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Knife Sharpeners Buying Guide

Choosing the Right Knife Sharpener

No matter what type of knife you own, it's essential to keep it sharp for the best results. Sharp knives make food prep easier and require less pressure to achieve your desired cuts, contributing to a safe kitchen environment. If you aren't familiar with knife sharpeners, it can be difficult to determine the sharpener that best fits your needs. In this guide, we'll introduce the different types of sharpeners, bevels, and knife angles so that you can make an informed decision.

Shop All Knife Sharpeners

Use the following links to learn more about the types of knife sharpeners:

  1. Electric Knife Sharpeners
  2. Sharpening Stones
  3. Sharpening Steels
  4. Serrated Knife Sharpeners
  5. Handheld Knife Sharpeners

Knife Sharpeners

There are five main types of knife sharpeners to choose from. Each offers unique features that set it apart from the next, and some can even be maintained using knife sharpener parts and accessories. Using the wrong sharpener can decrease efficiency and damage the knife. We've listed each type of sharpener below:

Electric knife sharpener on a wooden counter next to apples

1. Electric Knife Sharpener

An electric knife sharpener is a convenient device that simplifies the sharpening process. It allows you to achieve quick and consistent results, saving your staff valuable time in the kitchen. These sharpeners work by running a knife through a slot, which exposes it to spinning miniaturized sharpening stones. Many electric knife sharpeners even feature a guide, allowing you to achieve the perfect sharpening angle.

Types of Electric Knife Sharpeners

Though electric knife sharpeners can include many different features, they come in two main styles:

  • Standard electric knife sharpeners: A standard electric knife sharpener is ideal for kitchens that utilize knives for simple applications. They feature a compact design and provide fast results.
  • Heavy-duty electric knife sharpeners: A heavy-duty electric knife sharpener is designed to withstand frequent use in the workplace. These are ideal for fast-paced kitchen environments that plan on using their knives frequently.

Sharpening stone on a towel being used by a chef

2. Knife Sharpening Stone

sharpening stone, sometimes called a whetstone, uses its abrasive surface to sharpen knives. It's important to note that many people use cutting fluid with their sharpening stone for the best results. Sharpening stones can be made from natural or artificial materials and feature different grit sizes.

Types of Sharpening Stones

There are three main types of sharpening stones:

  • Arkansas sharpening stones: Made from novaculite, this is the only natural type of sharpening stone. Their grit types can range from very fine to coarse. 
  • India sharpening stones: Made from aluminum oxide, these sharpening stones are artificial. They are best suited for fine sharpening.
  • Crystolon sharpening stones: Another type of artificial stone, crystolon sharpening stones derive from silicon carbide. They are best suited for initial coarse sharpening.

Chef using a sharpening steel on a knife

3. Sharpening Steel

Sharpening steel, also called honing steel, is a type of rod used to restore dull blades. While some sharpening steel varieties can improve knife sharpness, that isn’t their intended function. Instead, they hone the edges of your knives to maintain consistent results.

Types of Sharpening Steels

In general, there are four main types of sharpening steels:

  • Regular cut sharpening steels: Made from stainless steel, these are the most common type of sharpening steel.
  • Diamond sharpening steels: These sharpening steels are coated in diamond abrasives, giving them similar qualities to a sharpening stone.
  • Combination cut sharpening steels: These steels combine a smooth surface for honing with a rough surface for minor sharpening. 
  • Ceramic cut sharpening steels: A ceramic cut sharpening steel offers an effective way to align the blade of your knife.

Serrated knife sharpener on a countertop

4. Serrated Knife Sharpener

serrated knife sharpener is designed specifically for use on serrated knives. Because of their unique edges, serrated knives are difficult to sharpen with a stone or a traditional sharpener. Using the wrong sharpener on a serrated knife can damage the blade and your equipment.

Types of Serrated Knife Sharpeners

There are two main types of serrated knife sharpeners:

  • Electric serrated knife sharpeners: These sharpeners function similarly to electric knife sharpeners. It’s important to note that some traditional electric sharpeners may feature a serrated knife setting.
  • Manual serrated knife sharpeners: A manual serrated knife sharpener gives you full control over how you sharpen bread knives, serrated utility knives, and several other serrated tools.

Person using a handheld knife sharpener on a wooden countertop

5. Handheld Knife Sharpeners

Though limited in terms of output, a handheld knife sharpener allows you to simplify the sharpening process. Their small size and manual operating method make them perfect for cooking professionals in fast-paced environments or chefs that travel for work.

Types of Handheld Knife Sharpeners

In general, there are two types of handheld sharpeners:

  • Traditional handheld sharpeners: A traditional handheld knife sharpener gives you complete autonomy over how you sharpen a knife. By holding the knife in place and drawing the sharpener down the length of the blade, you can quickly restore your knives.
  • Slotted handheld sharpeners: A slotted handheld sharpener should be used on flat surfaces. They feature individual sharpening slots, meaning that all you have to do is slide the knife through.

Knife Bevels

Bevel is the surface that has been ground down to create the edge of the blade. It determines how sharp, strong, and durable a knife will be. Knives can feature different bevels depending on where they were made, their material, and their intended use. A standard bevel forms when there is an angle on one side of the blade, while a double bevel forms when there is an angle on both sides. Below, we'll outline the different types of knife bevels and their distinguishing characteristics:

  • Convex bevel: Also referred to as an axe grind, convex bevels are used on cleavers and other chopping knives. They create a durable blade that can chop through many foods. Because its edges are difficult to form, it is considered a specialized grind.
  • Chisel bevel: A chisel bevel is found on Japanese chef knives and other types of Asian cutlery. It is a single bevel, with one side of the knife having an edge and the other remaining flat. Knives with chisel bevels often require regular maintenance to maintain their sharp edge. It's important to note that chisel bevels come in left- and right-handed varieties.
  • Double bevel: Also called compound bevels, double bevels lend themselves to Western kitchen knives. Since they are ground on both sides, chefs have more flexibility to make different cuts. These bevels sacrifice sharpness to provide increased strength.
  • Flat bevel: Flat bevels create precise cuts and are used on chef knives and smaller kitchen knives. Though they are considered a simple edge, they come in several styles. They are easy to sharpen but provide less durability than their counterparts.
  • Hollow bevel: Hollow bevels are used on razors and other small knives. They sacrifice durability to produce thin and sharp edges. Knives with hollow bevels require consistent maintenance to ensure the best results.
  • Sabre bevel: These bevels are used for extended chopping in the kitchen. They are similar to flat bevels but feature minor variations in structure and grind type. Though they lack precision, these blades provide superior strength.
Knife Bevel Types

Knife Blade Angles

When sharpening a knife, angle measurements represent the angle of a knife's edge. The most important thing to remember when determining the angle of your knife is how you want to use it. Lower angles correlate with increased sharpness, while higher angles represent a strong and more durable blade. Below we'll introduce the most common blade angles and their characteristics:

  • 30 to 35 degree angles: These angles appear on cleavers or other blades used for chopping. Since chopping requires significant force, an angle of 30-35 degrees provides the strength and durability necessary to achieve the best results.
  • 25 to 30 degree angles: These angles are often used on utility knives and lend themselves to cutting and slicing tough materials. They aren't typically used in the kitchen but provide value in storage areas and warehouse spaces.
  • 18 to 25 degree angles: These are the most common angles found on knives in the kitchen. They create a delicate balance between sharpness and durability, lending themselves to cutting fruits and vegetables, preparing cuts of meat, slicing cheese, and a variety of other uses.
  • 12 to 18 degree angles: These angles are used on filet and paring knives. They feature superior sharpness and accuracy, lending themselves to fine slicing and intricate tasks in the kitchen. It's important to note that they are typically associated with weak blades.

Knife Sharpening Terms

If you're unfamiliar with knife sharpeners, it's important to familiarize yourself with them before you make a purchase. Below we've defined some key terms to remember:

  • Bevel: Also known as grind, this refers to the shape of a blade's edge. Bevel impacts the sharpness, durability, and efficiency of a knife.
  • Edge: The edge is the sharpened part of a knife's blade. It is the part of the knife that makes cuts.
  • Grit: This represents the size and abrasiveness of the individual grains on a whetstone. A low grit number indicates a coarse stone, while a high number indicates a smooth stone.
  • Sharpening: The process of restoring the blade of a dull or damaged knife.
  • Honing: The act of maintaining a blade that is already sharp.
  • Spine: The top, unsharpened part of a blade.
  • Swarf: The metal particles that are left over after sharpening a blade.

Knife Sharpener FAQ

How to Sharpen a Knife Without a Sharpener

If you don't have a sharpener on hand, it's possible to sharpen a knife with another knife. It's important to note that this process could damage the knives and should only be done if necessary. Follow the steps below to sharpen your knife without a sharpener:

  1. Place the blade of the dull knife against the spine of another.
  2. Slide the dull knife up the spine.
  3. Continue until your blade is sharp.

What Is the Difference Between Coarse and Fine Knife Sharpening?

Coarse knife sharpening is meant to grind down rough edges, removing any damage to the blade and leaving a dull edge. Fine knife sharpening is meant to hone the blade, producing a sharper edge.

How Long Do Knife Sharpeners Last?

The lifespan of a knife sharpener depends on how often you use it and the quality of the sharpener. A high-quality knife sharpener can last many years if it is properly maintained.

What Is the Difference Between Honing and Sharpening?

Sharpening is the process of making a dull blade sharp, and honing is the process of maintaining a sharp blade. Honing your knives regularly helps to keep them maintained. Conversely, a knife should only be sharpened when it becomes dull or damaged.

Knife Sharpening Savings Calculator

Some chefs take their kitchen cutlery to a professional to have them sharpened, but it is much more cost-effective to invest in a sharpening stone or knife sharpener and do it yourself. You can use our calculator below to learn just how much money your business can save by sharpening your knives yourself:

Hiring a Knife Sharpening Service
Purchasing an Electric Knife Sharpener
Savings in First Year

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