It?s no secret that having a dull knife can be a downer in just about any situation, whether you?re entertaining guests and serving them up a juicy steak or out in the wilderness trying to fillet a freshly caught fish.
Our knives are one of the most versatile tools we have, yet we often are happy to use them with a blunt edge and working at just a percentage of their capability.
Considering we spend so much time researching the best knives for our situations and can spend upwards of thousands of dollars on professional grade steel, it?s interesting that we often neglect to keep them sharp and maintained.
For this reason, owning a knife sharpener is one of the most important investments you?ll ever make, with a myriad of benefits from just this one device.
However, as varied as every type of knife is, so too are the sharpeners that best suit them. Owning and operating a knife sharpener should be a carefully thought out purchase to ensure you?re getting the best fit for your favorite knives, and essentially make life easier in the process.
If you?re willing to put in the time mastering the tool, though, and have done your research about which is the best to buy, you?ll be rewarded with the most precise cut and flawless blade you?ve ever worked with.
What Is A Knife Sharpener?
So, what exactly is a knife sharpener and how do they work? The process of sharpening a knife refers to the grinding of a knife or similar tool against a hard or soft surface intended to sharpen and polish it. This is usually achieved by rubbing the material backward and forwards so it removes a fine layer of the blade and in turn makes it sharp again.
From here, knife sharpeners can also straighten and polish an edge as part of the stropping stage. However, when you purchase one of the more modern styles of knife sharpeners these come with this process built in and there?s no need to purchase additional items just to get it polished and looking like new again.
Within this general explanation are a number of variables which need to be considered, though, and knife sharpeners come with a range of different features that make them unique from the next. The hard surface used to sharpen is usually a stone or diamond, as it needs to be extremely durable.
Secondly, there are many ways to feed the blade through to the abrasive that will do the sharpening, which is how most knife sharpeners these days are classified. Depending on the style of blade you have and what you use your knives for, there?s likely to be on ideal sharpener for you.
Types Of Knife Sharpeners
Knife sharpeners have the advantage of working whether you?re using a very basic material and manual labor to get the job done, or you prefer to use an electric machine for the same results.
Ultimately, it?s up to the user and what they prefer to get their blades back to the flawless factory sharpness and precision they first arrived with, but there are a few main categories of knife sharpener that are popular in the market.
- Electric knife sharpener - These require very little input from the user and usually come with a multiple stage process. The first stage requires you to pull the knife through a slot as the machine works on sharpening, and then subsequent stages polish and refine the blade for you.
- Knife Hone - This device is like a long stick made from tough steel, diamond, or ceramic, where the blade is run back and forward over it in order to keep it polished. They require more effort than an electric sharpener and are best used regularly and not just when your knife becomes blunt as they don?t give as much of a sharpening as other options.
- Sharpening stone - These flat stones are popular choices in kitchens for those who are happy to work a little harder to get their knives sharpened. Made from stone and coming in varying degrees of grit, they can give either a very fine or very coarse finish to your knives by running it back and forward over the top of the stone.
- Sharpening steel - Similar to a honing steel, these are long sticks with a rubber handle that are placed down onto a hard surface. The knife is run over the stick, usually made from diamond coated steel or ceramic, in an effort to remove small fragments and sharpen it.
Each of these styles of knife sharpeners offer their own advantages to the user and their knives, so it really depends on what type of blade you?re working with and how much manpower you?re happy to exert.
The Benefits Of Owning A Knife Sharpener
No matter which type of knife sharpener you choose, there are some amazing benefits you can get from treating your blades with this device. When you invest in a knife sharpener, you?ll not only have knives which look brand new but also:
Rather than throwing money away and having a professional knife sharpening service take care of your blades, making a small investment in your own sharpener can save hundreds over the years. As an added bonus, there?ll be no need to replace steak knives and chef?s knives for years as you?ll have a sharpener keeping them working their best.
Reduce Risk Of Injury
It?s no secret that a blunt knife is harder to use, and when operating one of these in the kitchen you?re putting yourself at greater risk of injury when you use a dull blade. Regularly sharpening your knives is just one preventative measure you can take for a more safe kitchen.
Make Meals More Enjoyable
Whether you regularly entertain or simply enjoy a matching knife set for your own meal times, having sharp blades that can easily slice through meats will make all of your dinners more enjoyable. Rather than spending time sawing back and forth through a steak, you can effortlessly slice through even the toughest cuts with a sharpened blade.
How To Use A Knife Sharpener
If you?re a complete amateur at knife sharpening, you might be a little confused about how these devices actually work. Depending on the type of sharpener you have, though, and the blade you?re using it on, there are a couple of different methods. According to the experts, this should be done once a week or every fortnight for those who don?t cook as often.
People often think that plain edge blades are the only ones that can be sharpened, as a serrated knife sharpener is just too much hassle. However, a serrated blade can and should be regularly sharpened and it?s very simple to do.
If you don?t have an electric sharpener, the best approach is to use a sharpening rod. Simply angle the rod in between each of the bevels and work on one at a time.
Sharpening a plain edge knife is usually simpler, as most sharpeners have been designed for this type of blade specifically. Starting with the base of the blade of the knife, place the knife into the vertical slot on the sharpener.
Hold the knife sharpener tightly with your other hand and then pull the knife through the slot with some downward pressure. Some sharpeners will feature different slots for the sharpening, polishing, and honing stages, so you may need to run it through these if required.
Popular Makers Of Knife Sharpeners
For anyone who has a love of knives, you likely already know that there are a few trusted names in the knife sharpening industry. Here are some of the top manufacturers known for creating innovative, effective, and safe knife sharpeners to suit a whole range of blades and tools.
This brand is well known for creating kitchen appliances and accessories that are intended to make life easier for the home cook. The most popular Chef?s Choice knife sharpener range is their electric devices, known for their ease of use and fast results.
These are ideal for people who just want to keep their kitchen knives sharp and want to do so with a professional quality device.
They?re known as being The Edge Experts, and Smiths definitely stands by this promise. The Smith?s knife sharpener range is extremely versatile, with a huge focus on convenient products.
Their knife sharpeners can be carried in your pocket or backpack, so they?re great for more than just the kitchen and probably better suited to those who need their blades sharpened in the great outdoors.
Sharp is in their name, and that?s exactly what this trusted American company has to offer your blades. The Work Sharp knife sharpener options go far further than caring for premium chef?s blade and steak knives sets, rather focusing instead on getting both blades and tools at their absolute best.
These sharpeners can fix yard tools, power tools, and even get to work in the kitchen too.
As one of the oldest and most trusted names in tools and home improvement, it?s no wonder that Lansky knife sharpeners are regarded as some of the best. They make one of the most well-known sharpening systems that have been around for many years, and for many Americans, they?re only the brand they?ll trust to get their blades working brand new again.
This globally recognized German brand is mainly known for the premiere range of knives for the kitchen, but they also make a number of knife accessories also. The Wusthof knife sharpener range has been designed to add class to this kitchen utensils, with steadily backed guarantees on quality and easy to use devices.
Although there are countless manufacturers of knife sharpeners out there, these have long been regarded the best of the bunch. There is something from each of these brands to suit all users and knives, so you can have peace of mind that you?re making a wise investment if you stick with them.
How To Sharpen A Knife Without A Sharpener
While it?s all well and good to have a quality knife sharpener on hand and at the ready next time you realize you?ve been preparing food with a dull blade, sometimes life just doesn?t work that way. You might be in the middle of moving houses, staying at a rented apartment for the weekend, or have simply misplaced your favorite tool.
If you?re in a pinch and need to sharpen a knife quickly, the simplest way to do this is with a kitchen plate. Keep in mind, though, this is for a one-off use only as this method can actually do a lot of damage to your knives if you try it more than once.
For best results, always have your knife sharpener handy and if you can you might even like to carry around a pocket knife sharpener for emergencies just like that.
Take a porcelain mug or serving plate from your kitchen cupboard and place it on a steady spot on the bench where it?s not going to slip out.
Flip the plate over or the mug, and run your knife down the rough circular edge of the plate at a 20-degree angle for best results, flip the knife over and do the other side.
Once it?s been sharpened enough, run the knife under the tap for 20 seconds to ensure you?ve removed all the filings
If you?re using this emergency method, you need to be careful with how you do it. Always run the knife down the porcelain in the same direction, and don?t spend too long on the sharpening process. As mentioned earlier, this is only good for a one-time sharpening so you need to invest in a quality device to ensure you?re being gentle yet effective at sharpening the blade.
Maintenance And Cleaning For Knife Sharpeners
Depending on the style of knife sharpener you have, there are some important steps to follow to ensure you are taking the very best care of them. Just like out knives and blades, these accessories that keep them sharp also need regular cleaning and maintenance to have them working their best.
When you purchase an electric or manual pull through knife sharpener, it?s likely that these come with direct guidelines about product care. Be certain to follow these strictly, as they have been designed with that exact sharpener in mind and will take into account considerations of the materials used and proper care.
However, if you use a manual sharpening rod or stick there are other ways to keep them clean.
Most sharpening and polishing hones can be easily cleaned with oil, but you should always use the correct oil for your specific sharpener.
Some materials, such as diamond, can?t be cleaned with the same oil as ceramic or steel and you can do some serious damage if you attempt to. Place a small amount on a cloth and rub it up and down the hone, lifting away any small shavings of metal that might prevent it from doing its job.
If you?re cleaning a sharpening stone, your aim here will be to lift out as much of the small debris as possible from the cracks. This can be achieved using something adhesive pressed against the stone to remove them, however, you can also wipe them down with a stone oil as well and a damp rag.
Once it appears the filings and dust have been removed, place it aside to dry before using again.
No matter which style of knife sharpener you use, you should never leave them anywhere it might attract humidity or get wet. Just a little bit of water can cause rust to an electric sharpener and a honing rod, so you have to ensure they?re dried completely after each use.
In addition, you knives should always be clean and dry before you attempt to sharpen them also, otherwise, the results could vary.
Using A Knife Sharpener Safely
When you?re working this closely with blades, you need to take precautions for your safety, even if those blades might be dull at first. There are few things to consider when working with a knife sharpener to ensure you protect yourself and your knife from any serious damage.
- Read the manual - This is especially important when working with potentially dangerous items like a knife sharpener, but it?s one that many people miss. Your knife sharpener will have exact instructions for the safest operation, so even if you?ve used something similar before you shouldn?t just assume you know the ins and outs.
- Use the correct sharpener - Ensure you understand what?s involved, as some of these are only intended for experienced users such as hunters or fisherman. Never attempt to sharpen a knife with household items as this can be extremely dangerous, and choose the correct sharpener to work with the blades you have.
- Wear protective gloves - This might not be necessary with the commercial electric knife sharpeners as there?s very little risk of cutting yourself, however, if you?re using a belt sanding device or honing stick you might want to consider it. This could include safety goggles and gloves, depending on the style of sharpener you?re working with.
- Hold it away from your body - While you might think it?s best to have the steel and knife close to your body so you can work better, this is extremely dangerous. Place both sharpener and knife as far away as possible without hindering your reach before you begin the process, and hold the knife at a safe angle at all times.
- Take your time - You might be in a hurry trying to get a set of steak knives ready before guests arrive, but the easiest way to hurt yourself or damage your expensive knives is to work quickly and carelessly with a knife sharpener. From placing the blade on the stone and to the final polishing stages, you should work slowly and carefully for the best results.
The Final Word
There?s nothing worse than having a dull knife, no matter where you?re trying to use it, but thankfully with the right knife sharpener in your arsenal, there?s no need to ever suffer from a dull blade again.
We invest so much of our money and time choosing the right knives and utensils to suit our homes but rarely give as much thought to keep them maintained, resulting in a whole range of issues.
Choosing the right knife sharpener doesn?t need to be a chore, though, provided you have a good idea about the type of knives you work with and the style of sharpening that would suit.
For an easy to use and convenient home sharpener, you can?t go past the electric styles, but for more control and great versatility of blades, there are plenty of manual options available too.
When your knives have lost their edge, having a quality knife sharpener can bring them back to a flawless finish and sharpness that they had when you took them out of the box. Best of all, it takes just minutes to do regardless of the style of sharpener you use, and the results will last for many months.
Taking just a little time each week to ensure your knives and blades are at their most precise can mean a range of benefits for your home.
Not only will it be easier to prepare meals, eat a hearty steak, or fillet a fish next time you?re on a camping trip, but you?ll save yourself thousands over the years from having to replace expensive knives or taken them to a professional just to have them polished and sharpened.