Any professional chef will tell you that a blunt knife is far more dangerous to work with than a razor-sharp blade, so that's why we tested the best knife sharpeners out there.
Keeping knives in top condition means easy slicing and dicing an makes kitchen work a breeze. If you have to saw and hack your way through meat and veggies with a neglected chopper, accidents can happen and the results are never as good.
So in the run up to some big family dinners and pre-holiday batch cooking, I decided to put a collection of knife sharpeners to the test to get my cutting kit in shape. From stones to honing rods and electric machines, they used various grades of abrasion to get those edges back to working order.
There was something very satisfying about sharpening my long-neglected knife collection – seeing those blunt blades transformed turned the most mundane meal prep into a pleasure as I cut through Sunday joints like butter and made short work of spuds and onions like a professional chef.
When you’re working with such sharp instruments, it’s best to get your skills up to scratch. I followed this simple tutorial from Zwilling and chef Paul Bough on the basics of knife use, using the ‘pinch and grip’ for ultimate control of the blade and making sure the food I was chopping was held with my other hand in a ‘claw’ position to keep my fingertips well out of harm’s way.
Salter Diamond Electric Knife Sharpener
- Diamond Electric Knife Sharpener, £32.99 from Salter – buy here
If, like me, you have some mobility issues – in my case stiff arthritic fingers – this is a very easy way to keep blades shape without having to saw and grind.
Make sure your knives are dry, of course, then switch on and draw the blade towards you through the rotating grinders – the slots are at angles for both the right and left sides of each blade. Step one is the initial grind – it only takes around three seconds to pull the knife through. Swap over to do the other side of your knife and then repeat the process through the honing section.
This machine made a big difference to an old, neglected chef’s knife that hadn’t been used for a while, but I can imagine it could be easy to over-sharpen and make blades thin over time if used too enthusiastically.
Think ‘little and often’ and this electric sharpener will rejuvenate tired old tools for years to come.
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ProCook Combination Whetstone
Combination Whetstone, £24 from ProCook – buy here
There are two grades of ‘grit’ to this whetstone sharpener, so you can make blunt knives shine and slice again or simply keep your sharpened knives in perfect condition with a little regular maintenance.
You have to soak the stone in water for twenty minutes before use. Choose the 600 grade course side for basic sharpening and flip to the 2000 grade fine stone to keep those edges honed. I like the honesty of this one – after all, it’s just a big block of stone – but it took a bit of getting used to and there may be a more accurate way to sharpen with one of the ‘place and pull’ sharpeners here.
I could only hope I was drawing knives at the right angles to sharpen accurately, but what I did do made a difference immediately to a pretty blunt veg knife that was otherwise destined for the scrapheap. (And if you’ve ever wondered how to dispose of knives safely, check with your local council who should have the info on their website.)
ProCook Three Wheel Knife Sharpener
- Three Wheel knife Sharpener, £19, from ProCook – buy here
This sharpener gives you a three-step method to take your knives from blunt to buffed in easy stages.
The long cylinder has grooves numbered one to three and rests on a non-slip base. Just get a good grip on one side of the unit and use a back and forth motion with your knife to sharpen. The first is a diamond wheel – take it through three or four times to take the basic bluntness from your utensil. I saw a big difference with just this step, but moving on to the finer grade sharpening in groove two made it even better. The third wheel is ceramic, and this finished the edges off to leave my knives as good as new.
This gadget looked good on the kitchen worktop and so it was easy to grab as I brought out another long-neglected blade from the drawer. It’s a really good choice for under £20 – easy to clean with a damp cloth and very satisfying to use.
Lakeland International Knife Sharpener
- International Knife Sharpener, £16.99 from Lakeland – buy here
Lakeland also do a slightly cheaper version of this sharpener solely for European utensils, but I tried this international model, having some larger Japanese knives which are typically made of a harder steel than domestic counterparts.
It’s very comfortable to use, with the rubbery base and ergonomic handle making things rock-steady as you draw the blades through two grooves – eight to ten times on the course section first, then half that through the fine honer.
There’s a guard to cover the sections not in use, so choose between modes depending on your knife. The angle of grinding changes for each type – 20 degrees for Euro and a finer 15 degrees for a finer Japanese finish.
Lakeland recommend this tool is used once or twice a month to keep your blades in tip-top condition and my little Japanese Santoku knife is now a firm and trusty go-to tool for all sorts of meal prep.
Judge Two-Stage Kitchen Knife Sharpener
- Two-Stage Kitchen Knife Sharpener, £17 from Judge – buy here
This was the smallest and simplest of the knife sharpeners I tried out and could easily fit in the utensil drawer when laid on its side.
It was easy to grip the handle, resting it on the worktop as I sharpened. The silicon base and handle made it steady to use as I drew knives back from blade to tip through the inner ‘criss cross’ sharpeners. Blunt knives needed to go though both sections, but for a simple maintenance on recently serviced blades, it was fine just use the honing groove.
Fine ‘shavings’ could be cleaned up by removing the sharpener section and cleaning the base with a damp cloth.
This is a dinky little sharpener that’s great to have to hand. Every home should have one.
Zwilling V Edge Knife Sharpener
- V Edge Knife Sharpener, £69.95, from Zwilling – buy here
If you’re serious about keeping your kitchen knife rack stocked with Masterchef-worthy blades then this is a great addition to your gadget cupboard. (Or if you have space, it’s one for the worktop as it looks the business.)
It takes a bit more time to set up than some of the other ‘grab and go’ sharpeners here, but the results are worth it.
Basically, the main unit houses a couple of spring sharpeners that grip the blade as you pass it through its ‘v’ shape and the results don’t rely on you forcing the knife down or holding it at a special angle. The results are top-class.
You can swap the sharpening rods over (adapters are stored in the bottom of the unit) to cater for European and Japanese knives, but this sharpener isn’t suitable for those blades that should only be honed on one side – cleavers or peeling knives, for example.
TOG Knives Ceramic Honing Rod
- Ceramic Honing Rod, £65, from Tog Knives – buy here
Like a bit of theatre in the kitchen? Make a performance of it by using this brilliant ceramic honing rod to keep your blades in top shape.
There’s something very satifying about using this – I felt surprisingly like someone who knew what they were doing in the kitchen. You know what? I kind of did thanks to one of TOG’s brilliant tutorial videos on the method of sharpening using the rod.
The ceramic used for the shaft is just shy of diamond strength, so it will last a lifetime even with the recommended weekly use. The silicon end to this sword-like tool has two functions – it keeps it safely in place on the worktop as you use it and should you drop it, the shock absorption means it won’t get damaged.
It looks well-impressive hanging on my utensil rack and I feel like a kitchen ninja when I use it. The results are great too, and it’s safe to have a little sharpen every time you use your favourite knife, just like a show-off professional.
HORL 2 Knife Sharpener
- HORL 2 Knife Sharpener, £139 from Horl – buy here
Would you spend £139 on a knife sharpener? If you have the cash to spare, I’d say do it, as the HORL 2 is a wonderful addition to any kitchen and such a pleasure to use. Like me, you’ll be scanning for things to sharpen and asking your friends to bring their knives when they visit so you can show it off.
The model I was sent to try out came in the oak finish – there’s also a darker ‘Nut’ wood. It’s beautifully made – weighty and solid – and has two pieces, a rolling grinder with diamond and ceramic grinders and a double-ended, magnetic support (angled at 15 and 20 degrees) to keep the knives in place as you roll the sharpener against the blades.
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Watch HORL’s excellent tutorial online to get to grips with this quality equipment. Once you are up and running, the smooth action makes light work of precision finishing.
This sharpener is just such a thing of beauty I almost wouldn’t care if it didn’t do the job. But it does, to perfection, and it is good for European and Japanese knives too. This one’s a different class.
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