The Best Knife Sharpening Tools
Updated 23 November 2020
Whether you’re an experienced at-home cook or a kitchen newbie, a good set of knives is a culinary essential.
As any professional chef will tell you, keeping those knives in top condition is paramount, and that means keeping them sharp.
So, we’ve reviewed the most popular products on the market to help you choose the best knife sharpening tool for you.
Our top pick is a manual tool, the Robert Welch Hand-Held Knife Sharpener, but we’ve also taken an in-depth look at electric systems and more traditional whetstones.
We’ve opted for a manual design for our top pick for three main reasons – affordability, safety and effectiveness.
The Robert Welch Hand-Held Knife Sharpener uses a ceramic wheel to both sharpen and hone knives at a precise pre-set angle of 15 degrees.
Ceramic sharpeners are gentler on the blade than tungsten varieties and typically result in a longer life span for your knives.
The wheel itself is enclosed in a plastic casing with a slotted guide that keeps the knife firmly in line as you pull it back and forth. Minimal effort is required and, if used regularly, 20 strokes are typically enough to restore your knives to their original sharpness.
In terms of safety, its ergonomic design includes a curved handle to ensure a firm grip, keeping your supporting hand at a safe distance from the knife.
The flat, anti-slip base provides further safety and offers a sturdiness that’s lacking in other hand-held knife sharpeners.
It’s important to note that this product is designed for plain edged double bevelled blades. Since the wheel sharpens on both sides, it is not suitable for single bevel Japanese style knives, which are better cared for with a whetstone.
It’s marketed as a complement to the Robert Welch Signature knife collection, the blades of which are cut at 15 degrees.
Historically, European blades were cut at 20 degrees, with the more acute angle reserved for Japanese knives made from hardened steel.
However, European manufacturers are increasingly moving towards the sharper angle, so the Robert Welch Hand-Held Knife Sharpener is suitable for many common kitchen knives.
If your knives are cut at 20 degrees, you can still use this tool to sharpen them, but it won’t have quite the same results so you might want to consider an alternative.
At £23.90, this model not only gives you a sharp, fine finish, it’s also very affordable. There’s also a 25-year guarantee, which is a good sign of the confidence Robert Welch has in its hand-held sharpener.
The Chef’s Choice Trizor XV is not so much a runner up in our best knife sharpener review, it’s more like our top pick electric alternative.
There aren’t many electric sharpeners on the market, and those that are available come at a cost. That said, the Chef’s Choice Trizor XV is well worth the investment if you have the funds to spare.
It works on a three-stage system.
The first two stages use 100% diamond abrasives, the first of coarse grit to finely sharpen the blade, the second of a finer grit to hone.
The third and final stage polishes the knife blade with the use of a flexible abrasive system, resulting in a smooth, razor-sharp finish fit for use not only in the home but also in any professional kitchen.
The third stage can also be used to care for serrated knives.
Most at-home sharpeners don’t cater for this since serrated knives don’t really require sharpening, but using stage three to polish this type of blade will help prolong its lifespan.
As with the Robert Welch Hand-Held Knife Sharpener, the Trizor XV has a pre-set angle of 15 degrees and guides to help you sharpen with precision.
When using it on blunt knives for the first time, the process will typically take around one minute, but a mere 10 seconds every time thereafter.
Although the angle is pre-set to 15 degrees, you can use it on 20-degree blades, but be prepared to spend a little longer achieving the razor-sharp finish.
There are downsides to the Trizor XV, most notably its size. Measuring 25.4 x 10.8 x 10.8 cm, it lacks the compact design of hand-held alternatives and, of course, it needs to be placed next to a plug socket.
There’s also the noise when in use, which is said to be a maximum of 75 dB. However, since it’s so quick to work we don’t see this as a real issue.
One final point to note about the Trizor XV is that it’s crucial to read the instructions thoroughly before use. Depending on the state of your knives, you might not need to use all three stages.
Understanding what condition your blades are in and how best to care for them is the only way to get maximum results from this electric sharpener.
Unlike manual and electric sharpeners, whetstones are suitable for pretty much all types of blade, making them the ideal choice if you have a large collection, inclusive of single bevel Japanese knives.
The SHAN ZU Knife Sharpening Stone is made of white corundum, a natural mineral known for its hard quality.
There are two sides to the stone itself. A coarse side of 1,000 grit for sharpening and a finer side of 6,000 grit to hone and polish.
The process of using a whetstone to sharpen your knives can take some time to master, and it can be difficult to maintain the right angle for each stroke.
The bonus of the SHAN ZU sharpening stone is that it comes with a 15-degree angle guide which fits onto the knife, helping you maintain the correct movement.
With safety in mind, the stone sits in a silicone frame on top of a bamboo base, with an additional silicone mat beneath providing anti-slip contact with your work surface.
Whilst not as easy to store as manual sharpeners, whetstones offer a traditional design that makes them an attractive kitchen ornament when not in use.
Using a whetstone can be time-consuming. With the SHAN ZU stone, it’s recommended that you spend ten to fifteen minutes on each bevelled edge and on each side of the stone, so if you’re looking for instant results, you’d be better served by an electric sharpener.
However, they do produce the best results and ensure the greatest life span for your knives. So, if you like the idea of sharpening your knives by hand with an age-old technique, the SHAN ZU sharpening stone could be the tool for you.
If you’ve never used a whetstone or similar technique before, we recommend that you watch instructional videos beforehand, and practice with a cheap knife before sharpening anything of value.
Do You Need to Own a Knife Sharpener?
Knives are a kitchen staple and if you enjoy preparing freshly cooked meals at home, then you’ve probably invested in a decent set.
These don’t come cheap. A single quality knife from the likes of Robert Welch or Wusthof, for example, can cost you upwards of £40, so it’s important to keep them in good condition.
Sharpening your knives not only prolongs their lifespan but it also makes them much safer to use. A blunt blade requires more force when slicing, cutting or chopping, and can also be unpredictable, making slippage a common occurrence. It may sound like a strange truth, but you’re far more likely to cut yourself badly with a blunt knife than a sharp one.
Safety aside, (though safety should always be top priority when handling knives), well-maintained equipment will also make cooking a more pleasurable experience. Sharp knives make preparation quick and easy, as well as improving quality and presentation.
Delicate ingredients like herbs retain more of their vibrancy and flavour when chopped with a sharp edge. If you’re a fan of entertaining, you’ll know the difference these finer details make to the overall quality of a dish.
Of course, you could always take your knives to be sharpened by a professional, but this is costly and requires forward planning. Having your own knife sharpening kit to hand is the most convenient way to ensure a safe and enjoyable cooking experience.
What Is the Best Way to Sharpen Your Knives?
There are multiple tools available to care for your knives at home, and in our best knife sharpener review we’ve looked at the three most common – electric sharpeners, manual sharpeners and whetstones.
These are the most expensive option, but if you lack the confidence to sharpen knives by hand and want a quick, effortless process, they’re a good choice.
Most come with a two or three-step process for preparation, sharpening and honing, using abrasive wheels to create a smooth, sharp blade.
Whilst they’re the quickest and arguably safest way to keep your knives sharp, they do have their drawbacks, aside from their price tag.
They take up much more space than manual sharpeners and can be quite noisy when in use.
They also remove more material than manual processes, which means a shorter life span if you’re sharpening your knives regularly – but still a longer life span than if you weren’t to sharpen them at all.
That said, if you want a reliable tool that creates a sharp edge with minimal effort or skill, electric sharpeners are probably the way forward for you.
These are the most common at-home knife sharpening tool. They’re affordable, convenient and fairly simple to use, once you’ve got the hang of it. They’re also compact and can be easily stored.
Also known as pull-through sharpeners, the process is just as it sounds. Blades are pulled through grinding wheels with a pre-set angle to restore them to their original sharpness.
Manual sharpeners are designed with safety in mind and, since the sharpening angle is already determined for you, they take less skill than a whetstone.
More labour intensive than their electric counterparts, manual knife sharpeners require more effort and practice to master. They can also cause slight nicks in the blade, so the sharpness isn’t quite on par with other methods.
However, for their price point, ease of use and compact design, they make the most suitable option for most households.
As the most traditional method, whetstones are considered the best knife sharpening tool for a razor-sharp edge and polished finish.
Stones come in different grades, known as their grit, much like sandpaper. The higher the grit, the finer the stone.
Coarse stones are used to shave the blade to its original angle, whilst fine stones are used to hone and polish.
Both are done by continuously drawing the blade across the stone’s surface until the desired result is achieved.
They’re certainly not as quick as electric or manual sharpeners, but whetstones are by far the best knife sharpening tool for a professional quality finish, which explains why they’re still so popular despite the emergence of their more convenient counterparts.
Another thing to keep in mind when maintaining knives is the process of honing. We’ve mentioned it a few times already so it’s worth discussing what this actually means.
When you sharpen a knife, you remove material from the blade to create a new edge. Honing is the act of maintaining that edge to prolong its sharpness.
It’s most commonly done with a honing steel, which many people often mistake for a sharpening tool. In fact, honing steels should be used on an already sharp blade, and regularly. This will reduce the need for sharpening and keep your knives in top condition.
How to Choose the Best Knife Sharpener for You
Confidence is probably the deciding factor when it comes to choosing the best knife sharpener for you.
If you find traditional stone methods a daunting prospect then an easier manual or electric tool will better suit.
Aside from that, here are some other things to consider when choosing a knife sharpening kit:
It might sound like an obvious consideration, but what you’re willing to pay could mean the difference between a basic hand-held model or a professional standard machine. Setting a budget will help you narrow down your choices.
If you have a hectic schedule and want a quick, easy way to sharpen your knives, an electric sharpener is the way forward.
On the flip side, if you’re attracted to the more romantic idea of sharpening your knives with care and consideration, a whetstone is the better choice.
If you fall somewhere in the middle, you have the pick of the many manual pull-through models on the market.
Whilst it’s important to keep your knives sharp for safety, the process of doing so can be dangerous in itself.
As mentioned, electric sharpeners are arguably the safest choice, particularly if you're clumsy.
If you are in the market for a manual tool then consider the safety features, like anti-slip properties, sturdiness and how close your non-sharpening hand will be to the knife itself.
If you know what angle your knives are cut at, it’s best to choose a sharpener that matches.
You can use a sharpener with a more acute angle than your knives, or vice versa, but it will take longer and the results won’t be quite as good.
Different tools are suitable for different knife types, so be sure to check this in your research.
Most will work well on standard chef’s knives, and many are also suitable for hardened steel.
Some claim to work on serrated blades like bread knives, but it’s not recommended that you sharpen these, since it can ruin the teeth.
For Japanese style knives and single bevelled blades, you’re best to use a speciality machine or stick with the traditional whetstone method.
The best knife sharpeners are the ones that don’t just create a new edge on a blade, but also hone and polish. Some, like the Robert Welch Hand-Held Sharpener, do this with a single wheel.
These tools are typically good enough for use on household kitchen knives, but if you want a truly professional standard, you might want to look at a model like the electric Trizor XV, which does each in turn with different abrasives.
Other Knife Sharpeners We Reviewed
If you’re not taken with any of our top choices for the best knife sharpening tool, here are a few more you may want to consider:
The AnySharp Pro uses tungsten carbide abrasives that claim to work well on standard chef’s knives, hardened steel knives and even serrated blades, though we don’t recommend sharpening the latter with any tool.
It has a fixed angle of 20 degrees, so not as sharp as our top picks, but still suitable for sharpening knives for use in the home.
Designed to be used hands-free, it has a suction cup base that secures the tool to any flat surface, though you’ll need to make sure the surface is clean.
It’s small enough to fit in a draw, but if you want to leave it on the side it comes in a range of colours to suit any kitchen décor, including copper, brushed steel and cream, as well as more vibrant options like racing green and royal blue.
Well rated by users for effectiveness, the AnySharp Pro is an affordable piece of kit that offers good results.
Salter’s answer to the electric knife sharpener comes in much cheaper than the Chef’s Choice Trizor XV and is well worth considering if you want convenience on a budget.
It has a single slot that holds a rotating ceramic wheel, operated by a one-touch button on the top of the machine.
Uniquely in our best knife sharpening tool review, it automatically adjusts to fit the size of the blade thanks to its spring-loaded design, so there’s no need to determine what angle your knives are cut at.
Users report difficulty in getting hold of replacement parts but, as with all Salter products, it does come with a 25-year guarantee.
It won’t give you the same professional finish as the Trizor XV, but at less than half the price, it’s still a good buy for the avid home cook.
The cheapest knife sharpening kit included in our review, the Lantana Smart Sharp, is a hand-held device that uses three slots for preparation, sharpening and honing.
Its handle is designed for comfort, and a non-slip base provides a level of sturdiness. However, its overall design doesn’t feel as safe as the Robert Welch model, which stands fully flat on the work surface.
By contrast, the Smart Sharp only connects to the surface at the base of the handle and underneath the sharpening end, so the back and forth motion can cause a bit of a wobble.
It has a 20-degree angle suitable for most common kitchen knives. Though, as with most hand-held sharpeners, it should not be used on ceramic or Japanese knives.
Overall, it’s a great buy if you’re working on a budget and feel confident in its stability.
Joseph Joseph Rota Folding Knife Sharpener and Honer
An ideal choice for the compact kitchen spacePrice: £20 from Amazon
If you’re looking for an innovative, space-saving tool with a modern design, the Joseph Joseph Knife Sharpener and Honer is it.
Perfectly compact, the handle swivels over the sharpening end and locks closed for easy storage, as well as making it a conveniently portable knife sharpening kit.
It has two ceramic wheels, one coarse and one fine, so as its name suggests, it both sharpens and hones.
The non-slip base offers safety, and the unit itself sits low on your work surface so there’s no wobble, which is our main issue with the Lantana Smart Sharp.
Despite our best efforts, we were unable to find any information on the sharpening angle, but it’s likely to be the standard 20 or 15 degrees, and it reportedly offers a smooth, sharp finish.
We rate the Joseph Joseph model for its foldaway design, making it an ideal choice for the compact kitchen space.
At a Glance Comparison
|Model||Price||Type||Sharpening Angle||Sharpening Stages|
|Robert Welch Hand-Held Knife Sharpener||£23.90||Manual||15 degrees||1|
|Chef’s Choice Trizor XV||£170||Electric||15 degrees||3|
|SHAN ZU Knife Sharpening Stone||£27.99||Whetstone||15 degrees||N/A|
|AnySharp Pro Knife Sharpener||£16.35||Manual||20 degrees||1|
|Salter Electric Knife Sharpener||£69.99||Electric||Auto adjust||1|
|Lantana Smart Sharp||£10.95||Manual||20 degrees||3|
|Joseph Joseph Rota Folding Knife Sharpener and Honer||£20||Manual||Unknown||2|
Choosing the best knife sharpening tool from the many that are available can be tricky, especially if you’ve never invested in this type of kit before.
Electric sharpeners, manual sharpeners and whetstones all have their advantages and disadvantages, so it’s really a case of determining what you need and deciding which best suits your requirements.
Whichever type you choose, be sure to follow the instructions carefully, since incorrect use can actually do more harm than good.
Also, remember to hone your knives regularly.
Sharpening removes material from the blades and excessive sharpening can be detrimental. Honing them at regular intervals will ensure their sharpness lasts, prolongs their lifespan and makes your cooking experience both a safe and enjoyable one.