Best Manual Knife Sharpeners in 2020
Sharpening knives is an art, and like all good forms of art, you need the right tools at your disposal. We've talked plenty about electric sharpeners, which are very useful for getting your knife nice and sharp, but sometimes you just need and want the best type of sharpener on the market. Well, if that's the case for you, you'll want a manual knife sharpener.
The very obvious difference between a manual knife sharpener and electric is manual knife sharpeners require your input to make the knife sharp, as opposed to electricity. This means a certain degree of skill is needed to keep your knife nice and sharp, and more importantly undamaged, when using a manual knife sharpener.
In this article, not only we are going to discuss the top eight best manual knife sharpeners on the market, but also provide you with a very in-depth look on manual knife sharpers, covering all the ins-and-outs you'd want to know, or never even thought of!
Top 8 Manual Knife Sharpeners At a Glance
Note: The above links will take you to additional information, current prices, and reviews on Amazon.
Top 5 Best Pull-Through Manual Knife Sharpeners Review:
The word "pronto" isn't a word you'd normally see on most, or really any, products related to barbecue. In this case, the word "pronto" really feels necessary. The 463, like many other manual pull-through sharpeners, has more of a resemblance to an ice pick or hack saw then what'd you'd consider a traditional knife sharpener.
The design, while slightly unorthodox for those unfamiliar, is based around stability and control. That is, you can plant the sharpener to a flat surface like, say, a counter-top and keep it from bouncing around while you drag your knife through it. Now, the shape and name are all well and good, but what about actual performance?
The 463 doesn't disappoint at all with performance. The grindstones are made with a diamond abrasive, which we'll remind you is an industrial diamond, not the diamond you find in on your wife's ring, which provides a smooth and high-quality sharpening. Both stages have this diamond abrasive, with stage 1 for sharpening and stage 2 for honing.
And with each grindstone being stationed at a fifteen-degree angle, the 463 is perfect for Asian knives along with straight-edge and serrated knives! This manual knife sharper might just be perfect for all your knife sharpening needs!
Next on our list is the smallest, and cheapest, sharpener on the market. Don't let the very small size of the KitchenIQ fool, because its compact nature is a purposeful choice and not a way for the manufacture to cheap out. Sometimes you just don't have space for a larger pull-through knife sharpener, or you might just need one that can be taken on the go. This is where the KitcehnIQ comes in.
The small, rounded shape is very comfortable to hold although it can be a bit tricky to handle at first because you need to use only two-or-three fingers to hold the sharpener in place, and not your entire hand. On that end, the base is non-slip so you don't hurt yourself or the counter when you're sharpening your knife.
The KitchenIQ has two slots, called Fine and Coarse. The Fine side is more or less a honing slot mixed with a light abrasive, so you'll use it for touch-ups to keep your knife sharp. The other slot, Coarse, is what you'll use for damaged or dull knives. The Fine grindstone is made of ceramic, while the Coarse is made of carbide.
For its a small size, and an even smaller price, the KitchenIQ can easily throw its weight in with bigger and more expensive sharpeners. A bit tricky to use at first, and you can't use it with Asian knives, you'll be happy to have the KitchenIQ by your side if other sharpeners just aren't your taste.
PriorityChef is a company dedicated to making not just affordable kitchen utensils, but ones that are also of the highest quality for their price range. And their knife sharpener is one such product. While it looks more like an electric sharpener, don't let looks fool you, it's a manual pull through sharpener.
The shape of the sharpener is designed to be ergonomic, and with a very long and big grip bar, you'll have plenty of control over your sharpening. Being medium-sized, the PriorityChef sharpener shouldn't take up much space at all in your kitchen or counter. And with a comfortable pad at the bottom, you don't have to worry about it slipping while you're sharpening.
Like many manual knife sharpeners, the PriorityChef is divided into two stages called 1 and 2 respectively. Stage one uses a diamond abrasive grindstone for sharpening, and stage 2 uses a ceramic grindstone for honing. In conjunction, these two work perfectly in bringing dull blades back to life. And the hone also works wonders if you just need to get your blade back to its original sharpness after a hard day of cutting meats.
Usable with both normal and serrated knives, the PriorityChef may be your priority, pardon our lame joke, when you need an inexpensive yet durable sharpener that actually works.
Having been focusing on knife sharpening products since 1886, you can't go wrong with a company like Smith's. Even if the company name does sound just a tad bit generic. Their sharpener looks more like a handheld buzz saw without the buzz saw, but just like the Chef'sChoice looks can be very deceiving.
All the grindstone blades are made of a ceramic compound, but what really sets this sharpener apart is not just the slot for serrated knives only, but the dial at the end that allows you to adjust the angles of the Coarse and Fine slots. From fourteen degrees all the way up to 24 degrees, making this sharpener useful for all knives; including Asian!
The sharpener itself isn't that big, and can easily be carried or hung on a hook once you're done using it. On top of being comfortable to hold and easy to use, the grindstones can be removed and replaced if anything happens to them; unlike other grindstones where once they break, they're broken for good.
Affordable, kinda cool looking, and with a very functional adjustable dial setting, the Smith's sharpener is perfect for both at home and in the outdoors!
If it sounds German, that means it's obviously good, right? In the case of Wüsthof, who has over two hundred years or making and working with knives, this is a quite true statement. Everything about this sharpener rings of "German craftsmanship", from the sharp angles to the dark color. If you need a sharpener that'll wow your friends, look no further.
Of course, while it might look impressive, is its performance any good? Thankfully Wüsthof has you covered. With a Fine and Coarse slot, you'll find the Coarse grindstone is made of carbide while the Fine is made of a rather tougher ceramic then most other sharpeners on the market. As you could likely guess comparing it to other sharpeners, the function is the same. Place it down, hold on, and sharpen away!
While not at all the biggest or fanciest sharpener on the market, it makes our list for being a good sharpener that's wonderful as an all-around sharpener. And with a brand name you can trust, this sharpener won't let you down anytime soon!
Top 3 Best Whetstone Manual Knife Sharpeners Review
And now we're going to look over the best whetstones on the market. We'll go more into detail about the difference between a whetstone and regular manual knife sharpeners further down in our article.
Some of the best whetstones don't exactly have to be the most expensive. The Villini whetstones come with everything you need to start sharpening your blades like a pro without hurting your bank account! Coming mounted on a lovely bamboo base, a second stand is included so your whetstone stays in place while you're sharpening away.
The whetstone is a two-part whetstone, a 1000 grit, and 6000 grit. The 1000 side is used for sharpening, and the 6000 is used for honing. It's easy to swap between the two, just take the stone off the base, flip it, and you're good to go! The sides of the stone are also labeled so no need to guess which side is which. Although if the numbers do rub off, the 1000 grit is blue and the 6000 grit is white.
There is no need for oil, just water. Once properly soaked, you can sharpen your knives with easy given the Villini comes with an angled sharpening guide. This little plastic guide clamps onto your blade and ensures you are sharpening and honing at the right angle. Perfect for helping you master the whetstone and save on destroyed blades.
For the price, you get quite a lot in this set. It's easy to use and after a few practice runs you'll be sharpening knives like a pro!
If you think this whetstone looks exactly like the other whetstone we just reviewed, then you're not alone! We thought the same thing! Although having it in-hand, we can say there are some subtle differences between the two whetstones. This one feels heavier, and also the package comes with a flattening stone to help you level out the whetstone.
That being said, it functions nearly like the Villini whetstone including the use of water. We still liked it and can recommend it if only because the flattering stone was really useful. What the flattering stone does is to level out irregularities in the whetstone itself, not on your knife. So keep that in mind to avoid damaging your knife.
If this one looks like the Gourmet Tool whetstone, that also looks like the Villini whetstone, then you're not wrong. It really does. In fact, it also feels the same, although it does have a rather rougher exterior. Included is another flattering stone, so that was a nice, added bonus to clean this stone up. Being less expensive than the Gourmet Tool whetstone, and including everything that set came with, we can recommend it.
Different Types Of Manual Sharpeners
Now that we covered our best manual sharpeners, let's discuss the differences between them. All manual sharpeners can be divided into two categories, and further divided into sub-categories.
The most common manual sharpener, a pull-through sharpener is similar to an electric sharpener, except without the electricity. You pull the blade through the slots to sharpen and to hone your blade. Simple!
1.Two-Slot Sharpeners: The most common variety seen. One slot contains a coarse grindstone, either ceramic or a rougher and stronger material like a diamond, and the second contains a hone normally made of ceramic. Great for sharpening and honing, but not all blades can be sharpened due to the angle of the coarse slot.
2.Multi-Slot Sharpeners: Normally coming with three or four slots, these function to sharpen and hone a wider variety of blades including Asian and serrated. As seen with the Smith's sharpener, some of these do come with dials for adjusting the angle.
A whetstone is, essentially, a flat stone that a knife-edge needs to be dragged over to both sharpen and hone the blade. There are different types, as you can imagine, and whetstones do take some practice to master as they can easily damage a blade it improperly used.
3.One-sided Whetstone: Featuring only "one side", that is the entire store is one level of grit, this is also the earliest type of whetstone in history.
4.Multi-sided Whetstone: Featuring different levels of grit on different sides of the stone, these are much more modern and act like a two-slot sharpener having both sharpening and honing function.
Now, the big difference between a whetstone and pull-through sharpener, besides one being a flat stone and the other a mechanical invention, is that a whetstone requires water or oil to work. The stone is quite porous, and needs the liquid to assist in sharpening. Without it, a blade can easily be scuffed up over a dried whetstone.
Lastly, there are Mechanical Sharpeners which we discussed in a previous article. We're not counting them here as while they don't require electricity and are technically manual-based, they use mechanical energy for sharpening as opposed to straight-up manual energy.
Why Choose A Manual Sharpener Over An Electric One?
There are a number of reasons, and these reasons actually differ depending on which type of sharpener you want!
Why Pick A Pull-Through Sharpener Over An Electric Sharpener?
The two major reasons why you're going to want a pull-through sharpener compared to an electrical is that,
- 1-Pull-through sharpeners tend to be cheaper.
- 2-You may be in an area where you need to sharpen your knife but don't have electricity.
While the two look quite similar, and even function similarly except without the use of electricity, of course, the biggest difference is the price. Pull-through sharpeners rarely cost over fifty dollars, whereas a good electric sharpener can start at fifty dollars and go from there. And if you want an electrical sharpener that has all the bells and whistles, you're looking at over one hundred or more dollars.
This isn't to say that electrical sharpeners are bad to use, in fact, they are much easier to use. They're just more expensive. The second big reason is not needing electricity. While you're at home a constant electrical supply isn't a problem, but if you're outdoors finding a reliable supply of electricity will be a challenge. And believe us when we say a dull knife can very easily ruin an outdoor barbecue.
Since they're manual, pull-through sharpeners can be much smaller in size and perfect for carrying if you're backpacking or at a barbecue where all the other outlets are taken up and you really need to sharpen your knives. Of course, not relying on electricity does mean you don't have to worry about a blackout ruining your barbecue, but why were you having a barbecue during a blackout in the first place?
So the lower cost and not needing electricity is the main draw of a pull-through sharpener. That being said, these sharpeners will take longer to use than an electric and sometimes require a degree of precision not needed in electric sharpener to ensure the best sharpen and hone.
Why Pick a Whetstone Over An Electric Sharpener And Or Pull-Through Sharpener?
Whetstones tend to be more expensive than a pull-through sharpener, but not as expensive compared to an electric sharpener. What's the big appeal? Control. A whetstone provides much more control in both sharpening and honing, as you are running the blade across the surface of the whetstone at your own pace.
Given that a whetstone is completely flat and not angled like a grindstone you find in a sharpener, all sorts of blades can be sharpened and honed! The problem, of course, if those whetstones require more skill than an electric or pull-through sharpener. Even with a plastic guide to attach to the blade, it takes some time before you can sharpen your blades with skill like a professional chef.
Whetstones can also damage a blade if you're not being careful, or if the stone hasn't been allowed to soak in water or oil. But for many pitmasters and chefs, the risk is more than worth it for the superior handling and sharpening that a whetstone provides.
How Do You Know When a Knife Needs Sharpening? How Often Should You Sharpen?
So regardless of which sharpener you pick, how exactly do you tell if your knife needs sharpening or a hone? Well, it's rather easy. Try cutting a tomato. If the blade looks like it's squishing the tomato, and not slicing it, it's time for a sharpening. Alternatively, after every hour of continuous use, your knife will need a sharpen.
The problem with sharpening is that it actually removes metal from the blade, and constant sharpening will eventually ruin the blade as they'll be no knifepoint left. So you only want to sharpen occasionally. To keep your blade nice and sharp, you'll want to hone regularly. Honing isn't removing metal from the knife point, but instead realigning the blade.
The knife point, being very small and thin, can easily get unaligned from cutting just about anything. Honing restores your blade to its original alignment and not only keeps your knife sharp, but keeps you from having to sharpen and thus extends the lifespan. How often should you hone your knife? All the time!
It's normally recommended that you hone your knife before and after every single use. Some even hone their knives every single day, even if the knife isn't used. We normally recommend just honing your knife after and before using the knife. And as said previously, only sharpen after the blade has had one hour or more continually use.
Buyers Guide: How To Pick Out The Best Manual Knife Sharpeners
While we provided our list of the best manual knife sharpeners on the market, you may be interested in striking out and finding a knife sharpener of your very own. So we've put together this handy guide to assist you in picking out a great sharpener that'll last you for years.
Whetstone or Pull-Through Sharpener?
The first thing to consider is do you want a whetstone or a pull-through sharpener? This is a personal question, and generally speaking, the whetstone will require more skill to use as opposed to a pull-through sharpener. As mentioned in our previous section, whetstones provide much more control when sharpening and a sharper edge.
So it's up to you which one you want. Pull-though is typically cheaper, and if you just need to get your knife sharp and honed, a pull-through will be all you need.
How Many Slots Is Enough?
So if you are picking a pull-through sharpener, how many slots do you want? The most commonly seen ones on the market have two slots, a fine and coarse slot. Coarse is for sharpening, and fine is honing. Some other sharpeners have more than two, typically up to four slots, to provide for different knives which we'll discuss more below.
Normally a two-slot sharpener will provide all your needs, including serrated knives, with specialized slots not being needed unless you have specialized knives. Of course, if you're picking a whetstone this is entirely moot.
Asian and Serrated Knives:
Asian and serrated knives require different conditions to hone and sharpen. For Asian knives, they need to be sharpened and honed at a fourteen to fifteen-degree angle. Serrated knives, meanwhile, need strong enough coarse and fine material to properly sharpen and hone. Most sharpeners will let you know right away if they can handle serrated and Asian knives. Once again, this point is rather moot when it comes to whetstones.
Now, you more than likely have a serrated knife you use to cut through tougher meats. We recommend trying to find a pull-through sharpener that along with being two-slots can also deal with serrated knives. The Chef'sChoice, for example, had diamond abrasive material suited for serrated knifes, as well as Asian knives due to the angle.
It's a good idea to at least get a sharpener that can work with serrated knives, but it's up to you if you need a sharpener that can handle Asian knives unless you plan of buying some later or have some, to begin with.
Multi-Sided Whetstone, or One-Sided Whetstone?
Whetstones can come in two ways. Either fully one side of grit, like a 6000 grit whetstone for honing, or multi-sided such as a 6000 and 1000 gritstone being combined. Usually, we recommend a multi-sided whetstone over just a single-sided one, but there are expectations. Some chefs prefer to use a manual sharpener and a whetstone hone, thus only needing a higher-level grit whetstone.
This is more of a preferred choice as well as a bang-for-your-buck matter.
Next comes safety. Now, since most of the grindstones are tucked away inside the sharpener, or are so flat they won't cause you any harm like the case of a whetstone, this doesn't mean sharpeners and whetstones are completely safe. You're sharpening and honing your knife, after all, so one wrong slip can lead to you getting cut.
On that end, most sharpeners and whetstones come with bases to secure them onto a flat surface. Not only does this protect you from a knife going loose and slicing you, but provides much better handling. Most pull-through and whetstones will have this as standard, save handheld pull-through sharpeners. If the sharpener doesn't come with a base, either a mountable base or a rubber base already attached, it's a good idea to skip them.
Returns and Refunds:
Lastly, returns, refunds, and of course warranties. Most sharpeners and whetstones will have a return/refund policy, and some may have warranties if they're expensive. It's never a bad idea to do a little reading about what the policies are before committing to one sharpener or whetstone. At the very worst, you're likely going to want to return it for a refund as it's not matching your expectations.
If you buy from a major retailer or online retailer, you should be able to return your sharpener or whetstone for a full refund or a different model.
Manual sharpeners and whetstones, while not as easy to use as electrical sharpeners, still have their merits which include being much more cheaper and in the case of a whetstone offering much more control. We do recommend reading our articles on mechanical and electrical sharpeners, because you might just find a model there that fits all your needs.
If there is one major take away from our articles on knife sharpening, it should be to never over sharpen your knives. A daily hone, or just honing before and after using the knife, is typically all you need to keep your blade nice and sharp as well as extending its life.