Best Knife Sharpeners

Editor's note:
For this update, the Spyderco 204MF Tri-Angle Sharpmaker continues to reign supreme -- and live up to its name -- as our best-reviewed manual knife sharpener. That said, we're keeping an eye on two interesting new additions: the manual Chef's Choice ProntoPro 4643 and the electric Presto EverSharp.
 
Spyderco 204MF Tri-Angle Sharpmaker
Specs that Matter
Blade angle(s) - 15 or 20 degreesSerrated knives - YesSharpening stages - 2-3
Best Reviewed
Best manual knife sharpener
Spyderco 204MF Tri-Angle Sharpmaker

The Spyderco 2014MF Tri-Angle's open construction and pre-set angles means you can use it to sharpen just about anything, including 20-degree Western knives, 15-degree Asian knives, serrated blades and scissors. Users say the learning curve is quick and the results are great, and optional diamond sharpening rods remove enough steel to re-shape even damaged blades. The angled sharpening rods do double-duty as safety rails to protect your hands.

Lansky Professional Sharpening System
Specs that Matter
Blade angle(s) - 17, 20, 25 or 30 degreesSerrated knives - YesSharpening stages - 4 grits
Runner Up
Knife sharpening kit
Lansky Professional Sharpening System

Users say the Lansky professional sharpening system offers just the right amount of guidance to sharpen a 17-, 20-, 25- or 30-degree cutting edge. A guide rod and clamp help you swing any of four abrasive hones across the blade in smooth strokes. Reviewers say this system offers a lot of control over the finished product and creates a true razor edge, although longer blades will have to be sharpened in segments.

AccuSharp 001 Knife Sharpener
Specs that Matter
Blade angle(s) - 20 degreesSerrated knives - Usually noSharpening stages - 1
Runner Up
Cheap knife sharpener
AccuSharp 001 Knife Sharpener

The AccuSharp 001 knife and tool sharpener couldn't be simpler: It's just a tiny tungsten carbide sharpening surface that you pull over the blade of a knife, with a plastic guard to protect your hand. Holding a knife with the blade up and pulling the AccuSharp across its edge can take a little getting used to, but once they've had a chance to try it, users say they love the results this inexpensive device gives.

Chef's Choice 1520 AngleSelect
Specs that Matter
Blade angle(s) - 15 or 20 degreesSerrated knives - YesSharpening stages - 3
Best Reviewed
Best electric knife sharpener
Chef's Choice 1520 AngleSelect

The Chef's Choice 1520 AngleSelect knife sharpener's three sharpening stages can do just about anything. It has a dedicated slot for sharpening 20-degree Western knives, a second slot for sharpening 15-degree Asian knives, and a third slot with a flexible polishing/stropping disk to help polish off a smooth, sharp edge. Spring-loaded blade guides keep everything at just the right angle. This Chef's Choice sharpener is also pretty quiet for an electric model, and very safe.

Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener
Specs that Matter
Blade angle(s) - 15 to 30 degreesSerrated knives - NoSharpening stages - Extra-coarse to ultra-fine
Runner Up
Knife and tool sharpener
Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener

Users say they love how the Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener -- essentially a miniature belt grinder -- gives them a blend of old school sharpening technique and convenience features like a variable-speed trigger control and blade guides. Switching between the 3/4-inch abrasive belts is quick and easy, with no special tools required, and the roughest belt is tough enough to sharpen serious tools like lawnmower blades.

Types of Knife Sharpeners
Manual Knife Sharpeners

Manual knife sharpeners are the most compact and affordable type. In fact, we found excellent reviews for one small manual sharpener that costs just $10 on average. Fancier manual models offer users more control over the sharpening process but also require more skill to use. Most manual sharpeners have no moving parts at all; you do the work by drawing the blade repeatedly across the sharpener's abrasive surface which may be a stone or a rod, or even a slotted system that you just pull the knife through.

Electric Knife Sharpeners

Although electric knife sharpeners don't provide as much control as manual sharpeners, they're faster and easier to use. In most cases, you pull the knife slowly through specially designed slots in the sharpener; abrasives hidden inside the slots do the sharpening. Electric knife sharpeners tend to be larger than manual models, so keep storage or counter space in mind.

Make sure a sharpener is actually what you need

A dull kitchen knife is a dangerous knife, because it's more likely to slip and slice your fingers instead of whatever else you were working on. Even the most expensive knives can slide into that danger zone as they lose sharpness over time. You can send your knives out to a professional for re-sharpening, but with fewer and fewer sharpening services available locally, doing it yourself is more attractive than ever. That way you don't lose the use of your knives while they're being shipped back and forth, and you also save the money you would have paid to the sharpening service.

The term "sharpening" is often used to describe both honing (re-straightening the burr that forms the cutting edge of a knife) and reshaping the blade to create a new burr. Most in-home knife sharpeners are capable of doing both to some degree. Sharpening your knives before the blade becomes nicked or significantly dull makes the sharpening process easier and faster, and also helps preserve your knives because in order to reshape a dull blade you have to remove a lot of steel.

Home sharpeners use some sort of an abrasive -- either tungsten carbide, ceramic, steel or diamond, which provides the hardest, most aggressive sharpening surface -- to reshape the knife blade. Most have at least two sharpening surfaces to choose from; you start with a coarser grit to remove more steel, then use a finer grit to polish your knife to a smooth edge.

Good cutlery makes a difference, too; see our report on kitchen knives for the best knives that will hold an edge longer and sharpen up more quickly. If you find that you're uncomfortable working with an exposed blade or need a slicer that quickly makes many uniform cuts, we've also evaluated the best mandolines to make short work of any pile of veggies.

Which blade angle do you need?

The angle at which you position the knife during sharpening is key, and it depends on what sort of knife you have. European/Western knives typically have a blade angle of 20 degrees, while Asian knives typically have a blade angle of 15 degrees, although many European knife makers have started introducing 15-degree blades as well. Most electric sharpeners have guides to help you maintain the blade at the correct angle, and some can accommodate multiple blade angles.

Finding The Best Knife Sharpeners
Our Sources1. Cook's Illustrated
Knife Sharpeners2. TheSweethome.com
The Best Knife-Sharpening Tool3. Wired
I'm Losing My EdgeSee All

To select our best-reviewed knife sharpeners, we considered four factors: performance, ease of use, safety and, for electric sharpeners, the noise level. To rate knife sharpeners on these criteria, we consulted professional comparison tests at sites such as Cook's Illustrated and Wired.com. We also looked at more casual tests in newspaper articles and on consumer websites. Finally, we consulted hundreds of reviews at retail sites such as Amazon.com to see how knife sharpeners perform in the hands of typical home users. The result is our picks for the best knife sharpeners for any budget and level of experience.

The best knife sharpeners

For multi-stage manual sharpening, we highly recommend the Spyderco 204MF Tri-Angle Sharpmaker System (Est. $60). This sharpener has two sets of triangular rods -- miniature sharpening stones in fine and medium grits -- that fit into its plastic base at preset angles. You hold the knife horizontally, blade edge pointing down, then draw it back across the sharpening rods on first one side, then the other. An included DVD gives more detail on how to do this -- the process is easy and simple once you see a visual example.

The base has several slots set at different angles; changing slots lets you adjust the Spyderco Sharpmaker for kitchen knives with a 15- or 20-degree edge, and users say it excels at sharpening scissors and utility knives too. "There isn't much the Spyderco can't sharpen," writes Scott Gilbertson for Wired.com, explaining that the open design makes it easy to do unusual things like de-burring a Phillips head screwdriver or sharpening wire cutters. You can also use the Spyderco Sharpmaker to sharpen serrated blades.

Overall, users say the Sharpmaker offers reliable, hard-to-beat results with a reasonable learning curve, and they're happy that, unlike traditional flat stones, you don't have to wet or oil the sharpening rods before use. Users warn that you do, however, need to scrub the stones periodically with an abrasive cleanser like Comet or Ajax to remove any lingering particles of steel. They also warn to be careful about not dragging the point of the knife across the stones as this will quickly dull it.

As long as you keep your hand on the base, outside the rods, they do double-duty as safety rails to keep the knife edge away from your hand. It usually takes about 20 passes on each side to sharpen a blade, although you may need to repeat the process with both the medium- and fine-grit sharpening rods. Users also love the Spyderco Sharpmaker's durability, with most saying their first model lasted for several decades of use before wearing out.

Our only gripe about this sharpener is the terminology used in its documentation. When the Spyderco manual refers to a 40-degree knife edge, it's actually referencing what most knife-makers and manufacturers or sharpeners would call a 20-degree blade, the standard for Western kitchen knives. The reason for this disconnect is because Spyderco is measuring all the way across the blade, while most others measure just one side of the blade at a time. What Spyderco calls a 30-degree blade would typically be called a 15-degree blade, the standard for Asian kitchen knives, although some Western manufacturers are beginning to use this narrower blade angle as well.

If you want to re-shape the edge on a knife that isn't set to a 15- or 20-degree angle, or restore a more damaged edge, the medium-grit rods that come with the Sharpmaker don't remove enough metal. Users have reported good results, however, with Spyderco's Diamond Triangle Pair (Est. $50), which are diamond rods for the Sharpmaker system. Of course, if a knife edge is severely damaged, you're usually better off sending it out to be re-shaped, but the Spyderco Sharpmaker can handle anything short of that, and is small and light enough to tuck easily in your pocket or a kitchen drawer.

Most users love the easy mechanics of the Spyderco Sharpmaker but, if you're not comfortable with its relatively open mechanics, consider our best-reviewed knife sharpening kit, Lansky Professional Sharpening System (Est. $44). This system comes with a clamp that secures the knife blade, four grits of hones, from coarse/grinding to ultra-fine, and a triangle-shaped hone for sharpening serrated blades. You attach a guide rod to each hone, then slide the guide rod into a hole on the clamp. Which hole you choose sets the angle for the sharpening: 17, 20, 25 or 30 degrees. Once the guide rod is in place, you swing the hone repeatedly across the edge of the blade at the pre-set angle; anywhere from six to 20 passes with each hone will do the job.

We didn't find much professional feedback on the Lansky professional sharpening system, but users at several review sites say it's pretty easy to figure out (an instructional video helps), and that the coarser hones remove enough metal to work with high-quality hard steel or re-profile a damaged blade.

That said, the Lansky professional sharpening system does have some quirks. A few users point out the lack of a safety guard -- the only thing separating your fingers from the knife blade is your own good judgment -- and blades longer than about 6 inches must be sharpened in sections, so this isn't the best choice if the only thing you're sharpening is long chef's knives. Still, this is one of the most popular all-around sharpening kits because it creates a true razor edge and offers you a lot of control over the finished product, yet feels less intimidating than a full-on sharpening stone; and the wider angles it accommodates come in handy for sharpening utility or survival/outdoors knives.

New to this report, the Chef's Choice ProntoPro 4643 (Est. $65) manual knife sharpener shows a lot of promise. It has three sharpening stages, each armed with diamond-abrasive grinding wheels, and can sharpen a 15 or 20-degree blade. Users say it usually takes five to six strokes to get a good edge on a blade that's in decent shape, and that the large handle is easy for everyone to hold onto, including men with large hands or those with decreased grip strength.

The ProntoPro 4643 earns a top nod from TheSweetHome.com after hours of hands-on testing. The author, Tim Heffernan, writes that this product is "foolproof, durable and affordable" for most people. Users generally feel this sharpener is a great value for the money, but several warn that it requires more downward pressure than you'd apply with most sharpeners.

You can easily sharpen knives on a budget

If you want to skip the learning curve entirely and save some money at the same time, one of the best knife sharpeners we found is also one of the cheapest. The design of the AccuSharp 001 Knife and Tool Sharpener (Est. $10) couldn't be simpler: It's nothing but a plastic handle with a slot containing a tiny, replaceable tungsten carbide sharpening surface. You place the knife to be sharpened on a table, blade up, and position the AccuSharp over the knife blade. Then you apply light pressure as you pull the AccuSharp along the length of the blade.

Whether they were professional testers or home users, reviewers sometimes found it a bit unnerving to pull the AccuSharp over an exposed knife blade with nothing but its plastic guard as protection. Once they got past that, though, they found it produced a sharp edge quickly and easily. Workers in a prominent test kitchen found it especially handy for quick touch-ups, since it's small and light enough to fit in a drawer.

Because the AccuSharp doesn't have multiple sharpening surfaces to choose from, the amount of pressure you apply is the only way of adjusting its abrasion level. In fact, a few users warn that if you apply too much pressure, this little sharpener will take too much metal off and can even nick the knife blade -- so use a light touch. Overall, users love its compact size, price tag and ease of use, and say they feel perfectly safe once they get used to it.

There is some discussion among both experts and owners about whether the AccuSharp really puts a professional edge on knives, but it's so quick and easy to use that in a way that doesn't matter, as long as you keep touching up the blade before it becomes dulled to the point of damage. This little sharpener also lasts a long time; one user says it took eight years to wear hers out.

Reviews indicate that it takes about 20 passes to sharpen a dull blade, be it straight or serrated, with this little device. One note: The AccuSharp is only designed to work with 20-degree blades (the typical measurement for a Western-style kitchen knife) that are beveled on both sides. So it's not the right choice for 15-degree (Asian-style) knives or knives with a chisel edge that is only beveled on one side, which will rule out some serrated blades.

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Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker Knife Sharpener 204MF
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $57.48 $57.47   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Spyderco Diamond Triangle Pair
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $47.97 $31.66   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Lansky Professional Sharpening System with Coarse, Medium, Ultra Fine, and Serrated Medium Hones
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $55.99 $34.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Chef's Choice 4643 ProntoPro Angle Select Diamond Hone 3 Stage Manual Knife Sharpener
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $65.00 $40.51   
Average Customer Review:  
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AccuSharp 001 Knife Sharpener
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $8.67 $6.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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