Knife Sharpeners: Types and Buying Tips
Knives tend to become dull after continued use, and therefore it is helpful to have a knife sharpener available. Not all knife sharpeners are created equally, so it is important to understand the differences between them.
Manual Versus Automatic
There are two major types of sharpeners: manual and automatic. Manual knife sharpeners are held at a vertical angle and a knife is sharpened by gliding the edge across the steel at a different angle. Electric knife sharpeners are battery operated or electrically run. They sharpen knives with spinners that grind at the edge of the knife when drawn across it.
Manual knife sharpeners are preferred because the knives are honed and reshaped rather than cut away. Electric sharpeners tend to take away an excessive amount of the blade, reducing the amount of time that the knife will last. Honing, rather than sharpening, a knife is the best way to preserve the blade and maintain its usefulness.
Honing Versus Sharpening
Honing a knife involves aligning the edge of the blade and removing a tiny portion of damaged fragments from edges. Honing steels will only reshape and remove fine pieces from the edge. Honing is done on sharp blades that need refining.
Sharpening stones grind a more significant amount from the blade of the knife. Unlike honing, sharpening will actually create a new edge on the knife and completely discard the old edge. Unlike honing, which will bend and straighten the metal, sharpening will remove nicked or curved metal.
Stone Versus Steel
Whetstone is used to sharpen knives. If you have a dull knife, you will need more than honing to cause the knife to become sharp again. It is best to use whetstone in this case. Oil stones and water stones, lubricated with oil or water respectively, can also sharpen a knife.
To refine the edge of a working knife, diamond steel makes an excellent honing material. Note that steel will only realign the edge, not grind or remove the dull edge. Diamond steel is comprised basically of small diamonds on a metal backing. Ceramic stones, which ware lubricated with water, can also hone the edge of a knife.
Purchasing an electric knife sharpener is a common choice for beginners or those who don’t like using a steel. If you choose this type of sharpener, make sure that there are multiple settings and a guard that will protect your fingers and hands when the sharpener is in use. You can read the review of our favorite – the Chefs Choice Trizor XV electric sharpener.
The two types of manual sharpeners to choose from are honing steels and sharpening stones. Oilstones will cut more quickly than water stones. Whetstones are also a good choice. Remember that stones can wear down due to excessive use. Ceramic stones are most fragile.
Honing steels like diamond steel are great for maintaining newer knives and knives that have not been worn down. They last long, and can only be used for reshaping, not sharpening.
In general, check for safety features, such as guards, on your knife sharpening choices. Note that not all sharpeners will work on knives with serrated edges. The size and shape is up to your needs and experience.