If you want an inexpensive solution that delivers good sharpness for straight or serrated blades, the dirt-cheap AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener 001 fits the bill.
Produces a good, if not "professional," edge. In a comparison test of manual sharpeners conducted by a cooking magazine, the AccuSharp gets top marks for sharpening performance. (It does a poor job of removing notches from blades, but the same problem applies to all the other manual sharpeners as well.) Joe Yonan and Bonnie S. Benwick of the Washington Post, who test several knife sharpeners with the help of a professional, find that this knife produces an edge "almost as sharp" as the best electric sharpener's, and for a fraction of the cost.
Hundreds of home users at Amazon.com and Cooking.com give this little sharpener a thumbs-up for performance, too. Most agree that it produces a sharp edge, though some warn that it won't give a razor-sharp "professional edge." We also saw a few complaints at these sites that the AccuSharp takes too much metal off knife blades, a problem generally more common with electric sharpeners. Some users also say that the AccuSharp leaves rough edges and can nick knife blades. We read multiple complaints from users that their knives were "ruined" (at least temporarily) by this sharpener.
Easy to use, though it can be unnerving. Like an electric sharpener, the AccuSharp has a simple slot for aligning the blade. However, with the AccuSharp, you don't insert the knife into the sharpener; instead you place it, blade up, on a table and run the sharpener down the length of the blade. Both professional testers and users say this took some getting used to, but they soon got the hang of it. Users say it takes about 20 passes to restore a dull knife to sharpness.
Another advantage of the handheld AccuSharp is that it can be used on nearly any type of blade. It handles both sharp and serrated kitchen knives, as well as larger sporting knives. It can also be used with either the right or the left hand. Cleanup is easy -- just wash with soap and water or toss the whole thing in the dishwasher -- and the AccuSharp's small size means that it stores easily in a drawer. However, one drawback, according to some reviewers at Amazon.com, is that its sharpening surface -- a small tungsten carbide blade -- wears out quickly. One user claims that it will need replacement after sharpening six to 10 knives. (A pair of replacement blades costs approximately $7.)
Safer than it looks. As noted above, the knife to be sharpened has its blade exposed during sharpening, which may seem unsafe at first glance. However, the hand-held AccuSharp has a plastic finger guard running the full length of the tool, ensuring that the user's fingers never come into contact with the blade. And because the sharpening surface is tucked securely inside the tool, exposed only in the slot where the knife blade is inserted, the user's fingers are protected from that as well.
Since it's a manual knife sharpener, there's no motor noise. The only sound will be the scraping of the knife blade itself against the sharpening surface. None of the reviews we consulted remarked on the noise level of this sharpener in any way, positive or negative.
1. The Washington Post
Review Credibility: Very Good Joe Yonan and Bonnie S. Benwick enlist the help of professional knife-sharpening expert Frank Monaldi Sr. to test five sharpeners, including the AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener 001. Various knives are tested, first in Monaldi's shop and then in the reporters' homes. The testers measure sharpness by the slash-and-slice test, using a piece of paper and very ripe tomatoes. Although a pricey electric sharpener is their top pick, the AccuSharp also does a nice job.
Review: Knife Sharpeners That Make the Cut, Joe Yonan and Bonnie S. Benwick, March 26, 2008
2. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Review Credibility: Very Good Editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine test and compare 12 manual knife sharpeners, including the AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener 001. Each sharpener is rated on performance, notch removal and ease of use. While the best manual knife sharpeners do a decent job of restoring a knife's edge for a fraction of the cost of an electric knife sharpener, none of them can repair a nicked or damaged knife.
Review: Manual Knife Sharpeners, Editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine, Nov. 1, 2006
Review Credibility: Very Good More than 770 owners review the AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener 001 at Amazon.com, awarding it an overall rating of 4.6 stars out of 5. Users say the knife is easy to use and produces a good edge, although some warn that it is not really a "professional edge." Its small size and low price tag are also popular features. However, some owners complain that the knife takes off too much metal, leaves a rough edge and can nick knife blades. We read several reviews from owners who complained that their knives were "ruined" (at least temporarily).
Review: AccuSharp 001 Knife Sharpener, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of October 2012
Review Credibility: Good The AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener 001 receives only 15 or so reviews at Cooking.com, and most of them are quite short. Users are generally pleased with the knife, saying it produces a good edge and is easy to use. They also like its low price tag and the fact that it works on larger blades, such as fishing knives. We did see a few complaints that the AccuSharp takes a lot of metal off knife blades, but we did not find any genuinely negative reviews here.
Review: 9-in. Knife Sharpener by AccuSharp, Contributors to Cooking.com, As of October 2012