There’s a lot of truth to the saying that a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one. You might have already found this out if you’ve ever tried slicing a lemon in half using an old unsharpened knife. Dull knives require more force to use, and as you press harder it’s easy to slip and pierce the soft armor we call skin.
Having a quality sharpener handy to maintain your kitchen knives, work knives and other bladed tools is very important not just for faster cutting, but for keeping injuries to a minimum.
However, there are almost as many types of sharpeners as there are different styles of knives, and prices for knife sharpeners can run from under $20 to well into the hundreds of dollars. So if you’re committed to keeping your cutting tools in optimal condition with a good knife sharpener, at the best possible value, it's wise to do some research.
Knife Sharpener Buying Guide
Here's all the background and terminology you need to know about while figuring out the best knife sharpener to buy:
• Types of sharpeners. The knife sharpener you choose should be compatible with the blades you need to sharpen.
If you only use basic kitchen knives, then simple solutions like honing rods, pull-through sharpeners, or electric sharpeners are probably adequate for the job. If you have more expensive, specialized knives like the Classic chef knife, you should consider sharpeners that use stones and appropriate materials, or even learn free-hand sharpening like the pros.
And if you want to sharpen bigger tools like hatchets or machetes, you’ll benefit from belt-style electric sharpeners or systems that allow for really large blades.
Many systems sharpen the knife’s bevel (the very tip of the edge) at just one angle. But different blades benefit from either finer or thicker edges, so finding the right sharpener for your knife or tool will determine its performance.
• Pull-through. Pull-through sharpeners are sold pretty much everywhere, even in supermarket aisles. Normally, they’re two crossed pieces of tungsten metal forming an angle where you pass the knife through. They’re cheap and they work fast.
Tungsten is a very hard material, and these sharpeners remove a lot of material as you slide the blade through, so it’s important to avoid overuse. Also, be aware that applying excessive pressure can damage the knife’s edge.
• Electric. Electric sharpeners use a spinning abrasive belt to remove metal from the edge of a knife. They can be small, meant for kitchen use, or they can be large enough to handle hatchets or machetes — or even swords, if you’re into that.
Some have a single belt and control the amount of removed material through speed; on the other hand, there are models with interchangeable belts or with two to three slots equipped with different belts ranging from coarse to fine. These are more versatile and, depending on capacity, can be effective in fixing a severely damaged blade or simply maintaining a sharp edge. However, due to the belt’s speed compared to manual sharpening, there is a risk of removing too much material if you’re not careful or overheating an edge when used for too long.
• Free-hand/stones. We’ve all watched a movie scene with someone sharpening a knife or sword in a slow, patient fashion using a stone.
Well, you can actually do the same at home. Sharpening stones are rectangular and come in a variety of materials like ceramic, diamond-coated metal, and a natural rock called novaculite (Arkansas stones). Regardless of their material, stones can be made to be used dry, or with water or oil. The latter are aptly named waterstones and oilstones — dry ones don’t have a catchy name.
While stone sharpening requires the most skill and practice of any sharpening technique, it can be the most rewarding due to major versatility, control and range. Users can choose pretty much any angle on their knife’s edge, mix and match materials and find stones of nearly every grit level. This method is employed by professionals with high-end knives or people who want to learn this valuable skill and achieve very specific sharpness levels.
• Guided systems. Guided sharpening systems use a clamp to lock the knife in place and a rod to control the angle at which a sharpening stone makes contact with the edge. They provide many of the benefits of stone sharpening but with greater ease of use and a much lower risk of damaging knives due to inexperience. You’ll be limited on angles with some, but others provide full versatility.
Regarding the stones they use, many guided systems have limited, proprietary options that basically force you to buy their preferred product. However, some brands have a wide range of materials and grits; and some models are both flexible and popular enough that you can find third-party options.
• Honing rods. You’ve probably seen famous chefs rubbing their knives against small metal sticks. It looks cool, no doubt about that. These sticks are honing rods, also known as simply “steels." Despite the name, they can be ceramic or diamond-coated, not only steel. They’re mostly used to keep knives sharp, not really to revitalize dull ones. This is why they’re a common sight in professional kitchens, where knives must always be kept in optimal condition.
• Strops. A strop is a flat surface commonly made of leather (but also bare wood, cardboard and now certain types of paper) on a base. It’s used to remove a small amount of metal shavings — known as burr — left on the edge after sharpening. It’s very important to remove this burr, because it can damage the edge or obstruct the blade and not allow it to cut as well as possible.
Although leather and wood can be used for this purpose, they’re normally loaded with a paste or compound that removes specific amounts of metal other than the burr. Generally, strops remove very little material and are used either to maintain an edge or finish the sharpening process.
• Grit. The grit is the measure of the particles in abrasive materials like sandpaper, or the finish these leave on a blade. The measurement is not standardized, but the higher the number, the finer the grit and the smoother the finish. It can range from well below 100 on diamond-coated sharpening stones up to the high thousands on ceramic and glass stones. Some products simply use the words “coarse,” “extra coarse,” “fine” and so on to describe the grit, instead of quantifying it with a number.
However, it’s worth noting that material is important as well. Diamond stones are normally not as fine as ceramic stones even if they have the same advertised grit.
• Microns. Microns are also used to categorize coarseness, but this measurement is used for stropping compounds. In this case, the higher the number, the larger the particles — so the coarser it is. It can range from 9 microns all the way down to 0.001 microns for extremely smooth and mirror-like finishes on a blade. Sometimes, however, microns are not mentioned at all in product descriptions, and stropping compounds are instead recognized by the color — green most commonly being the finest one.
• Angles. A knife’s edge has an angle. The smaller that angle, the thinner and sharper that edge is. Angles normally range from 15° (ideal for certain kitchen tools, like fillet knives), all the way up to 30°, maybe more (common with thick tools like axes). It’s important to know because some sharpeners have a single angle that could either regrind your knife in a good way or ruin it entirely.
• Material. There are many abrasives used to sharpen, from diamond-coated sharpeners that easily remove metal to fine ceramic that provides that final razor-sharp edge.
These materials vary in hardness themselves, so it’s important to know what type of steel you’re sharpening. While kitchen knives bought at the supermarket won’t be very hard, high-end chef knives or pocket knives are made with the kinds of steels that could require harder abrasives.
There are aluminum oxide stones, which tend to be the most common, least expensive and generally coarser. They’ll work fine with inexpensive knives but can be eroded themselves when faced with harder steels.
Diamond-coated stones are some of the coarsest you’ll find, and they remove material the fastest. They do cost more, but are not as expensive as their name indicates; they can actually often be found at the hardware store for $25 to $40. However, they might be too coarse in some cases, so even the finest grit you’ll find may not leave the same finish as ceramic or natural stones.
Ceramic is also very common and is used on high-end stones. It’s one of the hardest materials, so it’ll easily cut into most steels and will last through hundreds of sharpenings. It’s extremely versatile as well, as it can range from very coarse (120 grit, maybe lower) to incredibly fine (up to 30,000 grit) on high-end Japanese stones.
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2023
OTOTO Knife Sharpener - Best Overall
Say goodbye to dull knives and welcome the OTOTO Knife Sharpener, your kitchen's new best friend. Crafted by the award-winning OTOTO design studio, this adorable and functional tool, known as Blade, is here to keep your knives sharp and ready for action. Don't let your kitchen knives lose their edge; give them a makeover with Blade, the charming knife sharpener that adds a touch of whimsy to your culinary experience. Reclaim the cutting edge prowess of your knives with Blade, the ultimate knife sharpening master. Crafted from BPA-free and 100% food-grade material, Blade is as safe as it is efficient. A real kitchen companion, Blade can be easily cleaned in the dishwasher, making maintenance a breeze.
Searching for the perfect gift for your food-loving friends? Look no further than OTOTO's delightful kitchen gadgets, and among them, the one-of-a-kind Blade. This kitchen knife sharpener isn't just a novelty; it's a practical must-have for any home chef. With this best overall knife sharpener, you're not only gifting a useful tool but also a burst of personality that brings smiles to the kitchen.
- Crafted by the award-winning OTOTO design studio
- Adorable and functional kitchen tool
- Revives knife sharpness with charm
- Tough to clean
ROYAL CRAFT WOOD Knife Sharpener - Best Overall
Elevate your culinary experience with the ROYAL CRAFT WOOD Knife Sharpener, a comprehensive kit that brings the art of knife sharpening to your fingertips. This premium-grade whetstone kit includes a double-sided whetstone, a durable bamboo base for secure honing, and an angle guide. Whether you're a seasoned chef or a novice cook, this knife sharpener offers an ideal configuration that caters to all skill levels.
Unveil the versatility of this multifunctional blade sharpener. Crafted for durability, it's suitable for a wide range of blades, from chef and steak knives to santoku, paring, sushi, and even hunting knives. This sharpener accommodates various blade types, including kitchen knives, pocket knives, and Japanese blades. With the best overall ROYAL CRAFT WOOD Knife Sharpener, your entire collection will be honed to perfection.
- Comprehensive kit for all skill levels
- Versatile for various blade types
- Non-slip bamboo base for safety
- Little expensive
Dalstrong Knife Sharpener - Best Overall
Discover the pinnacle of knife maintenance and sharpening with the Dalstrong Knife Sharpener, a whetstone kit that embodies excellence in craftsmanship and design. With unwavering dedication to quality, Dalstrong presents a handcrafted whetstone set that ensures the longevity and sharpness of your blades. Indulge in peak performance while embracing an elegant design that caters to both your needs and your wallet.
In this comprehensive kit, Dalstrong offers a double-sided individual knife sharpening stone, meticulously crafted from premium-grade corundum (aluminium oxide). These stones stand out with their larger, thicker dimensions, providing an expansive surface area for enhanced sharpening results. Bid farewell to dull and lackluster blades as you unlock the true potential of your cutting tools with this best overall knife sharpener.
- Handcrafted with premium materials
- Expansive, oversized stones for effective sharpening
- Suitable for both German and Japanese style knives
- Very expensive
1. Best overall: KME Gold Series Precision Guided Knife Sharpener
List Price: $224.90
Many guided sharpening systems cost hundreds of dollars and sometimes run close to $1,000. So it’s hard to find a better value guided system than this one from KME, which ranges from $200 to $350, depending on the bundle included. It provides a full sharpening process that offers the finish of high-quality stones with the ease of use that beginners need.
As a manual sharpener, it does take some time and effort to master, but the KME makes it as foolproof as possible. The base is large enough to make it stable. But you can also remove the base and hold it in one hand while sharpening with the other. Unlike many other products, the KME has an ergonomic handle for this method.
The rod, securely held in place without any space to move to the sides and ruin the angle, is longer than those on other systems. Although it could still fall off with long enough strokes, it’s less likely.
You can smoothly move the rod bearing up and down the angle guide within a range of 17° and 30°. This should be good enough for most users as it can cover everything from pocket knives to hard-use outdoor knives with thick blades; for some, however, going lower could be important to maximize the knife’s slicing capabilities.
What really sets the KME apart, though, is that it has one of the widest variety of stones and accessories among guided sharpeners. The Gold Series comes with four diamond stones (140, 300, 600 and 1500 grit), but you can also buy many other stones separately: natural Arkansas stones, ceramic stones and even waterstones. DMT diamond-coated plates, the leading brand in diamond abrasives, are also an option.
In some KME bundles, you can get leather strops for removing burrs and excess material after using stones. KME has stropping compounds too, all the way from 4 to 0.1 microns, which can help you get that highly desired mirror finish on your edges. And if you don’t like messing with compound or paste, you can use the new lapping films, which have the same purpose, but you just replace a small film on a glass block; they’re available from 9 to 0.1 microns.
- Ergonomic base and handle
- Wide variety of available sharpening stones
- Suitable for pocket knives and thick blades alike
- Long rod is securely held in place
- Manual use only
- Large base takes up a lot of space
2. Editor’s pick: Work Sharp Precision Adjust Guided Sharpener
List Price: $59.95
Work Sharp has been making guided sharpeners for almost 50 years. The company’s traditional sharpeners are stones with an angle guide at the end so you could set up your knife, then run it across the stone. The Precision Adjust is Work Sharp’s first product with a rod locked in place to ensure the perfect angle, and at the $60 price point, it hits the nail on the head.
Other models in this price range have a loose rod and a separately sold base. The Precision Adjust sharpener is a full frame that holds everything in place and has everything you need in a single piece.
The three available stones are mounted together. You rotate a triangle-shaped block at the end of the rod in order to change between the two coarse diamond-coated stones (300 and 600 grit) and the final ceramic stone (not rated, unfortunately). At the moment, these are the only three available stones, so there’s not a lot of choice in materials or grit size, but for beginners and casual users, these three will get the job done.
What makes it really versatile are the angles. With a range from 15 to 30 degrees, it covers essentially every style of knife — as long as it fits in the clamp, of course. In between those angles, there aren’t any set steps, so users can freely choose their desired degree.
The frame is mostly made from plastic, and being relatively new on the market, this Workshop's durability is unclear. It’s well-built, however, and covered by a three-year warranty. Note that the warranty doesn’t cover the stones, though, as they will naturally be worn out with use, but they are easily replaceable ($7.95 each).
- Quality build with a good warranty
- Easy three-step process for great results
- Versatile thanks to impressive range of angles
- Full single-piece frame for convenience
- Only three stone options
- Frame is mostly made of plastic
3. Best for low prices: Kitchellence 3-Stage Knife Sharpener
List Price: $30.00
Pull-through sharpeners don’t leave the smooth, razor-like edge that stones do, and they can even damage a knife in some cases. But if used appropriately, the right pull-through sharpener can keep your kitchen hardware in excellent working order.
For $30, this Kitchellence has enough options for quick and effective sharpenings without risking too much damage.
The Kitchellence has three separate sharpeners. It has a coarse diamond rod for very dull or slightly damaged blades; a tungsten sharpener for a smoother finish, but that still removes a lot of material; and a ceramic sharpener to take out the metal shavings that remain (or burr) and give it a finer edge.
This three-step process ensures a better and much smoother finish than sharpeners with a tungsten sharpener alone. It’s also good for honing a knife consistently on the ceramic rods to avoid dullness in the first place.
The Kitchellence has a comfortable handle to keep it in place while you swipe your knife through, and the included slash-resistant glove is a nice bonus in case the knife slips.
However, since it's a pull-through sharpener, so avoid applying too much pressure downwards or you can dent your knife. It's best to use light pressure and let the materials do the cutting. Also, try to remove the knife right before the tip crosses the sharpening spot to avoid rounding it out.
- Kit includes three sharpeners
- Slash-resistant glove included for added safety
- Ergonomic handle ensures comfortable use
- Excellent for honing to prevent dullness
- Pull-through method could damage knives if overused
- Not ideal for ceramic blades
4. Best sharpening stones: Spyderco Medium Grit Ceramic Sharpening Stone
List Price: $77.00
If you just want to get your feet wet and see if free-hand sharpening is for you, check out an inexpensive option like the silicon carbide Sharp Pebble 2-Side Sharpening Stone ($25 to $35) with 400 and 1,000 grit sides. It’ll get the job done and help you practice your technique.
But if you want to go a bit deeper and get a lifelong companion for a good price, the Spyderco Medium Grit ceramic stone is a great option. Some professional sharpeners have even recommended it as a one-stone sharpening system — for beginners, at least. It’s coarse enough to remove material in relatively little time, but it doesn’t leave as rough an edge as diamond stones. When paired up with good strops, it can give you razor-sharp, stable edges without much trouble.
Nevertheless, if you want to complete the kit, you can get the Fine and Ultra Fine versions for a more complete process. This will make each step easier on both you and the stones, and will develop a stabler, longer-lasting edge.
They each come with a small case to keep it safe (dropping it will break it instantly), and to double as a base with grippy rubber feet.
Unfortunately, they don’t have specific grit ratings, but you can always keep your sharpening kit growing and match them with much coarser stones like the DMT Dia-Sharp Coarse Grit Diamond Stone or a much finer one like the Suehiro Cerax 6000 Grit Ceramic Whetstone.
- Good balance between coarse and fine
- Ceramic is long-lasting for many uses
- Base has rubber feet for stability
- Included case for safekeeping
- Fairly expensive for a single stone
- Skill and practice are needed for best results
5. Best electric sharpener: Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener
Electric sharpeners provide the easiest way to keep your knife in check. (Just don’t sharpen your blades too early in the morning, as they’re very noisy.) This model by Work Sharp offers an optimal combination of versatility and power.
It’s, in essence, a miniature belt grinder that can sharpen anything from your Swiss Army knife (although be careful not to remove too much metal) to your machete before you go off to clear a path in the woods.
It comes with 20°, 25° and 65° angle guides. The 20° angle will probably be the most useful for kitchen knives and pocket knives, and 65° is recommended for things like scissors. It can be used completely open if you trust yourself with angles and stability, or if you want to take it off the table and use it as a handheld tool to sharpen long blades.
It comes with three different belts: a coarse one rated at 80 grit, a medium 220 belt and a very fine 6,000-grit belt. This large jump in grit might be considered a downside since intermediate grits usually make the process easier.
The lack of those intermediate grit belts means more work for the user and can take a big toll on the belt itself, since it’ll have to pass the blade many more times to erase and supplant the rough finish left by the 220 belt. Thankfully, for $11.95 each, you can buy additional belts with a wider variety of grits.
- Three replaceable belts and three angle guides
- Usable in tabletop or handheld mode
- Electric operation for convenient use
- Ideal for sharpening tools
- Relatively noisy operation
- High speeds could remove too much metal
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Our commitment to the consumer begins with product selection and ends with the last word we write in each article. Each knife sharpener is carefully vetted quantitatively through star ratings and the number of reviews and qualitatively through careful examination of reviews and the features each one has to offer. Leveraging our team of bargain hunters, we’re also always sure to keep your budget in mind while we find the best knife sharpeners on the market. Our team of experts is dedicated to accurately depicting the pros and cons of each knife sharpener, translating technical product specifications into information you can understand. Our goal is to help you get the best bang for your buck...or, in this case, the best sharpening experience for your buck.