Correct sharpener selection is imperative for keen household cutlery. With that, here are four kitchen knife sharpeners that make the cut.
Dull kitchen knives not only make meal preparation more difficult, they also can slip and cut you when you least expect it. As a result, it’s imperative to keep them sharp. If you sharpen them yourself, correct sharpener selection is key.
A kitchen knife sharpeners can be as simple or complicated as you want. No matter your skill level, there is a sharpener for you. For those with little-to-no sharpening experience are the cost-effective pull-through sharpeners. These are as simple as simple can get. Often they are plastic-bodied devices with one or two slots. Inside the slots are the sharpening media. The media are permanently affixed at pre-set angles The most common media for the two-slotters are carbide and a fine-grit ceramic. The carbide quickly restores damaged and worn edges, while the fine-grit ceramic polishes and hones the edge to razor sharpness. Anyone can achieve a sharp edge with a pull-through.
Smith’s Products Slide Sharp Edge Grip
One such kitchen knife sharpener is the Smith’s Products Slide Sharp Edge Grip. It has two sets of slots. One pair addresses standard kitchen knives at a pre-set 20-degree angle, and the other addresses Asian-style knives at a 15-degree angle. The standard slots have carbide for a coarse grit abrasive and ceramic for fine grit. The Asian-style slots have diamond rods for coarse grit and ceramic for fine.
The Slide Sharp’s indexed sliding grip is textured for a non-slip purchase to allow for secure sharpening. Depending on which slot set you use, the other set is covered by a sliding cover, which is how the sharpener is stabilized—by placing your hand over the sliding cover.
The cross-section of the sharpener resembles an upside-down “Y,” with the arched base held in place on the edge of a table or counter. This gives you another option for stable sharpener operation. Consequently, you have two ways to secure the sharpener during use. Few pull throughs provide such an option.
The Slide Sharp is effective and works as advertised. To use it on a countertop or tabletop, take one hand and stabilize it on the flat work surface. To use it on the edge of a kitchen counter, sit it on the counter edge via the “Y” legs and, while holding it with one hand, pull the blade through and down with the other. You have a better line of sight
to the sharpener this way and it’s very safe, too.
If you must use a pull-through, I highly recommend the Slide Sharp. I also recommend using the lightest pressure as possible to sharpen, as pull-throughs can remove too much metal, more so than ceramic, diamond or powered abrasive belt sharpeners. Removing too much metal can prematurely deform the cutting edge.
The Slide Sharp is a little over 1.5 inches tall and a bit under 3.5 inches long. Its compact nature enables convenient drawer storage. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $11.99 makes it incredibly affordable and provides no excuse for anyone to have dull kitchen knives. MSRP: $11.99
Camillus Extreme Edge V2 Knife & Shear Sharpener
The Extreme Edge V2 Knife & Tool pull-through from Camillus is a two-for-one deal. A set of carbide abrasives addresses plain edge and kitchen knives. It also features a built-in shears sharpener.
The cylindrical body is around 3 inches in diameter. The top is cast metal and houses the carbides, while the fine-grit-ceramic shears sharpener is in the unit’s rear. The plastic body has an outdoorsy camo theme appearance. For safe operation, a suction cup at the base activates by pressing down and rotating the unit to firmly grip the tabletop surface. For scenarios where the suction cup feature isn’t feasible, it acts as a standard non-skid base.
The sharpener works OK, though I didn’t feel the carbides to be as aggressive as with other pull-throughs I’ve used. The edge it produced was sharp though not surgical sharp. At least the V2 provides a functional sharp edge, which is better than having no sharpener and a dull edge.
The suction cup base was a disappointment. I could not get it to cling to the slick worktop of my toolbox most of the time. You must really press down on the sharpener and twist it to get it to stick, but it kept loosening repeatedly. However, you can still use the sharpener safely and effectively by employing the suction cup as a non-skid rubber base. Oh, and one of the carbide teeth loosened up after the first few uses, which is unacceptable. MSRP: $19.98.
A.G. Russell Knives Field Sharpener
The A.G. Russell Knives Field Sharpener is probably the most versatile of the test bunch of kitchen knife sharpeners. Not only does it sharpen kitchen knives but also pocket knives, hunting knives and tactical knives. Such value and versatility is a hard combo to top no matter how you slice it.
The Field Sharpener has a molded plastic base and hinged cover. You insert a pair of included 4-inch sharpening rods into two holes at a preset angle of 15 degrees. There’s a set of coarse diamond-grit rods to quickly repair a worn edge or rehab a damaged one. A set of medium-grit ceramic rods further sharpens and dials in edges to razor sharpness. The unit measures 5-by-2 inches and is compact enough for stowing in a toolbox, tacklebox, backpack or even a jacket pocket.
Place the sharpener on a flat work surface. Select the set of rods you wish to use and insert into the holes in the base. The flip-up cover secures the rods when they are tucked inside the base; when open, the cover forms a convenient guard to prevent the blade from coming down on your hand. Place one hand on the base to secure the sharpener. With your other hand, take the knife and move the blade down the rods, while pulling it across from tang to tip—two motions at once. Don’t use a lot of pressure; allow the weight of the blade to rest on the rods and move it down. Keep the blade positioned perpendicular to the tabletop surface; holding it straight up and down allows you to sharpen at the proper angle of 30 degrees inclusive.
The Field Sharpener is very effective. If you’ve used Crock Sticks or a Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker, you will take to this one easily. It requires the same motions. Unlike the Sharpmaker or Crock Sticks, it’s portable enough to take on outdoor adventures. It’s great for camping, especially if you use a variety of knives.
Given the longer length of many kitchen knives and the 4-inch rods, you must pull the blade across the rods with a bit of expediency to be able to capture the entire blade length in one downward pass. Just be mindful that this technique is more pronounced with longer blades. With shorter blades you won’t notice it as much. The round profile means the contact area of the rod to the blade is smaller and more effective at removing steel. It’s easy to use and highly effective. MSRP: $39.95.
Work Sharp E5 Kitchen Knife Sharpener
The Work Sharp E5 Kitchen Knife Sharpener is a top-of-the-line powered kitchen knife sharpener, offering multiple modes, speeds, and the latest technology in providing consistent high-quality sharpening knife after knife. The E5 was designed from the ground up as a powered sharpener that can sit on a counter full time, blending in with other appliances with a minimal footprint. Like Work Sharp’s other powered knife sharpeners, the E5 uses flexible, long-wearing abrasive belts to create an ultra-durable convex edge.
Place the blade inside each slot and the abrasives do the work. Select from one of three sharpening modes via the one-touch programming feature. The Shape mode—three rapid clicks on the power button—starts at a high speed for fast cutting and repair of worn edges, then drops down to the Refine mode—one click—at low speed for the final touch up. The Sharpen mode—two rapid clicks—runs the belt at medium speed for routine edge maintenance, followed by the Refine mode for fast touch-ups.
Select the desired mode then alternate placing the blade in each of the slots. Watch the lights on the power panel. Whichever mode you select, a light shines next to it. Ten seconds before the machine changes modes, the light will begin flashing to warn of the upcoming transition to the next mode, or, depending on the mode, stop completely. Simply draw the blade through. The machine does all the work.
The first time you use the E5, you will be reprofiling your blades to the set 17-degree angle, which can take some time. At extra cost is an upgrade kit that includes more coarse belts, and 15- and 20-degree angle guides for enhanced versatility and quicker sharpening. MSRP: $59.95.
The E5 works well and produces the convex edge, which is very sharp and durable. The sharpener is quiet and easy to operate, something novices appreciate. If you are serious about cooking, it is essential to have not only high-quality knives but also a high-quality sharpener. The E5 is it. MSRP: $149.95.
Other Kitchen Sharpener Options
Shenzen Knives Electric Diamond Knife Sharpener
Diamonds aren’t just a girl’s best friend. This sharpener from Shenzen Knives features an electric diamond grinding wheel with two settings designed to sharpen both steel and ceramic knives.
Its powerful motor can remove chips as large as 1mm off of ceramic knives, and it easily comes apart for cleaning. An added plus is the universal knife guide slot, which is designed to keep your knives at the perfect angle for the best possible edge on both the fine and coarse settings. Specifically for kitchen knives, this machine is not meant to sharpen scissors, hunting knives, or any other types of blades.
Sharp Pebble Premium 1000/6000 Whetstone
The whetstone, and other sharpening stones, are a much more finite and meditative way to sharpen your knives. Coming in a variety of grit sizes, whetstones work by being submerged in a liquid, usually water, which enhances the stone’s ability to sharpen a blade while also allowing the chips and scrapes to wash away. Sharp Pebble offers a variety of whetstones in different grits and at different price points. (The 1000/6000 stone is a perfect stone for home sharpeners, and is the method I’ve used to sharpen my kitchen knives for the last several years. I enjoy the process of using the stone and feel it provides a quality edge whether it’s my chef knife or my paring knife.)
The majority of the stones come with an angle guide to help you get the best sharpening angle for your knife. These stones can also be used to sharpen other implements from razors to scissors to chisels.
Messermeister Fine Grit Honing Steel
Sometimes your knife needs honing rather than sharpening. That’s where honing steel, or a honing rod, comes to the rescue. Over time and normal use, the edge of your knives will bend and warp at a microscopic level. Honing steel works to massage the edge back into the proper position without removing as much material as sharpening would. (I hone my knives daily while sharpening them 2-4 times a year. By honing I’m able to maintain a sharp edge longer and maintain better control over my knives while I cook.)
Messermeister offers a variety of honing rods ranging from steel and ceramic to diamond. Their fine-grit rod is made of high-carbon tool steel and can be used to hone knives made from any material. It’s designed to never wear over its lifespan and should be able to hone your knives’ edges for decades.
For a fair price, you can’t go wrong with this rod, and your knives will thank you for it.
MSRP: $24.95 (10-inch), $29.95 (12-inch)
Worksharp Electric Kitchen Knife Sharpener
For a quality all-rounder, look no further than Worksharp’s newest electric sharpener. Roughly the size of a softball, the sharpener effortlessly sharpens anything you can throw at it in the kitchen including scissors and serrated knives.
Its sharpening slots feature built-in 20-degree angle guides so each edge comes out at a perfect angle. Beyond just sharpening, the device features a ceramic honing wheel as well that allows you to maintain your edge every day.
Editor’s Note: Mike Abelson contributed to this story
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