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The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024

A dull edge isn’t just a grind, it can be more dangerous than no edge at all. So we put our nose to the grindstone, testing numerous knife sharpening systems against hundreds of edges to round up the best for making every edge you own a keen one.

(Photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)
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Not all edges are sharpened equally, but all neglected edges are pretty equally useless. A folding saw that can’t cut firewood, a hatchet that can’t split sticks, and a filet knife that can’t prep the dinner you want to toss on the fire don’t just make for cold, tiring, and hungry night — they’re ample opportunities to cut yourself. 

So, we tasked our edge obsessives — the sorts who always regrind every factory edge to get them just right — to round up the best sharpening systems on the market. Led by lead tester Ian Graber-Stiehl, a professional blade sharpener, we tested each system against just about every blade you could come across: budget folders, chisels, professional cutlery, high-end EDC steels, axes, machetes, shears, horse clippers, saws — you name it. 

We used the systems here in kitchens, in the field, and at the workshop, to see not only what they sharpen best, but where they’re best suited. After all, the field sharpener an angler uses for shore lunch touch-ups isn’t ideal for sharpening knives at a farmer’s market for a few bucks — and a belt grinder that can quickly repair trail crew axes, probably wouldn’t be appreciated by the apartment neighbors of a line cook looking to retouch the kitchen’s knives after their shift. 

The result: We’ve compiled a list of not only the best of the best sharpening systems, but the edges they excel with and where — and a buyer’s guide at the end for everything you need to know to take your bevels to the next level. If sharpening knives is new to you, consult our FAQ and comparison chart sections.

The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024

Best Overall Knife Sharpener

Work Sharp Elite Knife Sharpening Solution


  • Sharpener Type Electric belt sharpening system
  • Angle Range 10-35 degrees per side
  • Grits 120, 220, 1000, 3000, 12,000
  • Size 10 x 6.5 x 6”
  • Best For Traditional knives, landscaping and trail tools
  • Skill Level 2 out of 5
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024


  • Quick grinding
  • Incredibly versatile
  • Wide angle selection range
  • Easy to operate
  • Freehand and guided sharpening modes
  • Easily convexes edges


  • Loud
  • Messy/dusty
  • Requires replacement belts
  • Can overheat edges
Best Budget Knife Sharpener

Work Sharp Precision Adjust Elite


  • Sharpener Type Clamping, manual, angle-guided
  • Angle Range 15-30 degrees per side
  • Grits 220, 320, 400, 600, 800 grit diamond, ceramic plate, ceramic rod, compound-loaded strop
  • Size 11.5 x 4.5 x 7” case
  • Best For EDC blades, cutlery under 9”
  • Skill Level 1 out of 5
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024


  • Budget-friendly
  • Takes up little space
  • Easy to operate
  • Rubberized clamp prevents scratching
  • Swiveling clamp
  • Good grit progression


  • Limited low-angle options
  • Angles not always accurate
  • Struggles with large, thick blades
  • Clamp flexes without support
  • Slow at reprofiling blades
Best Travel Knife Sharpener

DMT 6″ Double Sided Dia-Sharp Diamond Stone


  • Sharpener Type Diamond bench stone
  • Angle Range N/A
  • Grits Fine/Extra Fine, Coarse/Extra Coarse
  • Size 2 x 6”
  • Best For EDC blades, cutlery, woodworking tools
  • Skill Level 3 out of 5
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024


  • Fast-cutting abrasive
  • Compact
  • Versatile
  • Less care required than oil or whetstones
  • Good for higher-end, high-carbide steels


  • Can rust if stored wet
  • Grits somewhat coarse for rating
  • Leave a heavy scratch pattern on edge
Best Professional Knife Sharpener

Wicked Edge Generation 4 Pro


  • Sharpener Type Manual, double-sided, clamped, angle-guided
  • Angle Range 12-28 degrees per side; 12-33 with Micro-Adjust
  • Grits 100/200, 400/600, 800/1000
  • Size 7 x 11 x 11.5”
  • Best For Professional-level knife sharpening
  • Skill Level 2 out of 5
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024


  • Ease of use
  • Consistency
  • Range of accessories
  • Integrated storage options
  • Build quality


  • Stock vice only accommodates blades under 5 mm thick
  • Expensive
  • Accessories required for acute and mirror-polished edges
Best Field Sharpener

Smith’s Diamond Combination Sharpener


  • Sharpener Type Handheld diamond field sharpener
  • Angle Range N/A
  • Grits 325/750 grit Coarse/Fine
  • Size 4 x 2 x 1”
  • Best For In the field touch-ups
  • Skill Level 1 out of 5
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024


  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Versatile
  • Integrated hook sharpener


  • No reference angles
  • Finishing grit relatively coarse
Best Kitchen Sharpener

Tormek T-1 Kitchen Knife Sharpener


  • Sharpener Type Electric, rotary, pull-through
  • Angle Range 8-22 degrees per side
  • Grits 600 grit diamond, composite hone
  • Size 8 x 6.5 x 7”
  • Best For Kitchen cutlery
  • Skill Level 1 out of 5
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024


  • Quick
  • Incredibly quiet
  • Simple
  • Wide angle range


  • Large profile for a kitchen sharpener
  • No alternative grit wheels
  • Easy to round out blade tips and heels
Most Versatile Sharpener

Tormek T-4 Bushcraft


  • Sharpener Type Electric, water-cooled grinder/rotary strop
  • Angle Range Nearly all of them
  • Grits 220 and leather honing wheel
  • Size 11 x 10.5 x 10.5”
  • Best For Pro-grade sharpening
  • Skill Level 5 out of 5
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024


  • Unmatched versatility
  • Fast, professional sharpening and reprofiling
  • Wide angle range
  • Quiet and clean


  • Large
  • Expensive
  • Relatively high skill level needed
  • Not best for convex edges
Best of the Rest

KME Precision Knife Sharpening System Deluxe Kit


  • Sharpener Type Manual, clamping, angle-guided system
  • Angle Range 17-30 degrees per side
  • Grits 50, 60, 100, 120, 140, 300, 320, 600, 1500
  • Size 1 x 4” stones
  • Best For Travel-friendly jack of all trades
  • Skill Level 2 out of 5
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024


  • Compact size
  • Quick grinding
  • Easy operation
  • Extensive grit range
  • Modular


  • Limited angle range
  • Angles inaccurate without angle finder

Edge Pro Apex 4 Kit


  • Sharpener Type Manual angle-guided system
  • Angle Range 10-27 degrees per side
  • Grits 120, 220, 400, 600, 1000, and 1200 ceramic hone
  • Size 1 x 6” stones
  • Best For Large knives and mirror-polished edges
  • Skill Level 3 out of 5
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024


  • Extensive angle range
  • Accurate angle settings
  • Quality polishing stones
  • Good for large blades
  • Numerous accessories


  • Not the most stable base
  • Easy to scratch blades
  • Long guide arms makes storage difficult
  • Less consistent with certain blade grinds

Suehiro CERAX 1010


  • Sharpener Type Ceramic soaking whetstone
  • Angle Range N/A
  • Grits 1000
  • Size 3 x 8.25”
  • Best For Everything — with a steady hand
  • Skill Level 4 out of 5
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024


  • Quick cutting
  • Larger than average
  • Slow to load with swarf
  • High feedback
  • Higher than average polish


  • Requires pre-sharpening soak
  • Chips easily

Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker


  • Sharpener Type Angled rod sharpening
  • Angle Range 15 or 20 degrees per side
  • Grits Medium/Fine combo
  • Size 1.5 x 8 x 3” packed
  • Best For Quick touchups and micro-beveling
  • Skill Level 2 out of 5
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024


  • Extensive angle range
  • Accurate angle settings
  • Quality polishing stones
  • Good for large blades
  • Numerous accessories


  • Not the most stable base
  • Easy to scratch blades
  • Long guide arms makes storage difficult
  • Less consistent with certain blade grinds

Burrfection Rolled Buffalo Premium Leather Strop


  • Sharpener Type Compressed leather strop
  • Angle Range N/A
  • Grits Buffalo hide
  • Size 10 x 0.75 x 2.75” packed
  • Best For Regular maintenance
  • Skill Level 1 out of 5
The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2024


  • Gorgeous
  • Naturally abrasive
  • Easily loads with compounds
  • Perfectly flat
  • Integrated base


  • Pricey for a strop
  • Large for a strop

Knife Sharpeners Comparison Chart

Knife SharpenerPriceTypeAngle RangeBest ForSkill Level
Work Sharp Elite Knife Sharpening Solution
$200Electric belt sharpening system10-35 degrees per sideTraditional knives, landscaping and trail tools2/5
Work Sharp Precision Adjust Elite$140Clamping, manual, angle-guided15-30 degrees per sideEDC blades, cutlery under 9”1/5
DMT 6″ Double Sided Dia-Sharp Diamond Stone
$55Diamond bench stoneN/AEDC blades, cutlery, woodworking tools3/5
Wicked Edge Generation 4 Pro
$1,000Manual, double-sided, clamped, angle-guided12-28 degrees per side; 12-33 with Micro-AdjustProfessional-level knife sharpening2/5
Smith’s Diamond Combination Sharpener
$20Handheld diamond field sharpenerN/AIn the field touch-ups1/5
Tormek T-1 Kitchen Knife Sharpener
$371Electric, rotary, pull-through8-22 degrees per sideKitchen cutlery1/5
Tormek T-4 Bushcraft$590Electric, water-cooled grinder/rotary stropNearly all of themPro-grade sharpening5/5
KME Precision Knife Sharpening System Deluxe Kit
$335Manual, clamping, angle-guided system17-30 degrees per sideTravel-friendly jack of all trades2/5
Edge Pro Apex 4 Kit
$285Manual angle-guided system10-27 degrees per sideLarge knives and mirror-polished edges3/5
Suehiro CERAX 1010
$33Ceramic soaking whetstoneN/AEverything — with a steady hand4/5
Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker
$127Angled rod sharpening15 or 20 degrees per sideQuick touchups and micro-beveling2/5
Burrfection Rolled Buffalo Premium Leather Strop
$63Compressed leather stropN/ARegular maintenance1/5
Scroll right to view all of the columns
A sharp knife is a safe knife, and keeping your knives sharp can be as much an art as it is a science; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

How We Tested Knife Sharpeners

Our lead tester, Ian Graber-Stiehl, is an edge obsessive. He’s a “knife guy” through and through, who definitely doesn’t have a problem and can quit collecting anytime he wants. As a former bartender, cook, and hobbyist bladesmith, he’s lectured many coworkers about metallurgy and nearly strangled more than a few for chipping his santoku knife by tossing it in the sink. 

Moreover, he’s professionally sharpened blades for commercial kitchens, antique axe and sword collectors, sushi chefs, home cooks, hairdressers, horse trainers, woodworkers, and more — and never met a factory edge he didn’t completely reprofile within weeks.

When it comes to sharpening, the biggest factor differentiating one steel from another is carbides: structures formed by the combination of carbon with various alloying elements. There are various types of carbides, but all of them, like stones embedded in a glacier, are much harder than the surrounding steel.

Some carbides, like vanadium and niobium, are harder even than most abrasive compounds typically used to sharpen knives — save for diamonds and cubic boron nitride (CBN).

To get a good idea of how various sharpening systems performed in the real world, we tested each system against steels in three brackets. To approximate the maintenance of softer, lower carbide steels often used in bushcraft blades, axes, budget EDC blades, and mid-range cutlery, we used each system to sharpen steels like 1050, 1095, 14C28N, and AUS10. 

The biggest range of testing was with the medium-high carbide content steels common to mid-to-high-end cutlery, fixed blades, and folders like S35VN, CPM-154, and M4. Lastly, to see how well each system held up to the hardest high-end EDC blades, we also used each sharpener with stubborn steels like S90V and S110V. A few diamond-base systems were also tested against ceramic knives.

A variety of knife shapes and steel types were tested on each sharpener to prove their worth; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Knife Sharpener

Beyond Simple Sharpening

Not every blade is a knife, nor is every sharpening job simple. On a long enough timeline, every blade gets chewed up, chipped, and spit out. Our testers have used many of these systems for years, but newcomers and old ones were all put through a diverse wringer. 

The most consistent backbone of our head-to-head tests were Benchmade’s Station and Table Knives, whose edges we dragged (with a heavy heart) along bricks until they were chipped, dull, and damaged. The CPM-154 steel, edge geometry, and the latter’s partial serrations made them an excellent analog for how each sharpener would handle heavy restoration and reprofiling of a broad spectrum of steels. 

We also tested tool-oriented systems like the T-4 and Work Sharp Elite Knife Sharpening Solution by reprofiling axes, machetes, and khukuris. Systems capable of sharpening up saw teeth were put to task by touching up folding saws. Ultimately, every testee was thrown up against a broad array of different tools, edge geometries, and degrees of dullness. 

Sharpening Science

Sharpening a knife is an effort in removing material, but how you accomplish that matters a great bit; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

There are many approaches to sharpening, but the principles are all the same. How coarse a grit you should start at depends. (Pro tip: Different companies and types of abrasives have different grit sizes, but if a company offers the size of the abrasive particles in its stones in microns, this is a universal unit.)

The more material you need to remove, the coarser you should start. For simple sharpening, coloring in the edge of a blade with a black marker makes it easy to ensure you’re matching the existing edge angle. 

As you grind one side of a blade, you will form a burr: a thin, wiry piece of steel at the edge that folds over to the other side. A burr, especially with coarse stones, is easy to feel with your fingers or even see with the naked eye.

Form a burr on one side, then sharpen the other side until you form a burr in the other direction. Then move up in grit and repeat, sharpening each side until you form a burr and replacing the scratch pattern of the previous stone with the current, finer stone. 

After stopping at your desired grit, all that’s left is to break off that burr, to reveal a fresh edge. This can be done in several ways: with hones, strops, or with a stone. Simply run the blade backward (think: the opposite direction of how you’d cut) at a slightly steeper angle on alternating sides until you break the burr off. Deburring, realigning warped edges, and light touch-ups are where hones and strops truly excel.

Once you’ve sharpened to your preferred grit, you’ll hone the blade to reveal the fresh edge; (photo/Sean McCoy)

Factory Settings

Edges aren’t created in a vacuum. Their geometry is a compromise between doing a job as well as possible, and working for as many users as possible. 

Many pocket knives and Western kitchen knives, for example, are simply V-ground to around 20-odd degrees on each side, with the steel left relatively thick behind the edge. This makes for an edge that will cut well enough, and be a bit harder for less careful users to chip and damage. 

How an edge comes from the factory does not necessarily determine its best performance. The same blade that works well for one person left thick behind the edge with a steep angle might work better for another at a thinner and more acute angle.

Geometry Matters

The different edge bevels will determine the quality of the cut, as well as long-term edge retention; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

Likewise, there are many different edge styles. The ones most divergent in sharpening experience are arguably convex, V-ground, micro-beveled, and asymmetric edges.

V-grinds are the easiest to manufacture and resharpen consistently. Pick an angle, stick to it, and grind. On the downside, V-grinds have a shoulder — a sharp transition from the edge to the rest of the blade above, which has more resistance in the cut. They can also be harder for new sharpeners to freehand, especially in the field.

A V-grind with a few swipes taken on a fine stone at a steeper angle, to hit the very apex of the edge, simplifies things. For most resharpenings, only this “micro-bevel” at the very apex needs attention, speeding up touch-ups. On the downside, this makes for a steeper edge.

Some knife sharpeners integrate a digital angle indicator, as seen on this Work Sharp Professional Precision Adjust; (photo/Nick LeFort)

Asymmetric edges come in two flavors. On the extreme end, a chisel-ground edge is sharpened only on one side. The wide edge provides plenty of feedback when resharpening but steers your cuts in one direction. 

More common, especially among Japanese cutlery, are edges that are sharpened at different angles on either side. These edges are often extremely acute and cut well. However, they can make sharpening more difficult — especially on angle-guided systems, where sharpening each side requires completely changing settings. 

Convex edges (think apple seed-shaped) allow for a steep angle at the apex, for a tougher edge, with a rounded shoulder for slicker cuts. This makes it much easier for them to be sharpened freehand. The tradeoff: sharpening on more angle-guided systems is considerably harder.

A splitting profile on an axe head will require around an 18-degree bevel and a 25-degree micro bevel; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

Different Strokes for Different Steels

Most steels tend to be relatively soft and easy to resharpen on almost any kind of stone, oil, and water. With these sorts of steels, the biggest hurdles are often repairing damaged edges — especially for thick blades like axes, hatchets, bushcraft knives, and khukuris. 

Thick blade stock means sharpening requires removing more material. So, reprofiling an edge and repairing large chips can still be a slow affair. 

High-end EDC knives tend to trend towards steels that are chock full of carbides, which are harder than the abrasives in traditional whetstones and oil stones. This allows them to hold an edge for ages. However, this can make sharpening (especially reprofiling) these steels an exercise in tedium.

As a general rule, if the name of the steel in a blade starts with “CPM” or “ZDP” — doing the bulk of your sharpening with either a diamond abrasive or powered grinder is a good way to make life easier. We recommend reading up on the specific steel your blades are made from, as it will pay off during sharpening.

Types of Sharpeners

The right tool for the job — consider exactly what you’ll be sharpening before choosing a knife sharpener; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

Ultimately, what type of sharpeners will work best for you is determined by a mix of what you’re sharpening, how much you’re sharpening, where you’re working, how skilled you are, and what your budget is. 

The best sharpener for a home cook on a budget isn’t the best for professionally sharpening ultra-hard steels, nor is it ideal for a landscaper repairing damaged mower blades, nor is it the most neighbor-considerate option for apartment-bound bartender touching up the kitchen knives at home at 3 a.m. 

Even so, what’s more important isn’t the method. It’s the edge at the end. After all, an edge that cuts reliably is less likely to cut you.


On the simplest end of the scale is sandpaper. For hand-sharpening your average steels, most sandpapers will work — though silicon carbide or ceramic sandpapers tend to perform the best. 

Clamping sheets of sandpaper to a table is actually how our lead tester cut his teeth. The downside is that sandpaper is only as flat as the countertop you clamp it to. This actually makes sandpaper ideal for convex edges, since it can be clamped to a flexible backing like a mousepad. Likewise, for a budget, lightweight field sharpener, you can wrap a strip of sandpaper around a block eraser for touch-ups. 

However, sharpening with sandpaper can involve a fiddly setup, and quite a bit of time, especially with harder steels. Likewise, being consumable, it’s usually more expensive in the long run than a good set of stones.

Bench Stones

Bench stones such as the Suehiro CERAX 1010 put a mirror finish on most blades; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

There are many types of sharpening stones, but they traditionally come in two broad categories: oil and whetstones. The abrasives in these stones — usually novaculite, silicon carbide, or aluminum oxide — can overlap quite a bit. The distinction is in how the abrasive particles are bound together, how you use them, and how fast they cut.

The abrasives in oil (or Arkansas) stones are bound tightly into a hard stone. This means they wear slowly, and don’t need much maintenance. They’re also fantastic for polishing. 

However, a stone’s wear exposes fresh abrasives. So, less wear makes for slower sharpening, especially with very high-hardness steels. Oil stones also clog more easily with steel particles or ‘swarf’. Fortunately, when an oil stone gets really clogged and discolored, a few minutes of warm, soapy water and a scrubby pad will clean it right up.

Leather strops are excellent for edge maintenance in between sharpening; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

The abrasive particles in whetstones are bound more loosely. This means the stones themselves wear more quickly and form an abrasive slurry. This makes for faster sharpening. However, most whetstones must be soaked in water before use and leveled more often than oil stones to stay flat — typically with either a diamond plate or a leveling stone. 

Plates embedded with diamond or cubic boron nitride (CBN) are less traditional but incredibly fast. Boasting, respectively, the world’s first or second hardest abrasives; these plates sharpen quickly, require minimal maintenance, and stay perfectly flat. 

On the downside, diamond and CBN bench stones are often expensive, provide less feedback than traditional stones, and can be heavy-handed for lighter sharpening — removing more material than needed and leaving heavy scratches on the edge.

Manual Angle-Guided Sharpeners

Manual angle-guided sharpeners are the go-to for many hobbyists and professionals; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

These incorporate any of the above abrasives into a system that secures the blade, allows you to dial in the angle, and uses a guide arm that holds a stone to sharpen at a consistent angle. 

There are broadly two types of manual angle-guided systems. Clamp-based ones like the KME, Wicked Edge, and Work Sharp Precision Adjust Elite secure a blade in a clamp that can rotate to hit both sides of a blade. This makes them simple and easy to use. 

However, the actual sharpening angle of these designs depends heavily on how far the edge protrudes from the clamp. Likewise, the point of contact, and thus the sharpening angle, will change on heavily curved parts of a blade. So, for precision obsessives, an angle-measuring cube of some type may be necessary.

Table systems, like the Edge Pro, require holding a blade on an integrated table, with the edge hanging off. Because the blade’s position can be manipulated, even with long and heavily curved blades, it’s much easier to keep a consistent angle. 

On the downside, these systems are a bit more involved to operate. You also need to account for the angle at which blades with no flat sides will rest — still making an angle cube a good idea. Swarf can also easily get on the table, scratching a blade’s finish as it’s drawn along. 

Electric Sharpeners

Belt systems like the Work Sharp Elite Knife Sharpening Solution make quick work of sharpening large blades; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

There’s no shortage of electric sharpeners. However, the best of them generally fall into two categories: belt systems and grinding stones. 

Belt sharpeners are the quick-grinding kings, but speed comes with costs. They’re noisy. Consumable belts are a secondary cost. And even with belt sharpeners marketed for kitchen use, we at GearJunkie recommend using a face mask to keep from inhaling steel dust if you’re grinding at low grits or for more than a few minutes at a time indoors.

At high speeds and high grits — especially on a belt with stiff backing — friction (particularly at the tip) can overheat a blade. Dunking a blade in water helps, but it can be messy and time-consuming, and (for folding knives) it can get rust-prone swarf in the pivot without cleaning. 

Systems like the Work Sharp Elite and MK.2 scale down the power and speed of a grinder. With more slack, the chances of the belt overheating a blade are lower — though that slack means that you’ll get slightly more of a convex edge. Adjustable angle guides make sharpening more precise and easier. That said, the dust and noise remain. 

On the other end of the scale are powered grindstones. Although there are some systems like the Tormek T-1, which are meant to be used dry, the majority of grinding systems meant to be used for sharpening are water-cooled, like the Tormek T-4. 

These are the behemoths of the list, and easily the most complex systems. Their grinding wheel — either a whetstone, CBN, or diamond-embedded wheel — rotates through a water trough. They remove material incredibly fast. Running at low speed, they make little noise. With the stones constantly covered in a film of water, you’ll never overheat the blade, and the swarf collects neatly in the trough. 

Wet grinding systems are endlessly customizable, with jigs for every occasion. However, unless you’re either sharpening professionally or working with tools that need to be sharpened regularly (landscaping, woodworking, cooking, etc.) it can be hard to justify the bulk and expense.

Home Kitchen Sharpeners

Keeping kitchen cutlery sharp isn’t just for professional chefs, and regular upkeep makes for quick food prep; (photo/Ian Graber-Stiehl)

Kitchen sharpeners aren’t a class unto themselves. That said, keeping kitchen cutlery sharp comes with certain considerations. 

Countertop space can come at a premium. A full suit of soaking whetstones or a large powered grinder of some sort can take up a lot of space. A belt sanding system could contaminate food around with steel dust. 

On the upside, most kitchen cutlery steels are considerably softer than most EDC steels. Likewise, it’s easy to touch up kitchen knives on the regular. 

Pull-through sharpeners are very popular for kitchen use because of their size and ease. However, we at GearJunkie don’t recommend most of them. Most pull-through sharpeners use thin blades of tungsten carbide oriented in a v-shape to scrape material from a blade. 

Aside from limitations like being slow for heavy sharpening, a limited ability to change the angle, and how easy it is to be inconsistent when drawing a blade through, these carbide sharpeners can damage blade edges. 

The softer steel of most chef’s knives makes them easy to sharpen quickly; (photo/Sean McCoy)

Carbide blades are brittle. Steel, like wood, has a grain. Grinding both sides of an edge while scraping off the burr, by drawing steel along the grain, against a brittle material, and putting pressure on a very thin cross-section of the edge at a time, is an easy way to chew it up. 

Electric pull-through systems that sharpen one side at a time using a belt (like the Work Sharp Elite) or a grinding wheel (like the Tormek T-1) are much better and faster. They also allow you to adjust the sharpening angle. 

As long as you’re not cutting with a straight edge on glass or ceramic plates or cutting board (an activity that both frustrates and keeps professional sharpeners employed), which is just about the quickest way to chip and dull an edge, most of the time kitchen knives will only need quick touch-ups to realign the edge.

A steel honing rod or strop works really well for realigning and polishing. Ceramic hones or strops rubbed with a sharpening compound remove more material, making them better for light sharpening as well.


Wicked Edge sharpeners command big bucks, but the pure ability you get is undeniable; (photo/Sean McCoy)

Most sharpeners tend to break down pretty neatly into a few different price brackets. On the ultra-budget end of the scale are the DIY solutions that run a few bucks: sandpaper clamped to a mousepad or a homemade strop of leather glued to a 2×4.

The $15-35 range is where you typically find touch-up tools like quality strops, hones, and pull-through sharpeners. 

Bench stones, especially when comparing oil, whet, and diamond stones, can range quite a bit. However, the vast majority fall into the $30-100 range. For home and hobbyist sharpeners, stones, and strops in this range will offer the greatest versatility and bang for your buck of any offering.

From $140 to $350 is where most precision sharpeners fall: angle-guided system kits (most manual clamp or table-centric systems, and some powered). These typically come with a suite of different grit abrasives. The manufacturing companies also typically offer numerous optional attachments for different types of blades. 

Equipment in this range is typically much faster and more precise than freehand sharpening. With experience and accessories, these systems can be expanded into nearly pro-grade kits.

At the $400-1,500 end of the scale, we get into pro-grade systems that are capable of precision, versatility, and exceptional speed. Gear like the Wicked Edge Gen 4 Pro, the Tormek T-4 (and its bigger brother the T-8), or full-on belt grinders, can speedily regrind dozens of blades in a day. However, the expense is hard to justify for non-pros — be they professionals at sharpening, or in fields that involve working with a lot of harp tools, such as trail builders, chefs, woodworkers, landscapers, and more.


What is one of the best knife sharpeners?

What’s best is heavily situational. For our pick, the Work Sharp Elite Knife Sharpening Solution is a versatility-minded tool that can handle almost everything you throw at it, with a modicum of precaution. 

Otherwise, for simple, cost-wise versatility, little can beat a good whetstone like the Suehiro CERAX 1010.

What do professionals use to sharpen knives?

Professionals usually have a number of pieces of equipment that excel at different things. However, they largely fall into three categories:

Manual, angle-guided systems like the Wicked Edge Gen 4 Pro are often used to achieve precision, mirror-polished edges, especially on smaller blades.

For heavier sharpening water-cooled grinding wheel systems like the Tormek T-4 and T-8, and belt grinders (bladesmithing grinders at the extreme end and systems like the Work Sharp Elite Knife Sharpening Solution for smaller jobs) are common choices. 

Lastly, good, old-fashioned whetstones still have their place, especially for extremely acute or asymmetric edges, such as those found on Japanese chef’s knives. 

What really makes a professional job is understanding what type of edge a given blade requires, and how to use the tools available to get it done.

Are pull-through sharpeners bad for knives?

Pull-through sharpeners that use a carbide blade to sharpen both sides of a knife at the same time can damage edges very easily. Electric pull-through systems that sharpen one side at a time with a belt or grinding wheel, on the other hand, such as the Work Sharp Ken Onion or Tormek T-1, can be fantastic.

Can you sharpen a knife too often?

Sharpening often won’t damage an edge. However, sharpening inherently requires removing material. Doing so too often and with too heavy a hand will eventually grind the edge of a blade higher and higher up, towards the thicker spine of the blade. This leaves it thicker and less slicy behind the edge.

An easy workaround is to regularly touch up a blade with a ceramic hone or a strop loaded with compound. Regular maintenance with light-handed tools can make it so that a blade rarely has to touch anything beyond relatively fine stones.

What happens if you never sharpen a knife?

In all likelihood, you cut yourself. A dull blade doesn’t just make a task harder, it makes it more dangerous. Not to mention, knowing how to sharpen a blade is a timeless skill.

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