The Best Knife Sharpeners of 2020
The Kitchellence is simple, comprehensive, and reliable for sharpening a variety of blade styles with a vast range of sharpening needs. Whether you need to completely refurbish a neglected blade or 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 and on your counter. You can't do better, in terms of a manual sharpener, than this one. The retail price is also accomodating to most budgets.
As compared to electric versions, the Kitchellence is quite a bit slower, especially when sharpening knives that have been long neglected. 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 better than the rest, and is the product we recommend to the widest audience.
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 wouldn't even cut potatoes cleanly. Efforts with all our sharpeners at least 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 let up your focus, even just briefly, you can do irreparable damage to a knife blade. Like any powerful tool, it takes great attention to fully maximize the benefits of this Chef's Choice without doing great harm. An educated user of the Chef's Choice can 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 this same form sold under different brands as well. Our lead tester has years of experience with a nearly identical product with different brand markings. Our lead tester has years of experience with a product that is nearly identical to this one. 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 both resurface a rough or 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 of the same thing? 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 for 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 Top Pick SunrisePro Supreme is the time-, space-, and attention-deprived person's dream. It is small, with one coarse grinding sharpener surface and affixes securely, via suction, to your countertop. For "quick and dirty" edge replenishment, this is our best 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 integrity of your blade, the SunrisePro is for you. Especially if you seldom sharpen your blades, the SunrisePro is faster and easier to use than any of the other manual options. 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 and leaves a workable, but less sophisticated, edge. If you want a lasting and super-refined edge, choose one of the other options we've identified above. But if need a quick edge sharpener to live in the back of a kitchen drawer for occasional use, this model is undoubtedly handy and fast.
The Work Sharp EDC Pivot is the one we recommend for camping, traveling, fishing, and hunting. It is small enough to disappear into all but the tightest travel bags. It is versatile and sharpens blades as well as fish hooks. The main, coarse sharpener surface is mounted on a flexible, spring attachment that helps accommodate sharpening sloppiness. You can "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 and closet space compared to other electric options.
It isn't quite as sophisticated as the Editors' Choice Chef's Choice. The electric Work Sharp has only two sharpening textures, whereby the Chef's Choice has three, allowing 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 could entirely ruin an otherwise great knife. However, its price undercuts more expensive models, and is a solid buy for an electric sharpener.
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 product 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.
We have little to complain about with the Smith's 2-Step Knife Sharpener for portable use. In your kitchen, you will appreciate a larger, more stable sharpener with more options, like the Editors Choice 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 hasn't hampered 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, making for an uneven feel. The blades 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 logical to get him coordinating the assessment of knife maintenance tools as well. Examination and review of this category involved conducting each protocol with every model, dimensional measurements, fine-tuned sharpening of in-use kitchen and pocket knives, and reconditioning of very badly worn and neglected blades. Jed's collection of vintage knives is now very well-tuned.
In use and testing, we compare 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 or not 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 a sharpener to run smoothly, to do so without striking the blade towards the tester, and to do so in a comfortable angle and position. Storage size is a function of measured footprint as well as overall volume.
Analysis and Test Results
In testing knife sharpeners, we found some clear differences between various products and have compiled summaries that will allow you to make your wisest choice. Our information is sorted for 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 and 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 can do a job orders of magnitude faster than another. The primary difference is whether the sharpener is electric-powered or not. That being said, even hand-powered sharpeners have slightly different speeds of sharpening. The differences between the hand sharpeners are much smaller than the differences between them and powered ones and among powered options.
The fastest sharpener in our review is the Editors' Choice 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 other Editors' Choice Kitchellence sharpener might 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 options.
Small, handheld, unpowered options, like the Top Pick Work Sharp EDC Pivot, are slower than bigger, handled unpowered options like the Editors' Choice Kitchellence.
Be careful with the speed of your powered sharpener. The highest-powered sharpening options require the most care and attention paid to the instructions and process. A high-powered option, especially when working with thin and precise kitchen blades, can ruin a blade in seconds of attentiveness.
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 Top Pick SunrisePro Supreme is the only sharpener we tested with just one texture. It is comparable to others' "coarse" sharpener. We identify the SunrisePro as 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 options on the Editors' Choice Chef's Choice Trizor and Kitchellence products. Three texture option are potentially more than most will need, but having the options isn't a bad thing. The 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 Top Pick 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 of this differential.
The manufacturers of half of the products we assessed noted that their sharpener is suitable for tuning serrated edges. What they all mean, without exception, is that their products will sharpen the pointed portion of serrated blades. The points do the most work, so this is good. 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 is essentially meaningless.
Sharpening scissor blades is trickier and rarer 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 tricky 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? Best is heavy, large products with clear guidance for angles and such. The electric options fit this description. Next best is that set of unpowered sharpeners with larger form and dedicated handles for stabilization. The Editors' Choice Kitchellence sharpener fits this description. The Priority Chef sharpener is in this form factor as well, but its sharpening element is "grabby," lending feelings of poor ergonomics.
The Top Pick 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 the Top Pick Award.
The Best Buy 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 ergonomically friendly, but they still work mostly fine. The Smith's Two-Step and the Top Pick 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. This metric is not a complicated thing 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 majorly increase the lifespan of a knife, but shouldn't be an onerous 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 blade sharpener you need for your cutlery needs.
— Jediah Porter