Types of Knife Sharpeners to Get Your Knives Sharp Again

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One of the most important aspects of blade maintenance is regular sharpening.

Chefs and cooks usually invest in a good set of kitchen knives that they can use in their day-to-day tasks.

And if you’re a home cook, you would also greatly benefit from investing in a high-quality set of kitchen cutlery.

But to ensure that your knives are in tip-top condition for years to come, you have to regularly sharpen them.

Experts recommend that home cooks have their knives sharpened at least once a year, maybe twice if they notice that their blades have gone dull from heavy use.

However, when looking to sharpen your knives for the first time, it’s easy to get confused by the sheer amount of different knife sharpeners out there.

So, to make it easier for you to figure out the right tool for your kitchen, we’ve made a list of the different knife sharpeners out there.

We get into the features, details, benefits, and uses of the different sharpeners available on the market.

Read on to learn more.

Related buying guides:

How Often Should I Sharpen My Knife?

As we mentioned earlier, chefs should sharpen their knives or have their knives sharpened at least once a year.

However, you might have to sharpen your blades more often depending on the use.

Keep in mind that sharpening is different from honing your blade, which we’ll explain in more detail later.

Some chefs who use their knives heavily have to sharpen them at least twice a year at times.

So, how do you know if your knife is in need of sharpening?

The easiest way to test the sharpness of a blade is by doing the paper test.

Aside from being a fairly accurate way of gauging sharpness, you don’t need any special equipment for this test.

Simply grab a piece of paper and hold it by the corner.

From there, slice through the paper using your blade.

Remember, it’s very important that you don’t exert any extra pressure and let the knife do all the work for you.

If your blade slices through the paper cleanly without too much effort, that means it doesn’t need sharpening.

If it can’t get through the paper, you might need to hone it a couple of times then try again.

And if it still doesn’t slice through after honing, then it’s time for you to take out the trusty sharpener.

Honing vs Sharpening

honing steel

So, you may have noticed that we mentioned that honing is very different from sharpening.

In this section, we’ll get into the details as to why.

Sharpening requires re-grinding the edge of the blade so that it becomes thin and angled enough to easily glide through ingredients.

Honing, on the other hand, only straightens the blade to restore the edge.

Sharpening only needs to be done when the knife is dull, but most chefs recommend that you hone your knife before and after every use.

Whenever you use a blade, the ingredients you slice through misalign the edge, which makes it hard to cut through ingredients.

So, before and after using your knife, you should hone it to realign the edge and restore it to its original sharpness.

To hone your knife, you need honing steel that you can use to straighten your blade.

Hold your knife in your dominant hand while holding the honing steel in the other one.

From there, slide the blade from the butt to tip on the honing steel.

Do this a couple of times on each side before and after every use to keep your edge aligned, sharp, and ready for slicing.

What is the Best Method for Sharpening a Knife?

There are many different ways to sharpen your knife, and many beginners are left wondering which method would be best for their cherished blades?

Luckily, there is an objective answer to this question.

If you want to restore the edge of any blade and have it slicing through ingredients without any hassle, then you need to use a whetstone.

A whetstone is a tool used by many master sharpeners and professionals to restore the edge on any blade out there.

You can use whetstones to sharpen kitchen cutlery, survival knives, fixed-blades, and just about any steel out there with an edge.

And while the whetstone is the best way to restore the edge on dull knives, it does come with some caveats.

The biggest of these caveats is the fact that whetstones are hard to use.

To effectively sharpen a blade using a whetstone, you need to use the right stones and the right techniques.

And if you use the tools in the wrong way, you risk damaging your blade and even dulling it in the process.

So, if you’ve never used a whetstone before, we recommend taking the time and putting in the effort to make sure you have a proper grasp of the techniques.

If you aren’t keen on learning the techniques, we recommend bringing it to a professional sharpening service instead.

On top of that, if you can’t use a whetstone, you can always use the other types of sharpeners out there.

However, keep in mind that many commercial knife sharpeners can eat into your blade over time, which can significantly reduce your knife’s lifespan.

Different Types of Knife Sharpeners

manual knife sharpener

As there are many different sharpening techniques, there are also a ton of different knife sharpeners.

Each of these tools boasts its own set of advantages and disadvantages in the kitchen.

And while different brands release new models every day, here are some of the most popular types of kitchen sharpeners out there;

Electric Knife Sharpener

For most home cooks, the electric knife sharpener is one of the most convenient tools they can have in their kitchen.

This is one of the simplest sharpening tools out there, and you can use it with basically zero prior experience with sharpeners.

To use an electric sharpener, all you have to do is put your blade into the slot and turn the machine on.

Most sharpeners will have two or more slots in them to insert your blades and rotating sharpening stones with different grits.

The different grit on the stones allows you to tailor and personalize the sharpening.

Many of the machines also come with a comprehensive guide that teaches you all the basics and proper angles when sharpening a knife.

Since different knives have different sharpening angles, these guides will be very important.

With these machines, you let the sharpener do all the work and all you really have to do is insert the blade in the slot.

However, while sharpening is quick and easy with electric sharpeners, the downside is that these machines lower the lifespan of your knives.

Since the stones spin at high speeds, they tend to grind off more metal than you would if you were manually sharpening your blades.

Pros of an Electric Knife Sharpener:

  • Easy to use
  • The machine does all the work
  • Comes with a comprehensive guide
  • Can sharpen your knives in a matter of minutes

Cons of an Electric Knife Sharpener:

  • Shortens the lifespan of your blades by grinding away too much metal

Pull-Through Sharpener

If you don’t have an electric sharpener on hand, chances are these are the tools you use for sharpening.

The biggest advantage of pull-through sharpeners is that they are also very easy to use.

Pull-through sharpeners have similar designs to electric ones, with two slots designed for you to insert your knives.

However, instead of having rotating sharpening stones, pull-through tools have abrasives that grind away metal when you manually pull the blade through the slot.

These tools are designed for home cooks, so the slots are pre-angled so that they’re compatible with most knives.

However, if you have a set of both Japanese and Western kitchen cutlery, you might have to get different sharpeners.

With a pull-through sharpener, you have much more control over how much your grind the edge of the blade.

However, since they are manual tools, they take more effort and time as compared to an electric sharpening machine.

Pros of a Pull-Through Knife Sharpener:

  • Very easy to use
  • Has pre-angles slots
  • You have more control over the sharpening
  • Easily fits in a knife drawer

Cons of a Pull-Through Knife Sharpener:

  • Takes some time and effort to use

Guided Sharpening Systems

These tools are used by both professionals and amateur chefs alike.

The reason these sharpeners are so popular in the culinary world is that they combine the control you have with a whetstone with the convenience of an electric sharpener.

These systems work with clamps that hold the knife stationary while a device runs the sharpening stones over the blade to sharpen it.

Some of these systems are manual, where you have to run the knife through the stone yourself, which gives you even more control in exchange for convenience.

Guided sharpening systems look fairly complicated, and to be honest, they are fairly complicated to use.

When you use a guided sharpening system, don’t be surprised or discouraged if you have a hard time getting the hang of it, many people do.

But once you figure out how to use it, you’ll find that it’s very easy to get a razor-sharp edge on your blades that you might have given up on for being too dull.

Pros of a Guided Sharpening System:

  • Very precise
  • Used by amateurs and professionals
  • Some devices are manual, some are electric
  • Some systems sharpen both sides of the blade simultaneously

Cons of a Guided Sharpening System:

  • Can be difficult to use
  • Fairly expensive

Sharpening/Honing Steel

As we mentioned earlier, these tools are not designed for sharpening your knives.

Despite their name, sharpening steel is used to hone your blade.

Honing a knife means straightening the burr and edge to allow it to slice through ingredients easily.

Using a honing steel is very easy, all you have to do is run your knife over the steel evenly to straighten the edge.

Make sure to do this on both sides to keep things as even as possible.

Run your blade on the steel around 4-5 times on each side before and after every use.

Honing is a very important aspect of knife care, but you have to remember that this is very different from sharpening your blade.

Pros of a Honing Steel:

  • Easy to use
  • Straightens the edge of your blade
  • Very easy to find
  • Sometimes included in knife sets

Cons of a Honing Steel:

  • Not designed to sharpen a knife

Sharpening Stones/Whetstones

Now it’s time to take a look at the best method and tool for sharpening your knives.

A whetstone is simply an abrasive stone where you can grind the edge of your knife to get just the right sharpness.

The thing about whetstones is that, while they are effective, they are also very hard to use.

Whetstone sharpening can be seen as the most “manual form of knife sharpening.

To successfully sharpen a knife with a whetstone, you need to hold the blade at just the right angle and slide along the stone.

For best results, experts recommend using a variety of different stones with different grits.

When you hold the knife at the wrong angle, you will end up sharpening your knife at the wrong angle, which can actually dull your knife if you don’t do it right.

So, if you aren’t skilled with the whetstone but still need your blade to be razor-sharp, we recommend sending it to a professional to do it for you.

Pros of a Whetstone:

  • Best way to resharpen a knife
  • Very precise
  • Users have a lot of control of the edge of their blade
  • Can be used to sharpen any knife

Cons of a Whetstone:

  • Hard to use

Conclusion

So, those are all the popular types of knife sharpeners out there.

Remember, sharpening your knife needs to be done whenever your blades get dull and it’s an essential part of knife care and maintenance.

Every chef and cook has their own opinion and preference when it comes to sharpeners, so it’s very important to pick the right one for your kitchen.

But once you do, you’ll be able to keep your blades razor-sharp and functional for many years to come.

Last Updated on October 11, 2021

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.