Best Knife Sharpener of 2020
The Kitchellence is simple, comprehensive, and reliable at sharpening a variety of blade styles across a vast range of sharpening needs. Whether you need to completely refurbish a neglected blade or simply resurface a well-maintained tool, the Kitchellence will do the job. There are three different textures for sharpening, a handle that accommodates a full fist, and rubberized surfaces that sit securely in-hand or on your counter. In our opinion, you can't do better than this one when it comes to manual sharpeners. The price is also accommodating to most budgets.
Compared to electric versions, the Kitchellence is quite a bit slower, especially when sharpening knives that have been neglected for too long. Kitchellence doesn't explicitly encourage the sharpening of serrated knife blades with this tool, but there is no reason you couldn't do so. For the typical domestic kitchen, this product hits the mark for performance, utility, and price over the rest, and it's the product we recommend to most people.
We aren't the only ones to appreciate the performance of the Chef's Choice 15 Trizor. This heavy, sturdy, all-electric knife sharpener is widely regarded as the best on the market. We started our testing with a really old, really dull kitchen knife from a thrift store. This knife couldn't even cut potatoes cleanly. Efforts with other sharpeners slightly improved its state, but it wasn't until we undertook an extensive session with the Trizor, following all the instructions carefully, that we entirely refinished this particular blade. The result was a nearly factory-ready edge that smoothly cut even over-ripe tomatoes.
The main drawback to the Trizor is its speed and power. If you lose your focus, even just briefly, you can do irreparable damage to a blade. Like any powerful tool, it takes great attention to maximize the benefits of the Chef's Choice without doing great harm. An experienced user of this product should be able to refurbish old blades for decades, while also performing more routine, periodic resurfacing of knives in regular usage. If you're willing to pay for premium performance, look no further.
Kitchen IQ Edge Grip is a basic two-stage knife sharpener. We've seen the same design sold under different brands as well. Our lead tester has years of experience with a nearly identical product from a different brand. His experience has been favorable, both with the older one and with the tested Kitchen IQ. The two-stage sharpening system can be used to resurface a rough, badly worn edge or to put a fine hone on a more slightly dulled blade.
The branding issue noted above points to a potential drawback of the Kitchen IQ. Will it be available when you want it? Will you be better served by a different brand with the same design? This is an issue plaguing all kinds of mass-produced equipment. It isn't a direct detriment, but it leaves us a little skeptical of the quality control and consistency. In more real terms, a powered sharpener is way faster, and larger manual sharpeners include more gradations of stone texture and are easier to manipulate. Such are the tradeoffs you must accept to enjoy the low price of this model. You get significantly more than what you pay for with the Kitchen IQ, but you don't pay much.
The SunrisePro Supreme is a time-, space-, or attention-deprived person's dream. It's small, with one coarse grinding sharpener surface and it affixes securely, via suction, to your countertop. For "quick and dirty" edge replenishment, this is our top recommendation. If you don't want to take up valuable time and space with sharpening tools and aren't particularly discerning about the final edge of your blade, the SunrisePro is for you. This model is faster and easier to use than any of the other manual options, especially if you seldom sharpen your blades. It is way less expensive and smaller than the powered choices.
The single surface of the SunrisePro is very coarse. It takes off significant amounts of metal with each stroke while leaving a workable, but less sophisticated, edge. If you want a lasting and super-refined edge, choose one of the other options identified above. But if you need a quick edge sharpener to live in the back of a kitchen drawer for occasional use, this model is undeniably handy and fast.
The Work Sharp EDC Pivot is the model we recommend for camping, traveling, hunting, and fishing. It is small enough to disappear into all but the tightest travel bags. It is versatile and can sharpen blades as well as fish hooks. The main, coarse sharpener surface is mounted on a flexible, spring attachment that helps correct for sharpening sloppiness. You can also "lock out" the flexible attachment if you wish.
The most peculiar thing about the Work Sharp EDC Pivot is that its two main sharpening "V's"are set at different angles. For the most part, those with multiple texture options mount those options at the same angle as one another. This allows you to make rough and fast adjustments to a blade and then polish and refine that edge with the fine-textured sharpener. This isn't the case with the Work Sharp, and it is noticeable in use. Edges come out fine, but matching angles (or even angles closer to one another) would make for smoother edge surfaces. This minor issue aside, this is our favorite portable model we've laid our hands on.
Generally speaking, we might envision power tools to require less effort and attention than their unpowered alternatives. A power drill, for instance, is way more forgiving than a hand-powered version. This is not the case with knife sharpeners. The Work Sharp Culinary E2 is a great, relatively compact electric option for resurfacing your blades. Used carefully, it will make a fine, smooth edge on any knife you might try. It works fast, can be configured to sharpen scissors, and has a hand-powered finishing slot. It's also compact and takes up a small amount of counter or closet space compared to other electric options.
It isn't quite as sophisticated as the top-scoring Chef's Choice. The electric Work Sharp has only two sharpening textures, whereby the Chef's Choice has three that allow for a more refined finish. This powered sharpener requires a great deal of attention and care not to overdo your sharpening task. A moment of inattention can entirely ruin an otherwise great knife. However, its price undercuts more expensive models, and it's a solid buy for an electric sharpener.
The Smith's 2-Step is small and very simple. It is a direct and close competitor to the Work Sharp EDC Pivot. The Smith's model lacks some of the features of the Work Sharp, but does the main tasks similarly. Smith's, notably, better matches the edge angles of their two steps.
For portable use, we have little to complain about with the Smith's 2-Step Knife Sharpener. In the kitchen, however, you will probably appreciate a larger, more stable sharpener with more options, such as the Kitchellence. In your tackle or toolbox, the Smith's 2-Step sharpener is great.
The Priority Chef 2-Stage Diamond Coated Sharpener is fairly standard in appearance and function. It has one coarse and one fine sharpening element, both attached to a handled platform. We like the padded, grippy bottom to augment the handle's stability. Priority Chef approves this sharpener for serrated blades.
The construction of this sharpener feels a little sloppy, but that doesn't seem to hamper its function. Our primary functional complaint is that the sharpening elements both feel sticky. On blades of all different shapes, the grooved, spiraled sharpening components grab the blade periodically through a stroke which creates an uneven feel. The blades still get sharpened with no noticeable issues.
Why You Should Trust Us
We've had lead test editor Jediah Porter reviewing blades, in the form of pocket knives and multi-tools, since 2013. It was thus logical to put him in charge of this assessment of knife maintenance tools as well. The review of this category involved conducting each protocol with every model, dimensional measurements, fine-tuned sharpening of kitchen and pocket knives, and reconditioning of very badly worn and neglected blades. Needless to say, Jed's collection of vintage knives is now very well-tuned.
In use and testing, we compared each sharpener's speed, versatility, ergonomics, and storage size. We tested speed by reconditioning very old blades. We acquired a selection of beaten and worn blades and used each sharpener while resurfacing them. Versatility is a function of a sharpener's different degrees of sharpening resolution and of its ability to sharpen serrated blades. Each of these is largely defined by manufacturers' recommendations. We tested ergonomics by using each sharpener on a variety of knife shapes and sizes and in a few different settings. We looked for sharpeners that run smoothly, do so without striking the blade towards the tester, and do so in a comfortable angle and position. Storage size is a function of the measured footprint, as well as overall volume.
Analysis and Test Results
In testing knife sharpeners, we discovered some clear differences between various products and have compiled our summaries to empower you to make the wisest choice. Our information is sorted between objective and subjective measures and accounts for the relative importance of each metric. We consider, for instance, speed and ergonomics to be more important than versatility or storage size.
Perhaps the biggest differentiator between knife blade maintenance tools is the speed of their work. All else equal (blade steel, hardening, and degree of sharpening required) one sharpener may do a job orders of magnitude faster than another. The primary difference is whether a sharpener is electric- or hand-powered. That being said, even hand-powered sharpeners come with slightly different sharpening speeds. The differences among the hand sharpeners are much smaller than the differences between them and powered units.
The fastest sharpener in our review is the Chef's Choice Trizor 15. Its coarse grinding wheel can completely recondition a dirt and rock-dulled blade in mere seconds. The same task on something hand-powered like the Kitchellence sharpener could take hours. The other electric option in our test, the Work Sharp Culinary E2, isn't quite as fast as the Chef's Choice, but it is way faster than the hand-powered models.
Small, handheld, unpowered options, like the Work Sharp EDC Pivot, are slower than bigger, handled unpowered options like the Kitchellence.
Be careful with the speed of your powered sharpener. The highest-powered sharpening options require the most care and attention to the instructions and process. A high-powered option, especially when working with thin and precise kitchen blades, can ruin a blade with seconds of inattentiveness.
Yes, there are multiple things that a blade sharpener can do. More accurately, there are different ways that a product can sharpen your edges. Mainly, you can choose the number of different gradations of sharpening texture. "Coarse" texture sharpening surfaces work faster and remove larger amounts of material, which is good for badly damaged or very dull blades. "Fine" textured surfaces work to polish existing major knife edge structure. Other versatility differences include the angle of edge construction and whether the tool can be used to sharpen serrated blades and/or scissors.
The products we tested have between one and three different textures. The SunrisePro Supreme is the only sharpener we tested with just one texture. It is comparable to the "coarse" texture on other sharpeners. We think the SunrisePro is a good choice for those that want simplicity and won't sharpen their knives very often. At the other end of the spectrum are the three texture options on the Kitchellence and Chef's Choice Trizor products. Three options are potentially more than most will need, but having too many options isn't a bad thing, and a discerning knife user will appreciate the added refinement of the third sharpening texture. The remaining products in our test all have two different textures to sharpen against.
Pretty much all of the products we assessed have fixed angles for final edge tuning. The different textures in a single product might present slightly different angles, but not by much. Only the Work Sharp EDC Pivot has noticeably different angles. The coarse sharpener is a visibly smaller angle than the fine sharpener. If it is going to be different, this is the way to do it, but we don't know why it needs to be so different. We noticed no significant impacts from this differential.
The manufacturers of half of the products we assessed claim that their sharpeners are suitable for tuning serrated edges. What they mean, without exception, is that their products will sharpen the pointed portion of serrated blades. The points do the most work, so this is acceptable. On the other hand, the points are easy to sharpen, and all of the tested products (whether "approved" for such use or not) can be pressed into that service. As it turns out, a manufacturer approving their sharpener for serrated blades seems to be essentially meaningless.
Sharpening scissor blades is trickier and less common than sharpening serrated blades. In our test, only the electric Work Sharp Culinary E2 is set up to sharpen scissor blades. Doing so, even with a product designed to help you, is difficult and high-consequence. If you elect to resurface scissor blades, do so carefully and consider practicing with an unimportant set of scissors first.
What does it take to actually perform the sharpening? Ideally, a sharpener would be large and heavy for stability and include clear guidance for angles and such. The electric options fit this description. Next best is the set of unpowered sharpeners with larger bodies and dedicated handles for stabilization. The Kitchellence sharpener fits this description. The Priority Chef sharpener is in this form factor as well, but its sharpening element is "grabby," which detracts from its ergonomics.
The SunrisePro Supreme is in an ergonomic class of its own. It is compact and simple, but it attaches to a table or countertop with a strong suction action that makes it usable with one hand. Its simplicity, security, and compactness are what earned it an award.
The Kitchen IQ is surprisingly easy to use, given its small stature. The rubberized base and grip make it stable and secure in use, and the notch along the base allows you to key it over a counter edge for additional security.
The smallest "portable" products are the least friendly ergonomically, but they still work mostly fine. The Smith's Two-Step and the Work Sharp EDC Pivot are both optimized for portability at the expense of some usability. Nonetheless, you'll figure out how to optimize their use, and you will reap acceptable results.
We are all tight on space, and you probably don't want to further clutter your kitchen. Storage is not a complicated metric to examine. From smallest to largest, our tested products shook out like this: Work Sharp EDC, Smith's, Kitchen IQ, SunrisePro, Kitchellence, Priority Chef, Work Sharp E2, Chef's Choice Trizor.
Maintaining your blades is necessary to increase the lifespan of a knife, but it shouldn't be an arduous task. Depending on how often you do it and your standards for sharpness, you might justify an expensive, large, fast, and risky electric model — or you might choose a more compact and time-consuming manual model. Within these two subcategories, the differences are more subtle. We honed this review to help you quickly and easily find the best blade sharpener for your cutlery needs.
— Jediah Porter