It doesn’t matter which knife you buy, they all need to be sharpened eventually. And it's a good idea to keep your knives sharp because a sharp knife is safer to cut with than a dull one. Dull knives can drag or skip while cutting and can increase your chance of injury.
The gentlest maintenance, using a sharpening steel, simply straightens the edge of the knife without removing very much material from it. Honing should be done regularly, either using a sharpening steel or a very fine stone or... sharpener.
Eventually the knife will require sharpening, which removes more material from the knife edge. How often you need to sharpen depends on how often you use the knife, what you cut, and what surface you cut on. While many people feel that hand-sharpening is best, it takes some skill. Not everyone wants to learn how to sharpen knives or spend that much time doing the sharpening. Electric sharpeners are faster and require very little skill. There are also non-electric sharpeners that are easier to use than traditional sharpening stones.
Which sharpener is best for you depends not only on your skill, but also the types of knives you use. Ceramic knives are harder than steel knives, and can’t be sharpened with traditional sharpeners; some knives are sharpened on one side of the blade while others are sharpened on both sides; the angle of the knife edge can vary depending on the style of knife; and not all sharpeners can handle serrated knives. In the end, you might decide that you need more than one sharpener if you have a wide variety knives.
01 of 08
A nearly foolproof manual sharpener that looks like modern art, the angle that the knife is inserted into the sharpener determines how aggressive the sharpening is. You can start by sharpening the knife then hone it to a fine finish in the same slot. If the knife doesn’t need sharpening, you can use this for honing only. This sharpener self-adjusts, and sharpens the knife edge to its original angle, so you don’t need to know the edge angle to sharpen the knife correctly, and there’s nothing to... adjust. The tungsten carbide sharpeners will last a long time, but can be replaced when necessary.
02 of 08
This sharpener includes five different sharpening stones along with a knife clamp that holds the knife during sharpening, and a guide that allows you to select the proper blade angle. Honing oil is also included. The stones have finger grips for a secure hold and are color coded so you know which are coarser and which are finer. Unlike traditional whetstones, with this system the knife remains still while you move the stones along the blade. This manual system allows you to sharpen knives at... four different angles, but requires some practice to become comfortable with the technique.
03 of 08
This pocket-sized tool sharpens knives using carbide sharpening blades, then gives the knife a smooth finish using ceramic blades. A diamond rod is used for honing knives or for sharpening serrated knives. This is a great tool to keep in the toolkit, the tackle box, or to carry along when camping. Since it’s small, your hands will be close to your sharp knife blades as you work, so you might want to save it for occasional use rather than for sharpening all of your kitchen knives on a regular... basis.
04 of 08
This kit includes four water stones and two sharpening tapes so you can hand-sharpen just about any steel knife to any angle. The knife holder allows sharpening at any angle between 10 and 24 degrees, with markings at 10, 15, 18, 21, and 24 degrees. The stones will last a long time under normal use, and are inexpensive to replace when required. This is a professional kit for people who are serious about their knives and are willing to spend the time learning how to use the system. It comes with... a DVD with instructional videos and it has a case for storage or travel.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Since ceramic blades are so hard, not all knife sharpeners are capable of sharpening them. In fact, many knife sharpeners designed for steel knives use ceramic cutters. For ceramic knives, diamond-embedded cutters are required.
This knife sharpener has three sharpening slots with three different cutting materials: tungsten carbide, ceramic, and diamond. The diamond slot is used for ceramic knives, while the other two slots for sharpening and honing steel knives. This can also sharpen serrated... knives. This sharpener is easy to use and has a handle that keeps your hand safely away from the knife blade.
06 of 08
Electric sharpeners are fast and easy to use, but that’s also their downfall—if you get carried away, you can remove too much metal from the knife. Over time, this can ruin the blade. If used properly, an electric sharpener can be used effectively to gently sharpen knives. Electric sharpeners are also very good for sharpening knives that are nicked and damaged. This removes more material from the blade, but can save a knife that might otherwise be too damaged to cut well.
While most Western-style... knives are sharpened to a 20-degree angle, Japanese-style blades are typically sharpened to 15 degrees, which some people prefer. This sharpener will sharpen all knives to that 15 angle and can sharpen both single-bevel (sharpened from one side only) and double-bevel knives (sharpened from both sides) as well as serrated knives.
07 of 08
Technically, a sharpening steel doesn’t sharpen a knife, it actually hones or straightens the fine edge that gets bent during use, which makes the knife seem dull. That bending isn’t visible to the naked eye, but it still effects the way the knife cuts.
This steel has an easy-to-hold handle and loop for hanging, or it might fit in your knife block. This steel is magnetic, so it collects any metal dust created during the process. Knives should be honed regularly, so a steel is an important tool to... have in your kitchen. This steel is also available in shorter and longer lengths.
08 of 08
If you want to start hand-sharpening knives, and you’ve never used stones, this kit has everything you need. It includes a medium-grit stone for sharpening and an Arkansas stone for finishing. It also includes a honing solution that protects and cleans the stone’s surface as well as a small plastic guide to help sharpening novices learn the correct angle for sharpening. This is the classic method for sharpening knives, which takes some time to master, but once you learn how to use a stone, you... can sharpen knives to any angle you prefer.