So, you’ve got a dull knife.
We’re sorry to hear that, and you have our deepest sympathies.
But never fear, here are our top picks for the best knife sharpeners!
It’s Time For You to Get a Sharpener!
When your knife is dull, something needs to be done. For many knife collectors, the logical next step is buying a new knife. And you know what? Go right ahead! I won’t try to stop you! If you know you’re choosing this option, feel free to be excused if you wish, and head over to our New Arrivals page and take a look at the latest. Of course, you’re welcome to hang out with the rest of us here if you’d like to know more about sharpening anyway.
Eventually, however, every knife user should cave and get a sharpener. A good one is probably cheaper than a new knife, and it will breathe new life into that pile of dull knives staring judgementally at you. They say if you’re really desperate, you can use a river rock and a piece of leather or cardboard. However, I think that takes a special skill set. Besides, you’re not always around a river. (If you are, we’re jealous.)
But if you’ve spent any time watching daytime television, you know there are a million and one methods, devices and devices out there that promise you scalpel-like edges but leave you disappointed. Here, we’ll help you sort through the sky-mall-gimmicks and find sharpeners that will work for you.
You’ll find it just feels good to have a sharp blade. Daily tasks are so much easier. Less dangerous, too. We tend to cut ourselves with dull knives because the lack of sharpness means we’re exerting more pressure to get the knife to do its job, and we slip.
How Sharp Is Your Blade?
Dull vs. Sharp
First of all, all knives are serrated knives, although your plain edge is serrated at a microscopic level. A knife dulled by use has those rough spots leveled down until the knife is too smooth for use.
The picture on the left is a microscopic view of a dull knife–and also a sadly super-chipped one–and the blade on the right has an extremely sharp edge. Notice the tiny serrations? Cool, right? We’ve had a lot of fun playing with our new microscope/camera.
Tests for Sharpness
If your knife is dull, you probably already know it, but if you want to test it out, try cutting a thin slice of tomato. Is a thin slice hard to cut? Are you crushing the tomato–bruising or causing a dent–before the skin lets your blade in? Then your knife is dull.
People also like to slice paper to test sharpness. Hold up a piece of paper and cut from the top to the bottom. Does the blade glide through? Or is it getting snagged and you find you’re struggling? An easy, clean cut is the sign of a sharp knife.
The test I see the most here at Blade HQ, along with the paper trick, is shaving off arm hair. If your blade effortlessly removes a patch of hair, then you’re already at a high sharpness. Like swimmers don’t have leg hair, Blade HQ employees and fellow knife enthusiasts often don’t have arm hair.
The Best Sharpeners
Our Pick: Smith’s Pocket Pal
This sharpener is an excellent budget option. Seriously, this model is a fantastic price. What’s great is the pull slots have carbide blades and ceramic stones to help you get that sharp edge. Carbides give your blade a quick edge setting, and the ceramic stones are made to give you a sharp edge on regular or serrated edges. A fold-out, diamond-coated rod is made for sharpening serrated blades and smaller gut hooks. Lightweight, compact, and an excellent price point–what more could you want?
The process is fast and fairly easy for beginners. However, if your knife is particularly dull, you might need a heavier-duty sharpener. When using, be sure to apply even pressure through each pull so the edge doesn’t end up uneven.
Our Pick: The Real Steel Japanese Whetstones
If you’re looking for more control, a whetstone is for you! We particularly appreciate the reliability and reasonably priced Japanese Whetstones from Real Steel. At these prices, you can purchase several grit variations and switch them out in the non-slip silicone base.
There is more skill involved, but you can learn. If you’re aiming for a perfect edge, then you can learn and achieve perfection. Whetstones are generally the preferred sharpeners of chefs for their kitchen knives. Also, If you need to sharpen a knife with a complicated grind, a whetstone will allow you to be more successful.
Our Pick: Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener
We can’t sing the praises of this sharpener enough. George, our resident steel expert here at Blade HQ, says he can take any crusty old knife and sharpen it to razor-thin sharpness with this Work Sharp.
It’s a full sharpening solution. It has five stages of sharpening, despite Its compact size. The system has coarse and fine diamond sharpening plates, fine ceramic rods, and a leather strop for polishing. You’ll also be able to sharpen serrations, fish hooks, and scissors–plus, the removable plates hide a space that contains a broadhead wrench. Take this into the field, and you won’t need anything else for your sharp and pointy tools.
Our Pick: Arkansas Superstick
Excellent for honing and even sharpening. With a length of sixteen inches, this mega-beast of a rod has tons of sharpening space. You can position it at whatever angle is most comfortable for you, and because the rod is not enclosed, you can also sharpen scissors, machetes, axes, or any other sharp tool. The wooden handle is curved for maximum comfort. Another plus: you can sharpen with oil or water if you wish. Just don’t drop it!
This is an extra fine grit, so if your knife needs more work you will probably need something with a coarser grit, first.
We love this one because the Work Sharp MK. 2 was the first portable, adjustable system with abrasive belts instead of the usual stones. Variable speeds, adjustable guides, and leather-coated blade guides make the MK. 2 incredibly versatile. This user-friendly sharpener was created so even the beginner can quickly become proficient and get spectacular edges on their knives and tools. The fine ceramic rod hones an edge to hair-popping sharpness, after initial sharpening on the powered belt, or for touching up a slightly dull blade.
Instructions and a quick start guide are included, along with 2 easy steps to replace abrasive belts.
There’s a reason this Spyderco sharpener is so popular. You have everything you need. The set includes two sets of high alumina ceramic stones, a pair of medium-grit (brown) stones for aggressive knife sharpening, and a set of fine white stones for professional-grade finishing. A channel running the length of each rod lets you sharpen pointed items like fishhooks, too.
Included is a set of aluminum safety rods to protect your hands while sharpening. However, take care. Handle the ceramic rods carefully because if they are dropped, they’ll break fairly easily.
Best Budget Fixed-Angle Sharpener
You may have noticed we have a lot of Work Sharp on here. Well, as their motto states, “Make Sharp Happen,” and they’re good at it. They make you feel like you’re good at it, too. Although we were tempted to pick the Work Sharp Precision Adjust Angle Set Knife Sharpener which goes for less, the Elite comes with more grits and a leather strop to finish off your hair-popping, newly sharpened edge perfectly.
The self-centering clamp keeps your knife stable while you repair, reprofile, and get a mirror finish on any edge. Bliss!
Best Mid-Range Fixed-Angle Sharpener
Our Pick: Work Sharp Professional Precision Adjust
When I first tried this sharpener as a beginner, I was nervous. Luckily, I had several colleagues nearby when I had questions. I got a beautiful edge on my first go.
The sharpener includes seven abrasive grits to give you a pristine, sharp, and precise edge. Whether you’re sharpening chef’s knives, survival knives, or any other kind of blade, the Work Sharp Professional Precision Adjust Angle Set Knife Sharpener has just what you need. The clamp support holds the knife securely and at the right angle for a perfect edge. To find out if you are at the right angle, use a sharpie along the edge of your knife and the angle that takes away the ink is the correct one.
The adjustable angle construction takes you from 15-30 degrees with included digital angle indicator. The grit diamond abrasives are 220, 320, 400, 600, and 800 diamond, with a fine ceramic honing plate and a leather strop included.
Also, the whole process is incredibly zen.
Check out the video below where George uses the Work Sharp Pro to repair and sharpen a knife.
Best High End Fixed-Angle Sharpener
If you want everything, and I mean EVERYTHING you need to sharpen a knife, then this one is for you. This is a complete, professional package. And when I say everything I mean:
- 2 x Coarse 100 Grit / Medium Coarse 200 Grit Diamond Stones
- 2 x Medium 400 Grit / Fine 600 Grit Diamond Stones
- 2 x Extra Fine 800 Grit / Ultra Fine 1000 Grit Diamond Stones
- Micro Fine 1.4 / 0.6 Micron Ceramic Stones
- 1/0.5 Micron Diamond and Leather Strops
- Guide Rod Pivots: Ball-Joint/L-Bracket
- Digital Angle Gauge
- Angle Range: 13-35 Degrees
- Angle Setting: Manual, Independent Angle Adjustments
- Main Angle Adjustment: 1 Degree Increments
- Micro Adjustment: 0.05 Degree Adjustments
- Clamping System: Parallel-Face Jaws w/ Allen Key Operation
- Knife Alignment: Standard Wicked Edge Alignment Guide
- Guide Rod Length: 8 Inches
- Max Clamping Width: 3/8″
- Included Aluminum Base
So yeah, it will cost you a chunk of change, but if you have it and want the ultimate knife-sharpening system–we’ve got you covered.
To be honest, I never realized how great having a sharp knife can feel. Apparently, if your knives are sharp enough, you can cut an onion without it making you cry. (I’m going to sharpen my kitchen knife and I’ll check on that for you.) You can achieve perfect, paper-thin slices of tomato. You can work out in the field or go camping and not have a dull blade that will slip on you and cause harm. Fishing is more fun when you can make quick work of your catch, rather than blundering through the process. Same with hunting.
Luckily, there’s a workable solution for every budget and skill level.
I’ve said it before–take care of your blades, and they’ll take care of you. And that, knife friends, is living your life in epic style.