The one question we get asked more than any other is ‘What is the Best Way to Sharpen a Knife’? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this particular question, but for the vast majority of people that visit my personal site the simple answer for how to sharpen knives is a knife sharpening system.
How to Sharpen Knives: Why Electric?
The reasons for this are simple. First, and quite importantly, most people don’t know how to use sharpening stones and frankly don’t want to learn. (If you are curious as to what a professional looks like, check out some videos on Youtube, how to sharpen a knife with stones) While they are what the professionals use, and do provide the overall best edge, they require a good deal of experience to use them properly.
Even manual guided sharpeners can be tedious and slow to the home chef that just wants a product that can quickly hone an edge back to factory sharpness. This is compounded if you want to sharpen several knives at one time. This is the main reason for why they are the best way to sharpen a kitchen knife.
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Compared to all that, a best knife sharpening system can repair and hone a blade back to its original state or better in a matter of seconds. Most electric models consist of 3 stages. The first uses the lowest grit stone and is designed to repair damaged blades. Once the blade has been repaired using the first stage, you can then move on to stage 2.
Stage 2 is designed restore the bevel or edge to the blade. It smooths out the rough surface created by the first stage. If your knives are not damaged, you can typically skip the first stage and move right to stage 2.
Lastly the 3rd stage is used to hone the blade. Honing removes any small imperfections from stage 2 and should create an edge that is both sharp and durable. For knives that see lighter use, or those that are well maintained you can skip straight to stage 3.
Regardless of how many stages you end up needing to use on a particular knife, the speed with which you can return your knives to a razors edge is many times faster than when using a manual method.
Cons of an Electric Sharpener System?
One of the biggest complaints that sharpening professionals have with electric sharpeners is that they remove too much material from the blade, shortening the life of the blade. This is certainly true with certain models of sharpeners.
Many sharpeners only allow you to sharpen a blade to a specific angle. So if your knife has a bevel angle of 24 degrees and your sharpener only sharpens to 22 degrees, the knife will need to be ‘broken in’. During this process the extra material is removed, and when you’re finished your knife will have a bevel angle of 22 degrees.
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Pros of Electric
The best electric knife sharpeners, however, allow you to select the angle of your knives. This means that if you have a chef’s knife with a 22-degree bevel angle and a paring knife with a 15-degree bevel angle you can sharpen both knives with the same sharpener without removing an excessive amount of material from the blade. These selectable angle sharpeners are sometimes slightly more expensive than other electric models, but are well worth the price.
My recommended best knife sharpening system is the Smith’s 50281 Adjustable Edge Pro. This particular model allows you to select from a wide variety of angles to suit any number of knife manufacturers. It will even sharpen serrated knives using a pull out sharpening tab.
This capability is well worth the additional money you’ll pay for this particular model. And while we’re on the subject of money.
Don’t misunderstand, professional knife sharpening services are a great way to get your knives sharpened. But over the course of a year, the price can really add up. On average a chef’s knife should be sharpened at least a couple times per year. If you have to pay $15-$20 each time, it quickly begins to add up. Especially when you take into account the other knives you use that will also need sharpening. You’ll also be without your knife for a couple of days.
A knife sharpening system will last you many years. So while you may spend more up front initially, the payoff comes when 4 or 5 years later you’re still using the same sharpener to maintain your blades.
The biggest advantage, and the main reason why we say that electric sharpeners are the best way to sharpen knives is that they are simple and quick to use. Nearly all the sharpeners on the market operate in the same manner. You simply pull the blade through each stage of the sharpener the prescribed number of times (this varies based on the current state of your blade). Once you finish with stage 3, you’re ready to go.
Maintaining your sharpener couldn’t be any easier. At most you’ll need to empty a trap on the inside that catches metal shavings.
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So while sharpening services will tell you to avoid an electric model, or anything other than a sharpening stone, the angle select capability on our featured sharpeners truly is the best way to sharpen knives for the vast majority of people. They result in very little loss of blade material (comparable to sharpening stones), they can sharpen a wide variety of knives, and you only have to pay for them once.
Hi, I am Daniel Waters, a pro knife sharpener, blog writer, and knife enthusiast. While I have recently covered lots of products on our blog www.thetacticalknives.com, here is a bit more information.