blade. That said, if your knives are more in the budget range and you use them on an infrequent basis, you can definitely get away with opting for something a little cheaper. Many of the budget options can create sharp blades—it just might take them a little bit longer.
Types of Knife Sharpeners
The most professional way to sharpen a knife is with a sharpening stone. These stones are available in water, oil, and ceramic materials. Most stones offer a double-sided feature that allows you to switch between grits. There are also sharpening stone kits that come with more than two stones, so you have even more grit options.
Using a stone as opposed to sharpeners requires more professional knowledge and technique to properly sharpen the blade. It also takes a little bit more time (sometimes up to 20 minutes) because some stones require an initial soak. That said, if you put the work in to understand how to use the stone and prep it so that it’s ready to use, it can create an extremely sharp blade on your knife. If you have a lot of knives that you use frequently, going the sharpening stone route could be the best option for you, as long as you plan to set aside some time every so often to work on your knives.
Manual and Electric Sharpeners
Compared to the sharpening stones, manual and electric sharpeners are much more user-friendly and can sharpen a blade much more quickly. These are more forgiving than stones because they require much less technique when it comes to running the blade through the apparatus. They can sharpen any kind of blade, from paring and boning knives to fish and chef’s knives. Some can even sharpen serrated knives, although that’s not entirely necessary because serrated knives cut from the teeth on the blade.
Like stones, manual and electric sharpeners can offer different grit settings, so make sure to look for a model that offers more than one grit. Manual sharpeners require you to “pull” the blade through the sharpener until you’ve reached your desired sharpness, whereas electric sharpeners are built so that they're completely hands-off. The downside to electric sharpeners is that sometimes you are at the mercy of the strength of the motor. If the motor is on the weaker side, you may need to be a bit more patient when it comes to achieving a sharp blade. That said, it’s also much easier to over-sharpen a blade with an electric sharpener, so be careful to keep a close eye on that.
When picking out a manual or electric sharpener, it’s important to take note of the angle of your knife. Classic German knives usually have a blade with a 20-degree angle, while Japanese knives can be anywhere from 15 to 17 degrees. It’s important to look for a sharpener that can accommodate these differing blades.
One common misunderstanding in the realm of knife sharpening is that you can get by with a honing steel. This is not the case. A honing steel is a long rod that helps to maintain the integrity of your knife’s blade. Whereas knife sharpeners are physically taking off bits of your knife’s blade, a honing steel is only going to set a blade straight.
Knife sharpening is something that can be done infrequently (because it’s repairing the damage that has taken place over time), but you can hone your knife every time you use it if you want. Additionally, knife sharpening can be a bit more of a project, taking 20 to 30 minutes depending on how many knives you’re sharpening and how dull they are, but honing takes mere seconds. Just slide your blade along the rod a few times and you’re good to go.
Honing rods can be made out of steel or ceramic. Steel rods can be a bit tougher on a blade, while ceramic offers more give with very little abrasion. Look for a longer honing rod so that you can ensure that you can hone all of your knives on it, from a paring knife to a chef’s knife.
This brand offers great budget options. If your knife usage is pretty minimal or you’re just not in the pursuit of owning the fanciest sharpener on the market, its options are inexpensive, yet still can produce a great edge.
While it may fall on the pricier side of the spectrum, you definitely get what you pay for with this brand. Known for offering super-precise sharpening and a durable manual apparatus that will last you for the long run, this is your best bet if you’re looking to dole out some money for your sharpener.
While it might seem like a lot of work to maintain a kitchen item that’s job is to maintain another item (maintenance inception!), your knife sharpening tools do need a little TLC. Every now and again, it’s not a bad idea to clean your sharpening stone. Simply rub it with a little mineral oil or honing oil and scrub until you see metal flecks appearing from within the pores of the stone. Wipe them off with a rag or paper towel and rinse with warm water and dry.
Additionally, ceramic hones require occasional cleaning to remove the small metal particles that accrue on their surface over time from usage. Foam sponges or mild abrasives, like Bar Keepers Friend, are effective in removing these particles.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a food and recipe writer, cookbook author, and product tester for The Spruce Eats. She spends a great deal of time in the kitchen chopping, slicing, and dicing. Her kitchen is stocked with knives ranging from budget-friendly to high-end picks, and she knows how to keep them sharp.
Hailey Eber, a former food editor, avid cook, and product tester for The Spruce Eats, personally tested three of the picks on this list.