Sharp knives only serve to enhance your cooking experience, whether that’s slicing through roast chicken, prepping veg for cauliflower and potato curry, or portioning perfectly cooked steak for steak tacos. But, perhaps more importantly, sharp knives ensure safety. A dull knife is more likely to slip, increasing the likelihood of accidents. With a good sharpener, you can maintain the sharpness of your blades, reducing the risk of mishaps. Plus, getting into a good sharpening routine means that you’re able to keep your knives maintained, so you don’t have to buy new ones.
Almost all knives can be sharpened, though some sharpeners can’t be used on serrated knives. As a general rule of thumb, any knife with a smooth blade – a chef’s knife, nakiri knife, paring knife – can be used on a knife sharpener. Check your sharpener’s manual if you’re not sure.
Knife sharpeners can feature a range of different materials, from ceramic and silicone carbide, to diamond. Sharpeners that feature diamond, unsurprisingly, tend to be on the expensive side, but they are durable and produce a fantastic edge. Ceramic sharpeners provide a smooth finish, but you need to keep even pressure when sharpening. Whetstones tend to be made using bonded abrasives, such as a mix of ceramic, silicone carbide and diamond.
We put a range of handheld sharpeners and whetstones to the test, from the traditionally designed, to new innovators in the world of knife sharpeners.
Best knife sharpeners at a glance
- Best knife sharpener overall: Horl 2 Pro, £349
- Best whetstone: Katto whetstone, £30
- Best unique knife sharpener: Horl 2, £159
- Best cheap whetstone: ProCook combination whetstone, £24
- Best knife sharpener for Japanese and European knives: Zwilling V Edge knife sharpener, £69.61
- Best one-sided whetstone: Miyabi Toshi pro whetstone, £80.43
- Best handheld knife sharpener: Minosharp water sharpener, £38.36
- Best compact knife sharpener: Victorinox knife sharpener, £33
- Best cheap knife sharpener: ProCook twin-wheel knife sharpener, £29
Best knife sharpeners to buy 2023
Horl 2 Pro
Best knife sharpener overall
Star rating: 5/5
- Hefty weight
- Simple to use
- Impressively strong magnet
Established in 1993 in Germany, Horl sharpeners are the most unique-looking sharpeners we’ve tested, and they’re also interesting to use.
The Horl 2 Pro is a small but hefty piece of kit. There are two parts to it: a magnetic sharpening block angled at 20 and 15 degrees on either end, and a double-sided cylindrical rolling block with a diamond grinding disc on one side and ceramic honing disc on the other. It’s very easy to use: simply attach your knife to the magnetic block (the magnet is incredibly strong) and roll the cylindrical block the full length of your knife, first with the diamond disc, then with the ceramic disc. Remember to flip your knife so you sharpen both sides.
This sharpener is incredibly easy to use and store. It remained secure and sturdy on the counter, and the rolling motion is incredibly smooth. We didn’t have many gripes with this sharpener, though we did notice a couple of things when using it. It’s noisy if your knife is in desperate need of sharpening, and the sound it made divided us: some thought it sounded like an old forge, while others found it unpleasant. We found we needed to work in stages if sharpening a particularly long knife to ensure that the cylindrical block had full contact with it.
Despite those minor grievances, we absolutely loved using this sharpener and each knife became impressively sharp. If you’re after an upgrade on your handheld sharpener but aren’t looking to upskill and learn how to use a whetstone, the Horl 2 Pro gets the job done.
Star rating: 5/5
- 1000 and 6000 grit
- Grippy base provided
If you’re familiar with how to use a whetstone, this offering from Katto is ideal if you’re after something with two high grit-levels. The 1000 and 6000 grit mean you’re able to get a super-fine finish on your knives.
Set up is easy: simply soak the whetstone and get going.
Usefully, a plastic grip is provided to keep the whetstone grounded.
Sharpening is easy to do. The whetstone is long and slim, so we felt in total control when gliding the knife along the length of the stone. We managed to achieve super-sharp results after around 20 minutes of sharpening.
Best unique knife sharpener
Star rating: 5/5
- Suitable for European and Japanese knives
- Simple to use
The Horl 2 is the younger sibling of the top-performing Horl 2 Pro. It works in exactly the same way: attach your knife to one side of the magnetic block and roll the cylindrical roller against the blade.
It’s weighty, too, and remains stable on the worktop. Everything we love about the Horl 2 Pro, we also love about the Horl 2. The one major difference between these two models is that the Horl 2 is a lot slower than its older sibling. The Horl 2 Pro took around 3 minutes to take a knife from dull to ultra-sharp, whereas the Horl 2 took around 10 minutes. The Horl 2, although still pricey, is also cheaper than the Pro.
With innovation in spades and producing fantastically sharp results, this sharpener is worth every penny.
ProCook combination whetstone
Best cheap whetstone
Star rating: 4.5/5
- Good grits for basic sharpening: 600, 2000
- Accessories available
- Grippy base
- Accompanying text on stone
- Knives weren’t razor-sharp
If you’re after a whetstone to practice sharpening knives, this ProCook 600- and 2000-grit stone is a brilliant choice for beginners. It’s neat and compact, and there are a few useful accessories that can be purchased for your stone, such as a holder that doubles as a storage box.
It comes with a plastic grippy base that keeps the stone nicely anchored to the bench as you work.
Like all whetstones, this one needs to be soaked before use. We managed to achieve a very good edge on our test knives, though it wasn’t as sharp as others.
Zwilling V Edge knife sharpener
Best knife sharpener for Japanese and European knives
Star rating: 4.5/5
- Total knife coverage
- Suitable for both European and Japanese knives
- Impressive sharpening results, quickly
This is the largest knife sharpener on our list. It sits upright on the countertop, rather than lying on the surface, and comes with a lot of accessories, from sharpening rods of different grades, to angle inserts for western and Japanese knives. There’s a little bit of work needed to get this sharpener set up, but it’s relatively simple and easy to do.
This sharpener works much like a traditional handheld sharpener, but it mitigates the one thing that people tend to get wrong: pressure. With this sharpener, you can’t push down hard against the sharpening rods; rather, all that’s needed is a light push down as you pull the knife towards you. A few swipes of this and you’re ready to move onto the next sharpening rod grade.
We achieved impressive results with this sharpener. After just a few swipes, our knives were razor-sharp.
It’s not the easiest knife sharpener to store, but we saw such good results that we think it’s well worth finding space for.
Miyabi Toishi pro whetstone
Best one-sided whetstone
Star rating: 4.5/5
- Convenient if you’re adding a stone to your collection
- Nicely weighted
If you’ve already got a whetstone or two at home and you’re looking to add another grit level to your collection, this Miyabi whetstone is a fantastic choice.
It doesn’t come with anything other than the whetstone, though it’s easy enough to create a makeshift support from tea towels. It’s nicely weighted and vibrant green, so there’s no chance you’ll lose it at the back of a cupboard.
This stone stayed in place when we were sharpening our knife. While the finished knife was very sharp, we felt it could have benefitted from some further honing to get it to the razor-sharp stage. Though, as we say, this is a whetstone to slot into your collection – 400- and 5000-grit whetstones are also available.
Minosharp water sharpener
Best handheld knife sharpener
Star rating: 4/5
- Comfortable to hold
- A little light
- Doesn’t secure to surface
This is a small and tidy handheld knife sharpener that fits neatly in a cutlery drawer. It has two sharpening and honing wheels; usefully the numbers ‘one’ and ‘two’ are printed on the plastic guard to let you know in which order to sharpen your knives.
The handle is comfortable to hold and even has a little padding on top for extra comfort. On the underside are some grippy pads that keep the sharpener stable on the kitchen counter.
A wealth of instructions come with the Minosharp, and it’s easy to fill the water reservoir that sits beneath the wheels.
Minosharp says knives only need 15 strokes to sharpen, so we did exactly that. It did a pretty good job overall, though admittedly the knives weren’t as sharp as those sharpened using the Horl 2 and 2 Pro, nor the whetstones. But, if you’re after something easy to use that’ll put a fair edge on your knife quickly, this is good to have on hand.
Victorinox knife sharpener
Best compact knife sharpener
Star rating: 4/5
- Small and compact
- Two-stage grinding
Ergonomic and attractively designed, this simple knife sharpener features only one wheel for sharpening. However, there’s a little switch on the face of the sharpener that flicks between pre-grinding the blade (prepping the blade for sharpening) and precision grinding (honing the blade).
It’s easy to see to which stage the switch is set, and sharpening is just as simple. All you need to do is firmly grip the handle which, coupled with the pads on the underside, secure it to the worktop, then gently pull the blade through in a careful and controlled manner.
This model won’t restore your blade to its former glory, but it did manage to produce a decent edge to the blade that’ll help make prep work a lot easier.
ProCook twin-wheel knife sharpener
Best cheap knife sharpener
Star rating: 4/5
- Small and compact
- Two sharpening grades
This ProCook sharpener isn’t dissimilar in design to the Minosharp above. It too has two grinding wheels, and water needs to be added to the chamber beneath them.
We like its compact body and accessible price point.
There are plastic feet on the underside for stability, though they don’t anchor the sharpener as well as some of the others on this list. Like the Minosharp, numbers are written on the plastic guard to guide you through the sharpening process.
Our sharpened knife came out well, though it certainly wasn’t as sharp as the knives sharpened using our top-scoring models. Though for a quick touch-up before you carve meat or begin a big chopping session, this ProCook model is well worth having around.
What to look for in a knife sharpener
There are a few factors to consider when searching for the perfect knife sharpener for your needs. Look for the following features when choosing a knife sharpeners:
- Compact design, ideal for easy storage
- Multiple sharpening stages for more detailed and precise sharpening
- Base with grip or non-stick feature to keep the sharpener stable in use
- Adjustable angle options to ensure the angle is correct for the knife you’re sharpening. (Generally 20 degrees for European knives, 15 degrees for Japanese knives)
- Grit levels on a whetstone are the same as sandpaper: lower grit removes material and reshapes, and a higher grit provides a finer edge
- Double-sided stones provide added versatility and means there’s less kit to store
- Speedy and efficient: can work through a number of knives quickly compared to manual sharpening
- Added features: some models come with a polishing or honing stage for added refinement
Whichever type of sharpener you buy, always ensure:
- Compatible with your knives, including serrated knives
- Easy to use and store
- Durable and well made
- Any safety features, like guides or guards
How to sharpen a knife using a knife sharpener
To sharpen a knife on a typical handheld knife sharpener, instructions are as follows:
- Fill up the water reservoir, if the sharpener requires it
- Hold the sharpener firmly on a flat, stable surface
- If the sharpener has multiple sharpening stages, begin with the first stage and draw the blade through the slot with light pressure. Move from the base of the knife to the tip
- Repeat this process a few times, then move onto the next sharpening stage, if the sharpener has one
- Clean your knife to remove any residue
Sharpening a knife using a dual-sided whetstone:
- Submerge the whetstone in water until the small bubbles stop rising from the stone
- Set the whetstone either in a holder or securely on a non-slip surface (olive tip: put some tea towels or a towel around the whetstone as it can get a little messy)
- Drizzle water over the top of the stone
- Starting with the coarsest side, hold the knife blade at the right angle (between 15 and 20 degrees, depending on the blade)
- Apply light pressure and sweep the knife across the stone in a consistent back-and-forth motion. Do this across the entire length of the blade
- Make sure to flip the knife and repeat on the other side
- If you hear the blade and stone making a scratching sound, add more water to the stone
- Once you’re happy with the sharpness, flip the stone to the finer side, add more water and repeat the process above
- Rinse and clean the blade, drying immediately
- Rinse the whetstone and allow to dry fully before storing away
There are a few knife sharpeners that utilise different sharpening methods to those above, and thankfully they come with detailed instructions on how to use them.
How we tested knife sharpeners
It should come as no surprise that we tested knife sharpeners by sharpening a variety of knives. In preparation for the test, we used a selection of chef’s knives as one usually would over the course of a few weeks, allowing them to dull naturally over time. These knives were a selection of those used in the olive test kitchen and the olive team’s own knives that are used at home.
We then sliced a tomato before sharpening the knife. Each knife was sharpened following the sharpener’s instructions. Once finished, we sliced the tomato again to be able to compare the performance of the dull knife and sharpened one. We also performed a paper cutting test. Each knife sharpener was also scored against the following criteria:
- Easy to use: we looked for sharpeners that were simply designed and straightforward to use, those that were over-engineered or needlessly complicated were marked down
- Versatile: we made a note if the sharpener could be used to sharpen bread knives
- Easy to store: for many of us, space is at a premium in our kitchens, so we looked for sharpeners that didn’t take up too much space
- Sustainable: we looked for sustainable and easy to recycle packaging, as well as long warranties
- Results: each knife sharpener had to demonstrate significant improvement to the knife’s sharpness and to easily slice through a tomato once sharpened
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