What the best knife sharpeners have

  • Good performance: A sharpener's most important feature is its ability to produce a keen edge.
  • A hard abrasive surface: Generally speaking, diamond is the hardest material, followed by tungsten carbide and polished ceramic.
  • An accurate angle guide: Some sharpeners make it easy for even an inexperienced user to hold the blade at the correct angle, while others require a bit of practice.
  • Multiple sharpening stages: A coarse material is used to bring dull knives back to life, while finer materials serve for touch-ups and polishing.
  • Adequate safety features: It should be easy to use the sharpener without taking off bits of your fingers in the process.
  • A decent warranty: This is more important for electric sharpeners, which tend to cost more.

Know before you go

  • What kind of knives do you have? Every sharpener can handle straight-edged blades, but only a few can sharpen serrated (scalloped-edge) knives. However, these knives degrade more slowly than straight-edge ones, so you may not need this feature if your serrated knife doesn't see heavy use. Also, not every sharpener can sharpen sport knives, scissors or Asian-style knives with a narrower edge than a standard kitchen knife. If you want to sharpen these types of blades, look for a sharpener that's designed to handle them.
  • How patient are you? Electric sharpeners generally get the job done faster than manual ones. They also tend to be easy to use, while some manual sharpeners take a little time to master. For instance, some reviews rave that water stones deliver beautifully polished edges, but using them takes a steady hand and plenty of practice.
  • How much space can you spare? Most manual sharpeners are small enough to fit in a kitchen drawer. Electric sharpeners, by contrast, take up space on a kitchen counter.
  • What's your budget? Manual sharpeners tend to be cheaper than electric ones, and they cost less to run.
  • Does noise bother you? Some electric sharpeners can be noisy. On the other hand, the whir of the motor masks the scraping sounds of the blade against the stone, which some people may find more annoying.
  • Are you left-handed? Some sharpeners are designed for right-handed use only (though left-handed versions may be available). Others will work with either hand.
  • How much do you value your knives?  Many electric sharpeners, and some manual ones, can over-grind knives and reduce the life of the blade. Warping and chipping can also be a problem. If you have expensive knives that you want to protect, look for a sharpener that's gentle on the metal.

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