On the Edge: The 9 Best Knife Sharpeners

Combat, cooking, hunting, backpacking, home repairs, and opening mail all have one thing in common: You should have a good knife when you do them. The problem is that even if you have the finest tactical knife or the fastest folding knife on the planet, it’s worse than useless if it has a dull edge. Unless you’re spreading butter, a knife needs to be sharp to be effective, but every blade blunts over time and unless you feel like shelling out for a professional at every turn, you should have a good knife sharpener around to stay on the cutting edge.

These tools are generally divided into two main categories: Electric and manual. Electric ones are easier to use but often shave off more metal than is necessary and still don’t give you quite the same honed razor’s edge that you can get when using a manual. But manuals require work to learn and if you use them wrong you can end up doing more damage than good. From whetstones for your pocket to metal kitchen sharpeners to the machinated models that scrape your blade keen and clean, we found the 9 best knife sharpeners around.

Smiths PP1 Pocket Pal

Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal

Pro: Light and portable
Con: Small contact point creates a slightly wavy knife edge

Travel Companion: There’s one thing almost all knife sharpeners have in common: They’re bulky. The reason behind this is that to properly sharpen a knife, you need a certain amount of space to achieve a proper flowing movement so that it gains an edge evenly along the length of the blade. This makes them difficult to carry with you when backpacking and hiking. Despite its diminutive size and low price, the Pocket Pal from Smith’s is still a full two stage sharpener with pre-set carbides for both coarse grinding and an internal ceramic stone made for fine polishing. If you prefer, you can also use the flip-out diamond rod on the end for honing both serrated and standard blades, like those that you would typically find on a tactical knife. It has a nylon sheath that allows it to be worn on a belt and a lanyard hole if you want it around your neck, wrist, or dangling off a pack. Plenty small enough to slip into the pocket of your retro, acid-washed skinny jeans. [Purchase: $9]

AccuSharp 001

AccuSharp 001

Pro: Ideal for serrated knives
Con: Single stage sharpener

Cost Cutter: You wouldn’t expect a product with such a tiny price tag to be able to really perform, but the Accusharp 001 is the best of the basic sharpeners built with beginners in mind. It won’t give you an edge that can split hairs because it is a single stage sharpening tool that doesn’t really polish the knife but rather gives it a quick honing that will allow it to increase its cutting power. Your knife won’t realize its full potential after a session with the Accusharp, but it will work for the short term or as preparation for a more serious sharpening job. The actual sharpening is done with metal blades made of diamond honed tungsten carbide that are long-lasting and won’t wear down against any kind of metal, whether you’re a carbon steel user, stainless steel devotee, or like one of the more esoteric knife materials on the market. The safety handle prevents cuts and the whole device is easy for anyone to use even if you’ve got a serious case of the shakes. It works fast and can be used on just about anything with an edge. We liked it best for its ability to handle serrated knives. [Purchase: $10]

Buck Knives EdgeTek

Buck Knives EdgeTek

Pro: Warrantied “Forever”
Con: Does not have a very coarse grit level

Triple Threat: If you’ve ever bought a knife set that comes with a standard metal sharpener, hopefully you had the good sense to throw it away since they are often afterthoughts and work about as well at giving you a good edge as whispering sweet nothings to your cutlery. The EdgeTek from Buck looks like a kitchen sharpener, but trust the company who made folding pocket knives popular to give you more than that. This can go in your workshop or hunting lodge just as easily as your kitchen and works on skinning blades and fixed blade knives as well delicate fillet knives. The entire surface is diamond coated with variable grit depending on which part of the knife sharpener is used. You can begin with a coarse 325 grit, turn it to use the 750 medium grit, or go all the way up to a 1200 grit if you need a fine, polished look to your knives. It doesn’t really have the ability to work with severely damaged knives or those that have become excessively dull, but rather intended to maintain a consistent level of sharpness. [Purchase: $42]

Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker

Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker

Pro: Easy and safe
Con: Base feels cheap

Weird and Wonderful: Yep, the Sharpmaker is a strange animal from the word go. It’s partly a bench sharpener, partly a stone knife sharpener, and partly a point grinder that will get just about anything sharp once you can figure out how it works. You’ll get two sets of high alumina ceramic stones, one coarse and one with a mid-range fineness that will give you a good edge on anything you want and can even sharpen up darts and fishhooks without any trouble. Other stones are available if you need something with more grit or you can buy a diamond-coated sharpener stone set that will give you a cutting edge that you can see yourself in. The odd design is actually intended to make use simpler for the uninitiated, though it does still go relatively slowly so don’t expect a quick fix, especially if you’ve been neglecting your blades. Brass guards protect your hands from cuts while the stones themselves can either be used flat or with one of the points of the triangle depending on what you need. We found this had a special ability for sharpening up darts, awls, and even screwdrivers that had seen better days. The only problems we could find with it was the plastic base feels a little cheap and the ceramic stones break if dropped. [Purchase: $58]

Shun 300-1000 Whetstone

Shun 300/1000 Whetstone

Pro: Works on tools as well as knives
Con: Requires practice to use correctly

Wet Warrior: This is a traditional Japanese whetstone with two sides of varying ceramic grit from Shun, a manufacturer of some of the most prized Japanese kitchen knives in any sushi restaurant. With a 300 coarse grit side for pulling a good burr on your blade to the 1000 grit side that will polish and refine your cutting tools, this can handle every blade in your drawer, on your belt, or in your toolbox. More than just a knife sharpener, this is a refined general-purpose stone that can also help keep scissors, dive knives, tomahawks, axes, and anything else ready to hack and slash or slip delicately through rice paper. Once you have mastered the art, this is a pick-up-and-go tool but the learning curve can take a while if you’ve never used a stone sharpening method before. Works best for both function and cleaning if used wet. It’s horribly unsightly, so hide it in a drawer when not being used. [Purchase: $80]

DMT DuoSharp Plus Bench

DMT DuoSharp Plus Bench

Pro: Heavy-duty stationary construction
Con: Standard grit options are very fine

Benched: This is your all-purpose, sharpen anything workbench grinder that belongs in a garage or a shed right beside your chainsaws and riding lawn mowers where a man’s thinking and tinkering occur. You can get this in either an 8″ or 10″ model depending on how big your blades and tools are. The dotted monocrystalline diamond surface pattern runs contrary to typical sharpeners in that it doesn’t have the smooth and constant look, but rather a polka-dot grid patter. It uses this to maximum efficacy by allowing water to sit between the dots for a better wet sharpening experience with less pouring. Each component part of the bench is fused together for a very sturdy feel that doesn’t buckle under pressure. A constant diamond portion at one end is good for edge finishing or adding a little extra jabbing ability to the tip of certain items. The factory model comes with a double-sided stone with 600 and 1200 grit, but other options are available if you need a more specific purpose in mind. The 600 is a little fine for really damaged blades, so blunted knives, shears, or other tools might need a little help to start off. [Purchase: $81]

Chefs Choice 15 Trizor XV

Chef’s Choice 15 Trizor XV

Pro: Can handle larger blades
Con: Eats a lot of metal during initial bevel change

Electric of Note: Chef’s Choice is the top of the line when it comes to electric sharpeners, particularly when you’re talking about chef’s knives, paring knives, boning knives, or wavy / serrated knives. It has a three stage process that starts off by giving each knife it comes in contact with a 15-degree bevel, the standard among Japanese knives where precision is prized. The lower bevel allows it to keep an edge longer so you won’t need to use the Trizor XV as often which is always a benefit since it means less grinding is done on the knives over their lifetime. On the flip side, the bevel is achieved by slicing away a lot of metal. Diamond abrasives are used in each of the three sharpening stages and the abrasive pads are flexible rather than rigid which allows them to better accommodate the blades without removing too much metal during each sharpening. It can take on larger knives rather than just kitchen knives so if you’ve got a machete that you want to run through it rather than hitting the belt sander, this can help you. The major issues with this – besides the excessive electrical grinding – are primarily aesthetic. It’s boxy with a short cord so it neither looks good nor can go far from an outlet. [Purchase: $159]

Edge Pro Apex 1 Knife Sharpener Kit

Edge Pro Apex 1 Knife Sharpener Kit

Pro: Simple to use
Con: Time intensive process

For Ultimate Precision: Upon opening the Apex 1, it’s a little difficult to comprehend how all of its disparate parts somehow come together to form a knife sharpener, but once you’ve read the manual, you’ll be ready to put your engineering degree to use constructing the device. Essentially this is a set of stones along with a stand that is intended to force you to use proper technique when sharpening so that even amateurs can get a professional level of slicing power. You’ll need a fair amount of counter space to set this up, but once you have it in place and all the areas adjusted – from the angle to the kind of stone to the size of the knife – it’s a smooth manual action similar to using a bow saw. Dual stops prevent you from slicing your fingers, though beginners should still go slowly to prevent injury since the blade will be facing toward you. The beginning stones are only the 220 grit and 400 grit water stones, but almost any level is available if you need a coarser rating for damaged knives or higher grit levels for polishing the edge to a mirror finish. [Purchase: $165]

Price: $165

Car Window Knife Sharperner

Car Window

Pro: No special equipment required
Con: You’ll need a car with a window

Honorable Mention: We aren’t advising that you go out and buy just the window of a car, but in a pinch or a life and death survival situation, a knife can be sharpened on the rough edge of your car’s glass with ease. This works because glass is molecularly harder than the metal of most knives so while you should never use a glass cutting board, you can employ glass to get an edge. Simply roll the window of your car down and stroke the blade across the top the same way you would a whetstone. Technique is important here, so make sure you know what you’re doing. Ten to twenty strokes is sufficient to polish up a knife that is starting to dull while more may be required if you’re starting with a survival knife that has already seen a lot of action. If you notice the edge of the glass getting smooth, switch to a window that still has a little roughness to offer so that you can get the best cut available. The softer the metal of your knife, the more effective this method is. [Video Tutorial]

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