Fortunately our product review experts have put their noses to the grindstone (so to speak) for you and come up with a comprehensive list of the 14 best knife sharpeners on the market today. They’ve cast a wide net that includes everything from the most elaborate mechanical devices to the simplest sharpening sticks and stones so you’re bound to find one that fits your needs, temperament and budget. Keep in mind that any opinions expressed here are those of our experts.
Practice holding the knife at a 20 degree angle. Most straight blades need to be sharpened at a 20 degree angle. To find the angle, hold the directly in front of you so it's straight up and down. This is 90 degrees. Tilt the knife halfway towards the table so it's at a 45 degree angle. Tilt the knife halfway again so it's about an inch (2.5 cm) above the table. This should be a 20 degree angle.
Although there are many ways to sharpen your kitchen knives, we believe that using a sharpening stone is the absolute best way to go about it. Not only will you get the best results, you won’t assume as much risk of damaging the blade as you would using a manual or electric knife sharpener. The problem for most home cooks, however, is finding the best sharpening stone and learning how to use it. I’m not going to pretend it’s as easy as purchasing a stone and digging right in.
To take off the fine scratches and burrs left by coarser stones, and to polish the surface, you can use stones starting at around 2000 grit. There is theoretically no upper limit, but stones above about 10000 grit achieve practically no measurable improvement in the edge. It is also interesting to note that above 8000 grit, there is no Japanese measurement standard. For stones labelled as having a finer grit, you simply have to take the manufacturer's word for it.
In summary: Peter Nowlan is a professional knife sharpener based in Halifax (Canada) and he recommends the KnifePlanet Sharpening Stone Set, a beginners and intermediate kit that includes 4 sharpening grits: 400/1000, 3000/8000, a bamboo base and the KnifePlanet Flattening Stone. The Japanese Naniwa 3-stone combination is also a great (and more expensive) choice, ideal for professionals and more advanced sharpeners: the Naniwa stones are slightly bigger compared to KnifePlanet’s. In both cases, a coarse, medium and fine grit combination is very effective to sharpen and refine the edge:
"Sharpening is like a hangover cure," says Laurie Timpson, founder of Savernake Knives in Wiltshire. "If there was a cure and you knew about it, I'd stay at your house, crash on your sofa and have whatever it was when I woke up. Everyone would have it and there'd be no discussion. Everybody says they've created a perfect sharpening technique, and they haven't."
I've used ceramic rods, diamond plates, and leather strops for our sharpening needs. And, like most, I've tried a dozen little gimmicky sharpeners that, while some work, those that do often remove way too much material from the edge, making your blade wear down faster. I've also used oil stones, grinders and buffers for less meticulous sharpening of axes and such. These two stones from Unimi (600/1000 and 2000/6000) served as my introduction to whetstone sharpening. And I must say I like it. Though, I'm not sure of the need for investing in more expensive stones.
If no metal is being removed from the edge of the blade, it’s considered honing. Whereas if metal is being removed from the blade edge this is considered sharpening. Certainly, even honing will result in some microscopic amounts of metal being removed from the blade edge but not enough to be visible to the human eye, so the above definition is basically a solid one.
Our second entry from Chef’s Choice is the 463 Pronto Santoku. This manual sharpener is super-simple to use and delivers fast, high quality results every time. While this is a “2-stage” system there’s nothing complicated about it. One slot is for sharpening and the other for honing. Both stages utilize diamond abrasive surfaces so your blades will retain its edge for a good long time.
One thing about this stone is that it is very "thirsty." I had a cup of water close by just to add a little water periodically when it felt like it was scraping a little too aggressively. Also, be sure to do as the instructions say and use different parts of the sharpening surface. I wasn't paying attention the first few minutes, and apparently I would end each sharpening pass in the exact same spot, creating a very very small notch on the edge of the stone. So I turned the stone around and made sure to vary the ending spot, and it seemed to buff out that little notch very quickly. My knife is now incredibly sharp--it seems to glide through material rather than "cut" it. I know some people would continue to go even higher with the grit, but for my purposes this whetstone is just perfect. I'll be tackling the kitchen knives next!
The Chef’s Choice 476 2-Stage Sharpener transforms your weary kitchen, hunting and pocket knives into razor sharp cutting instruments with dependable ease. The sharpener is simple in concept, solid in its fabrication and reliable in the way it goes about its business. The design is also free of right-hand bias which is good news for the lefty chefs out there.