A dull knife can be both frustrating and dangerous to use. But with so many sharpeners on the market it can be difficult to choose what’s best for you. We’re taking the guesswork out of it for you.
After testing more than a dozen sharpening tools on a wide range of kitchen knives, EDC knives, and more, we’ve come to the conclusion that the Apex System from Edge Pro Inc is the best knife sharpener on the market.
It offers the flexibility to sharpen an enormous variety of knives at angles between 10 and 24 degrees. It’s manual operation is simple to use and ensures that no damage is caused the temper of your knives.
The solid construction stable platform ensures fast and efficient sharpening of practically any knife.
Dull knives are incredibly frustrating to use. They can also be dangerous as the knife tends to bounce and change directions during cutting.
We spent countless hours researching and more that 20 hours testing various knife sharpeners. Our conclusion? The top knife sharpeners have two things in common:
- They work with a wide variety of knives and blade angles.
- They won’t destroy the temper of the knife by heating the metal during sharpening.
Both of these are critical to not only sharpening a dull knife, but to extending the life of knife for years to come. With that in mind here are our top 3 sharpeners.
**While a manual option is not for everyone, they did give the best overall results. Our second place option was an electric model.**
Our Knife Sharpener Reviews for 2020
Here we’ll review everything from the best knife sharpening systems to the best electric sharpeners. We’ll discuss abrasives, grit, grind, and bevel angles. These are models that we tested with our own knives.
While the manual models we’ll cover may look intimidating at first, they are exceptionally easy to use and make raising a burr and honing a fine and durable edge completely painless.
If you’re really serious about making your knife last I encourage you to take a good look at these products.
1. Edge Pro Apex 1 Best Knife Sharpening System
The Apex 1 claimed the top spot in our best knife sharpener comparison. In terms of portability the Apex can’t be beat. This sharpener is easy to set up on just about any flat surface. It also comes with a case making it easy to pack up and store.
With this sharpener you can take dull knives to a razor sharp edge in a matter of minutes.
Why a Manual Sharpener You Ask?
While most consumers initially look for electric sharpeners because they are supposed to be fast, they can also destroy the blade of your knife.
Most electric sharpeners use grinding wheels. Because of the speed at which they spin, they generate a significant amount of heat. This heat transfers to the blade of the knife and can affect the hardness of the metal. As a result the knife is less durable and will require more frequent sharpening. It can literally RUIN your knives.
Most electric sharpeners also only allow you to sharpen at one angle. This is also a huge disadvantage. The angle and hardness are two core design components of any knife and shouldn’t be changed.
Because the Apex system is manual it does not generate heat. And it is infinitely adjustable in terms of sharpening angle. This means it can be used on any of your kitchen knives, a hunting knife, or whatever. For anyone who is not an expert, this is the best way to sharpen a knife
The manufacturing quality is top notch. The sharpening stones glide smoothly along the length of the blade ensuring a consistent bevel.
It’s capability to sharpen knives both large and small is also a big plus. And the safety features such as the built-in stops and guards ensure that you won’t hurt yourself in the process.
What We Like
- Extremely flexible design allows exact matching of bevel angle
- Manual Operation ensures no damage to knife
- Sharpen knives of almost any length and up to 3 1/2″ in width.
- Great safety features and great price.
- Works on Western, Japanese and serrated knives
- short learning curve
- works very well on dull or damaged knives
Things We Don’t Like
- unfortunately the manual operation is a deterrent to many consumers
- doesn’t work well on filet knives
Sharpener Operation & Performance
The Apex knife sharpener system is specifically designed to be easy to set up and break down. The base has suction cups on the bottom, allowing a stable platform from which to work. All you need is a smooth surface such as a kitchen counter. The suction cups can be removed if you’re going to attach the unit to a work bench.
While most sharpening systems (like the KME) use clamps to hold the knife in place. The Edge Pro Apex uses a patented guide instead. This allows you to sharpen longer and taller knives. There aren’t really any length restrictions and blades as tall as 3 1/2″ can be accommodated on this system.
The motion is pretty straightforward and is clearly described in the instructional DVD that comes with the kit. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but with a few minutes of practice the proper motion is easy.
Allowing for a range of anywhere from 10 to 24 degrees, the Apex sharpener offers the flexibility to sharpen almost any knife. There are settings for the most common angles, but you can select any angle you like depending on the knife.
- Apex Model Edge Pro Sharpening System
- 220 Grit Medium Fine water stone
- 400 Grit Fine water stone
- Micro-fiber Towel
- Water Bottle
- Instructional Manual
- Black Cordura Carrying Case
There are quite a few accessories for this particular kit. They are all available separately, or included in the higher end kits. There’s an Apex 2, 3, and even 4. Basically the only thing that changes is the number of stones, accessories, and an instructional DVD.
While the manual operation of this sharpener might be off-putting to some, the sharpening process is actually quite easy to master. It will sharpen at just about any angle and the end result will be scary sharp knives. It packs up small and can easily be store in the kitchen.
It includes both coarse and fine stones. Changing stones is quick and painless, and the manual action ensures no damage to the tempering of your blades. We HIGHLY recommend it. For a more in-depth look check out our Edge Pro Apex review here.
2. Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition
Our overall winner for best electric knife sharpener is the Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener (Ken Onion edition). While Work Sharp may not be as well-known as some of the other brands in this comparison, there are several reasons why this product is superior to the rest of the field. Here are the highlights:
- Speed – while it IS electric, this sharpener offers variable speed to help reduce the chance of too much heat on the knife.
- Flexibility – a wide variety of knife types and sizes can be sharpened.
- Consistency – the design of the abrasive belts helps keep consistent contact with the knife
- Compact Size – this sharpener is easily stored in a kitchen drawer.
The most important feature of this particular sharpener is the ability to select the angle at which you wish to sharpen your knife.
Why is this important?
Different knives have different angles. Let’s look at kitchen knives as an example. A paring knife will have a steeper (sharper) angle than a chef’s knife. To maintain this blade properly it should be sharpened to the factory angle.
The Work Sharp has a very straightforward sharpening process. The main knob allows you to easily adjust for the type of knife you’re sharpening. It is clearly labeled; allowing you to sharpen anywhere between 15 and 30 degrees. Just select angle for the type of knife you’re sharpening and away you go.
The sharpening slot ensures that the knife maintains a consistent angle along the length. It even allows you to sharpen serrated knives.
Even with all of this functionality the Work Sharp sharpener is one of the most competitively priced products in this category. The flexibility it offers in selecting various angles based on the knife makes it the #1 electric sharpener in our comparison. You can take knife from very dull to razor sharp in a very short time.
Our biggest complaint with any electric knife sharpener, including this one, is that it’s possible to still cause some damage to the temper of the steel if you run the belts too quickly. This causes an overall weakening of the blade and shortens the usable life of the knife.
This must be balanced against the fact that most consumers prefer electric models because of how fast they operate.
We’re not huge fans of electric sharpeners, but the Work Sharp Ken Onion edition is far and away the best choice in this category. It offers a wide variety of sharpening angles, easy operation, belt speed control, and handy options like a slot for serrated knives. It quickly and easily sharpened everything we threw at it.
For those who aren’t willing to go the manual route, this is our favorite electric knife sharpener and makes a great edition to any kitchen. Your dull knives will be razor sharp within minutes.
3. Wicked Edge Precision Knife Sharpener
The biggest difference between the Wicked Edge system and the other two sharpening systems we’re covering is the use of two rods rather than one. This enables both sides of the knife to be sharpened at the same time, speeding up the entire process.
The sharpening angle ranges from 15 to 30 degrees. This angle must be set on both sides of the sharpener. The process of setting the angle is easy, but some care must be taken to ensure that both sides are set the same. Otherwise the edge on your knife will be uneven and it will seem dull.
Sharpener Operation & Performance
Working both sides of the blade simultaneously does reduce the amount of time need to sharpen a knife. For beginners it’s best to start out slowly. You want to make sure you’re raising a good burr on both sides of the knife.
The Wicked Edge sharpener comes with the blade vice and eight stones. They range in grit from 100 to 600. Two of each is included. The granite base shown in the picture does NOT come with standard kit. This is a bit of a disadvantage since the unit is typically priced $100 higher than its competitors in this competition.
Some features, such as the ball joint of the KME, are only included as upgrades on the Wicked Edge sharpener.
- quickly sharpened both sides of the knife at one time
- simple and fast operation
- works on a wide variety of knives
- easy to lock in the angle
- works well on both damaged and dull knives
- coarse and fine stones included
- sharpened a filet knife, but only with difficulty
- requires noting how each knife is mounted to ensure consistency
- most expensive of the group
The Wicked Edge Precision blade sharpener is a high quality product. But we have a hard time swallowing the price tag that comes in at nearly twice the other two in this comparison.
You can sharpen both sides of the knife simultaneously, but doing so requires a good bit of practice and we didn’t find it to speed up the process all that much.
It’s a beautiful product, especially if you choose to get the stone base. We just can’t justify the extra $.
If you’re looking for an electric sharpener that won’t damage the temper of your knives check out our Tormek T8 review. It’s a low RPM water cooled sharpening system that is designed to sharpen quickly without impacting the temper of the blade.
We prefer stone-based sharpening systems, but the vast majority of people want the fastest and nothing else. With that in mind we highlight some of the most highly rated electric models below.
An electric model is going to be the best solution for the majority of consumers. The best electric knife sharpeners are easy to use and sharpen quickly. They have guides that take all the guesswork out of making sure you sharpen the blade to the proper angle.
4. Chef’s Choice 1520 AngleSelect Review
Chef’s Choice has been around for quite some time. The Angle Select sharpener is a solid product, but lacks the flexibility of the Work Sharp. It offers 2 sharpening angles of 15 and 20 degrees and utilizes only diamond abrasives.
The unit is a two-stage device. The first sharpening slot uses a 15 degree angle for Japanese style knives and other sharper knives such as a paring knife. The second slot is for 20 degree blades such as European style chef knives. The third slot is for honing of either type. This is comparable to using a honing steel to create a smooth edge.
Since it only sharpens one side of the blade at a time, it is capable of handling both Western and Japanese style knives. You’ll want to read the instructions thoroughly before running one of your expensive Japanese knives through this sharpener just to be sure you’re doing it correctly.
Sharpener Operation & Performance
Using the Angle Select is very easy. The guide slots are magnetized to help keep the knife in the proper position for consistent sharpening all along its length.
There is a bit of difficulty in sharpening a knife such as a Wüsthof that has large bolsters. The extra width doesn’t allow you to sharpen all the way to the heel due to the width of the slots. This is not a problem that is unique to this product though. Most electric models struggle in this area.
For more information check out our full review of the Angle Select.
- ability to select between 2 popular angles (15 and 20 degrees)
- magnetized sharpening slots for consistent angle
- sharpened a wide variety of knives quickly
- no overheating issues
- sharpening discs can damage knife blade tempering
- lack of flexibility of sharpening angle
If you’re familiar with the Chef’s Choice name you know they make a quality product. The magnetized slots are easy to use, but the Angle Select sharpener can’t compare to the Work Sharp in terms of flexibility of choosing your sharpening angle.
It’s a solid second choice, but for the money we recommend the Edge Pro sharpener instead.
5. Chef’s Choice Trizor XV Edgeselect
The third place sharpener in our comparison is also from Chef’s Choice. The Trizor XV takes a different tack from most of the sharpeners we’ve covered. It is capable of sharpening both European (Western) knives and Japanese blades. It’s important to know that the angle on this sharpener is set to 15 degrees. This is sharper than most Western blades come from the factory.
The name Trizor refers to the bevel shape this unit creates when sharpening the knife. It’s not a traditional shape and you should be aware that the first time you use this it will remove a fairly significant amount of material from the blade of the knife.
It creates a very sharp edge, and seems somewhat durable, but we’re not a fan of anything that removes that much material. Additionally the shape of the bevel is not what most knife manufacturers intended when designing the strength and hardness of the metal in their blades.
- sharpened to a razor edge
- Works with a variety of knives
- Extremely Fast
- Can damage temper of knife
- Removes too much blade material
- Only sharpens to one angle
Operation & Performance
The Trizor XV is very easy to use. It has three stages. The first grinds the blade down to accept the 15 degree angle. This is where you’ll see most of the material removed from the knife.
The second stage develops the beveled edge. Finally the the third stage uses what is known as a stropping disc to smooth the bevel to a keen edge. Chef’s choice offers other models that are lower priced and will not re-profile the blade angle.
You can also use this final stage to sharpen serrated knives.
Read our full review of the Trizor XV for more information.
The Trizor XV sharpener’s claim to fame is the unique bevel shape it creates that is supposed to be both strong and sharp. That being said, it doesn’t offer anywhere near the flexibility of the Work Sharp.
The amount of material it removes from the knife during the first sharpening is a serious turnoff. It does create a VERY sharp edge, but we feel this is achieved by sacrificing the durability of the blade. As a result it would be our last choice in an electric sharpener.
6. KME’s Professional Knife Sharpening System
While a relative newcomer to the market, KME has delivered a fine product. This sharpener was originally designed for arrowheads, the product has now become a very capable knife sharpener.
The KME sharpener comes with a set of stones, but can use just about any 4″ stone on the market. You simply attach the stone to the rod using the supplied clamps. The blade angle is adjustable to anywhere within 17 and 30 degrees. You simply raise or lower the the slot on the frame of the unit and then lock it.
To protect the knife while it is clamped into the unit KME uses a neoprene finish. Both large and small knives can be sharpened by choosing one of the two lines on the clamp. Smaller blades should be placed not the first line, and larger on the second. Clamping the knife in place is as simple as tightening the supplied thumb nut.
The diamond stone series includes a coarse, fine, and extra fine stones.
Sharpener Operation & Performance
Once you have the knife locked in place, select the stone you want to start with and place it into the slot on the carrier. The thumb-nut on the end tightens on the stone, holding it in place.
The next step is to slide the rod into the ball joint that is built into the angle selector. The ball joint is a relatively new feature and allows the stone to travel smoothly along the entire length of the blade.
Since you have to sharpen both sides of most knives, KME has included an easy way to flip the knife over without removing it from the clamp. This is a great time-saving innovation that saves you from the aggravation of having to re-seat the knife in the middle of sharpening.
For serrated knives you can also purchase the tapered rod. It’s made diamond so it should last as long as the rest of the kit.
If you have re-curved blades you can also purchase the 3 level grit diamond honing steel. And of course there are stropping stones that can be purchased for this sharpener as well.
- simple and flexible design
- clamp flips to avoid re-clamping the knife
- works with just about any 4″ stone
- neoprene clamp to protect knife
- clamp isn’t great with odd blade geometries
- the base is not as stable as the Apex System
The KME stone-based sharpening system is a very high quality product. Our biggest gripe is the instability of the base. On top of that, you have to pay extra for it. The lowest angle setting is 17 degrees so it’s not quite as flexible as the Apex. And it costs more. A great product, but the Apex is better.
7. Budget Option: Spyderco Tri Angle
Given the high price of the first three sharpening system options we thought it made sense to include a more budget friendly option. The Tri-Angle Sharpmaker from Spyderco is just that.
While this sharpener isn’t as easy to use as the other systems we’ve covered, it still offers excellent results at a significantly lower price. The Spyderco unit is set on a flat surface and the knife blade is dragged along each of the stones. Once the motion is mastered you can quickly create a very sharp edge in very little time.
The Best Way to Sharpen Your Kitchen Knives
When it comes to sharpeners there are four basic styles.
- Electric sharpeners – by far the most popular. They’re fast, easy to use, and don’t take up a ton of space. In fact most models can easily be stored in a drawer.
- Manual models – the second most popular style. They are less expensive than electric, but they also take longer. For those that are budget conscious they can be a great value. Manual models also take up a minimum of space.
- Sharpening stone systems – the third type. Stones are what the pros prefer. They offer the greatest amount of flexibility and will not damage the tempering of the steel of your knives.
- Sharpening stones – the original method of sharpening. They require a great deal of practice to master and are much slower than the other three methods.
- Honing or sharpening steel – a sharpening steel is actually just a honing steel.
Which Type of Sharpener is Best for You?
Here are a few simple questions to help you decide what type of sharpener is best for your kitchen.
- What sorts of knives will you be sharpening? Kitchen? Western or Japanese? Hunting knives? Pocket knives?
- What is your budget?
- Are you primarily interested in speed or accuracy?
If you’re interested in speed electric models are the way to go. They’re not as accurate and will struggle with smaller blades like paring and pocket knives. They also have a hard time sharpening knives with a large bolster (like Wusthof). Second in terms of speed are sharpening systems.
For those on a tight budget manual sharpeners are fine. They are slower, but will get the job done. They can also handle a wide variety of knives and will not impact the tempering of the metal.
For those concerned with accuracy and ensuring the long life of their blades a stone-based sharpening system is the way to go.
Electric Knife Sharpeners
Selecting the best kitchen knife sharpener for your needs is a matter of determining what features you want and how much you’re willing to spend. There are a few important features that should be considered above the rest. Some apply to both manual and electric models. Here they are.
Flexible Sharpening Angle
Knife blades are designed based on a number of different variables. Of these steel strength and angle are the two most critical. Many Japanese knife makers choose to go with a harder steel and a lower angle (sharper blade). Western blades are typically made from softer steel and have a higher angle (not as sharp).
The sharpness of the knife is determined by the bevel angle, which is measured in degrees. The lower the angle, the sharper the knife. But other factors come into play.
An extremely sharp knife with a lower bevel angle won’t be as durable as one that is slightly less sharp and made with softer metal. Harder steel will actually chip since it is more brittle. Great care needs to be taken with hard steel knifes. Dropping one on the floor or tossing it into the sink could actually cause it to break.
A knife made with softer steel and a higher bevel angle won’t be as sharp, but can actually be more durable because it is able to take abuse without cracking or chipping.
Short story long…(sorry, this is important)
The ability to set the sharpening angle to specifically match the angles of your knives can help preserve and extend the life of the knife. Since the manufacturer designed it to operate at it’s factory bevel angle, keeping the knife at angle is the best option.
For whatever reason this feature isn’t the one that gets the most marketing hype, but it is probably one of the most important to consider when buying.
The Edge Pro manual and electric both incorporate this particular feature and that is the primary reason we selected it as the best electric model. It can sharpen anything from a chef’s knife to a paring knife.
Number of Stages
Regardless of the type of product you buy, the basics of sharpening are always the same. In the first stage you are grinding down any imperfections or damage to the blade. This creates a consistent surface for applying a clean edge.
Not all sharpeners have a repair stage so keep this in mind if many of your blades are nicked or damaged severely.
In stage two a stone that is less coarse is used to raise a burr. This burr will eventually become the cutting edge. When doing simple maintenance on a blade you can generally skip straight to this stage.
The final step, or stage three, is the honing or stropping stage. This is where you polish out the burr and create a keen edge on the blade of the knife.
Materials Used for Sharpening
When it comes to materials used in the sharpening of a blade there is a considerable variety out there. They include natural stones and composite materials that have been designed specifically for this task.
Natural stones have been used as a sharpener for thousands of years. They can be used for sharpening tools, weapons, and knives. Some of the best natural stones come from quarries in Arkansas. While there are several different types they are generally known as Arkansas stones.
Composite or man-made stones are made up of a variety of materials and are generally considered to be more long lasting that natural materials. Much of the time this is a matter of personal preference. A stone sharpener will take more time than either the manual or electric models we’ve covered.
Many of the best electric sharpening tools choose man-made diamond abrasives that are bound to wheels for the most effective sharpening. The coarseness of the abrasive changes as your progress through the various stages of the sharpener. Ceramics, steel, and other naturally occurring and man-made stones are also common materials.
Sharpening professionals generally prefer either natural or man-made stones. And while the type of stone is important, it plays a secondary role to using the proper angle to sharpen the blade.
There are quite a few products on the market labeled ‘systems’, but how are they different from traditional sharpeners? For starters, the three products we’re comparing utilize a rod and stone based method.
Traditional sharpening stones require you to move the blade across the stone at a specific angle along the entire length. This requires a great deal of patience and practice to do correctly.
These systems utilize the same principles but in reverse. The knife is locked into a clamp that holds it in place at a specific angle. The stones are then dragged across the blade. This allows even a complete beginner to create a consistent bevel along the length of the knife. And since you can adjust the angle to anything you like, this type of sharpener allows you to work with a wide variety of knives.
The three products differ slightly in how this is accomplished. But the basic idea is the same. Each allow the user to quickly and safely sharpen their knives back to their factory edge and beyond.
Knife Sharpening Systems
Sharpening a blade involves removing a small amount of material from the blade. The less material removed during this process, the longer the knife will last. This is one of the main reasons professionals don’t like electric models. They tend to remove more metal in the interest of speed.
Additionally, electric sharpeners only allow for a couple angle settings. This means that if the angle of a sharpener doesn’t line up with the angle of your knives, the first sharpening will remove a significant amount of material. This process is typically called re-profiling. Most of the electric products on the market do this to one degree or another. Because they are designed to work on a wide variety of knives there is a trade off of accuracy for flexibility.
Most knife makers base their blade angles on the strength of the steel used, so this can be bad for the strength and durability of the blade.
The Edge Pro electric (our #2 pick) is an electric model that allows for a great deal of flexibility in choosing your angle. But even this unit can’t match the flexibility of these rod and stone sharpening systems.
One of the most important factors in the sharpening process is creating a consistent edge. Consistency equates to durability. And durability means you have to sharpen less frequently, thereby extending the life expectancy of your knives.
Consistency is where sharpening systems separate themselves from the other products on the market.
Infinite Angle Selection
One of the most impressive features of these sharpeners is the ability to select an infinite number of angles. This means if you want to sharpen your 15 degree paring knife, you can match it EXACTLY. Or maybe you want to sharpen a hunting knife that has a 30 degree angle. No problem.
If you want to avoid re-profiling your knives and keeping the factory angle, these sharpening systems are probably your best bet.
Wide Variety of Sharpening Stones
Another important feature of these products is the wide variety of stones that are available for each. An electric sharpener will generally have at most 3 stages for repairing, sharpening, and polishing the blade edge. These products have significantly more flexibility in terms of grit levels, and stropping capabilities.
Basically they allow you to put a professionally polished edge on your blades every time without having to send your knives off or taking them somewhere.
The kits we cover in this comparison each have a pre-set number of stones that come with it, but the manufacturers sell additional stones in varying grits as well.
Mankind has been using stones to sharpen their blades for hundreds of thousand of years. But sharpening and honing a blade to a razor’s edge is a skill that takes a good amount of practice.
Keeping the blade at the same angle as it travels along the surface of the stone is imperative to creating a consistent edge. In fact you can even damage the blade if this motion is performed improperly.
The beauty of these sharpener systems is that they combine the simplicity of a guided sharpener with the results of a sharpening stone. Once the angle is selected and the blade is locked in place, you simply slide the stones along the length of the blade. Beginners can get the same results as professionals but without spending hours and hours learning the techniques.
There are other sharpeners on the market such as the Lansky we reviewed here. But this unit doesn’t offer the stability and accuracy as the products in this comparison.
In addition to models that are geared towards kitchen knives there are lots of sharpeners out there geared towards other types of knives as well. Let’s take a look at a few.