Looking for a Knife Sharpening System
April 13, 2012 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Looking to buy a knife sharpening system.

I have been wanting to purchase a knife sharpener (or knife sharpening system) for a while now. I have several kitchen knives that I use on a daily basis that I like to keep sharp. I have one of these tools that I use (not this one, but a similar one) for touch ups, etc and it works fine, but now I am looking at getting something a little more elaborate.

I am not a professional chef or anything like that, but I like to keep my knives sharp. Plus, I have collected several pocket knifes over the years (probably 20 or so) and I like to keep them sharp as well (and their blades are small), so I am looking for a system that will allow me to do this on a periodic basis (I am not sharpeing knives daily or weekly). And I not interested in getting into using wet stones, etc, as that would be a lot more work that I an interested in doing. I am looking for a faster, more user friendly system that will allow me to meet my needs.

I was really thinking about using this Spyderco system and have read a lot of reviews on it. The price is within my budget (on Amazon) as I can not afford something that will cost several hundred dollars (that isn't an option).

Looking for any advice or feedback that people might have. Thanks,
posted by dbirchum to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
That's not a knife sharpener, contrary to the name. Over time, the thin edge of your knives will curl over and dull. Basically, a honing steel like that will sort of curve the edge back into a more straight position. It won't actually sharpen your knives.

You can use an Arkansas whetstone or something else to truly sharpen your knives -- removing a tiny bit of metal at each pass.
posted by Madamina at 8:17 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a version of this Chef's Choice electric sharpener. There are versions on Amazon not much more expensive than the spiderco you link to.

It's really fantastic. I actually just cut myself on Wednesday because the knife was too dull. Out comes the sharpener, and the knife was razor sharp in four minutes for the rest of my dinner.

It's foolproof and quick. I don't bother with the knife sharpening steels.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:19 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

This answer may surprise you. I've fallen in love with my Accusharp knife sharpener, after years of using expensive and elaborate methods including those fancy electric ones. It's simple to use, VERY cheap (like $5) and almost unbearably tacky and ugly looking. But it really works. I've had this for two years and using it and a steel like the one you have, I've been perfectly satisfied. Really, it's excellent.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 8:21 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, you might see if there's a knife-sharpening service in your area, like at a kitchen or restaurant supply store. You might not get the satisfaction of doing it yourself, and it might not be as inexpensive, but the prices are usually very reasonable. Plus there's the snob factor of saying, "Oh, yeah, I just take them to my guy. He's the best." It's always fun to say that you have a "guy" :)
posted by Madamina at 8:21 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Obligatory Scary Sharp(tm) system post. It requires buying some grades of emery paper, and a piece of glass/tile; probably about 10% or less of the cost of the electric sharpening system above.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:22 AM on April 13, 2012

I've used the Spyderco for a few years. It's a solid product. It's almost everything you need. The only drawback is that that the diamond stones are expensive and trying to reshape the blade on a truly whacked out knife takes a while with the included stones. I keep a more aggressive sharpening stone around for those times when I need to remove a lot of material, then finish it up with the Spyderco.

I don't use a steel, rather I just leave the ceramic stones on the spyderco and make 2-3 passes on my main knife a couple times a week (this is a carbon steel knife, so it requires a bit more attention than stainless).
posted by pjaust at 8:23 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

We have the Chef's Choice knife sharpener, and it is AWESOME. It has three "phases": a sharpening, stelling, and stropping. My husband and I went through several tomatoes as we sharpened all the knives in the house and then used them to cut paper-thin slices. Even our relatively cheap steak knives could slice through the tomatoes like they were butter. I guess it's a little spendy, but not all that bad and the benefits of having super sharp knives really outweigh the cost.
posted by Kimberly at 8:32 AM on April 13, 2012

I've fallen in love with my Accusharp knife sharpener

Me too! I mean, I'm in love with my own, not yours.

It's absurdly easy, and ridiculously inexpensive. Paired with a steel that you know how to use properly and suddenly doing prep is sheer pleasure.

Another advantage is if you try this and hate it for some reason, you're out less than 10 bucks.
posted by rtha at 8:39 AM on April 13, 2012

I tend to defer to Ruhlman when it comes to kitchen gadgets, and he recommends the two-sided the DuoSharp bench "stone". Obviously, it's diamond grit rather than stone, but you have the same amount of control, so you can get exactly the angle you want (which is great if you have both European- and Japanese-bevel knives like me).
posted by supercres at 8:39 AM on April 13, 2012

Morty the Knife Man's "1-2-3 sharp". $30. Simple, ingenious, effective, very well thought of by sophisticated home chefs. You have to call to order.

Endorsements from cooking light and LA Times. More if you google.
posted by Quisp Lover at 8:40 AM on April 13, 2012

By the way, if you take your knives to a kitchen store to be sharpened, they'll often (in my experience) just use something like an expensive version of the Chef's Choice sharpener. Not worth it, in my opinion. If I'm going to get them professionally sharpened, I want it to be with a belt or a stone. Make sure you ask.
posted by supercres at 8:42 AM on April 13, 2012

I have the Spyderco and I like it. It works well for kitchen knives and pocket knives.
posted by kprincehouse at 8:43 AM on April 13, 2012

Another endorsement for the Chef's Choice machines. If you want to sharpen knives simply without worrying about details of angles, passes, wetness, etc it's the thing. Knife goes in dull, comes out sharp, done. There's no art or craft to using it.
posted by Nelson at 8:53 AM on April 13, 2012

I also have the Spyderco system and I love it. I've tried using a Japanese waterstone but since I only need to sharpen knives once every few months I don't really have the time or interest to learn a technique or soak anything, or otherwise spend time trying to figure out how to not use it incorrectly and make things worse. With the Spyderco you just set it up and sharpen. There's hardly anything to learn and you always get the angles right.

In addition to the base system I also bought a set of superfine stones for it but I don't really think they're necessary.

I love finding a really dull, worn pocket knife and after a few minutes with the SpyderCo I can use it to shave the hair off my hand.

I'm sure there are better ways to sharpen a knife out there, but this thing works well, it's in your budget, and there's hardly anything to learn. Go for it.

I should add I've also used the Scary Sharp method that IAmBroom linked to for some chisels and it is amazing. I'm not sure I'd want to attempt it on anything but a perfectly straight blade though.
posted by bondcliff at 10:01 AM on April 13, 2012

I'm a big fan of Accusharp as well.

Cheap, fast, easy, foolproof. If you decide it's not sophisticated enough for you, then you can upgrade to something else without having lost much. It's great for kitchen knives and the like -- basically anything I don't care to put a custom edge on.
posted by aramaic at 10:22 AM on April 13, 2012

The Spyderco system is good for knife nuts who demand reasonably refined edges. It isn't very well suited to edges that have some damage such as chipping, even very small chips. The triangular sharpening "stones" are relatively fine ceramics, which do not remove steel very quickly, but are capable of putting very sharp edges on plain and many serrated edge knives.

Accusharp style sharpeners are a quick and dirty method that are well suited to working knives. While many knife nuts consider them to be crude, brute force devices, they work well enough for most folks. These use tungsten carbide scrapers in a V shape which the blade gets pulled through. Tungsten carbide is harder than cutlery steel, and the V scrapes away steel at the edge to conform to the V angle. Many other brands exist of this style sharpener. Sometimes they offer two or more channels with ceramic or diamond sharpeners in a V shape to further refine the edge.

Traditional flat stones come in all sizes and makeups, including ceramic and diamond. These are simple to use, but many folks seem to make them more complicated than necessary. Coarse diamond stones are best for fixing (grinding away) chips and dinged edges, without getting into power tools.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:38 AM on April 13, 2012

I bought this a while ago and it is awesome. Truly, I thought it would be a useless piece of crap but I can't resist a gadget. It's brilliant. On America's Test Kitchen when they tested knife sharpeners, it came out top, much to everyone's surprise. You have to use it right. Put the handle on the counter, with the sharpeners facing up, put your hand through the handle to steady it and run the knife through the little v-shape on the top. (There are two 'v's on the sharpener, one for knives and one for scissors.)

I've tried whetstones and sharpening steels and by far the best knife sharpener I've ever tried is my cheap one.
posted by essexjan at 11:38 AM on April 13, 2012

I learned to sharpen by using a whetstone and a cruddy Boy Scout knife. Practice, practice, practice. If you're not willing to take the time, the next best is a rig.

I use the Lansky sharpening system for my pocket knife and it works extremely well. It allegedly works for chef knives, but I've had some trouble with keeping the clamp on the blade.

Mrs. Plinth, who is hell on kitchen knives, complained that I don't sharpen them enough (and the Lansky system has overhead in setup and takedown), so I got this, which works fairly well as long as your hand is steady. It takes far less skill than a whetstone to keep consistent and steady.
posted by plinth at 12:03 PM on April 13, 2012

I have that Spyderco system and I think it's great. (The included DVD is a hot, too.)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:09 PM on April 13, 2012

Nthing the Chef's Choice electric sharpener. After spending $20 a shot sharpening my expensive-ish knives for years at a shop, this gadget has paid for itself several times over.
posted by liquado at 12:12 PM on April 13, 2012

Someone I know has a Work Sharp sharpener. I haven't tried it, but he swears by it for kitchen knives. I have one of those electric Chef's Choice sharpeners, and I think it's ok -- not great, but ok. It's easy to use it too aggressively and take off too much metal, but that's probably true of any sharpening system.
posted by Forktine at 12:53 PM on April 13, 2012

I have the Chef's choice for my kitchen knives. I do really like it, but needed an separate sharpener for the santoku knives I have.

I came across the Best Made Company the other day, and their sharpening system looks pretty fantastic. Hella pricey, though.
posted by annsunny at 6:20 PM on April 13, 2012

The SpiderCo Sharpmaker and other rod sharpeners are fantastic for small knives. Bigger chef knives? No go. But for pocket knives? Its excellent; even sharpening beginners can get very good results from it.

It would behoove you to get a good whetstone and post a Craigslist gigs ad asking for someone to teach you how to use it.

A good whetstone will last decades, barring accidents, as long as you practice proper technique*. I used to have a natural stone that I loved; I have an overpriced synthetic with two different grits (on each side) that's an absolute dream. I didn't expect it, but a good rubber/plastic base that the stone skooshes into actually really helps the sharpening process making grinding a consistent angle edge easier.

*has anyone ever "rehabilitated" a poorly used (concave/convex-ed, uneven slope) stone?
posted by porpoise at 7:31 PM on April 13, 2012

Porpoise: The stones of my EdgePro get slightly concave with use, and the manufacturer's recommended solution for this is to grind the stones against a sidewalk or other flat piece of concrete, with some fine sand in between. Seems to work.
posted by Hither at 7:45 PM on April 13, 2012

Hither: "Porpoise: The stones of my EdgePro get slightly concave with use, and the manufacturer's recommended solution for this is to grind the stones against a sidewalk or other flat piece of concrete, with some fine sand in between. Seems to work."

EdgePro also sells a stone leveling kit (video #11 here), and from what I've heard it works well. I haven't bought one yet but I think I'll be doing so soon.
posted by ethand at 7:58 PM on April 13, 2012

Price wise, I think you can do better than the system you link to.

For kitchen knives, you probably need a pair of stones, one for grinding things that have gotten rough and one for serious sharpening. Or a two sided stone. I use a King 800/4000 stone. With the 800/4000 I can usually get things sharp enough to take the hair off the back of my left arm.

For your purposes, the 250/1000 grit stone might be slightly better, since it will get your knives sharp faster and you probably don't need as fine an edge on a kitchen knife (When's the last time you heard a cook complaining about having to deal with the grain reversal in a green pepper or chunk of meat?)

I have some Duosharp diamnond plates. They're nice but a little spendy.

The scary sharp system is good, but works better for things like chisels and planes that have a straight blade.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:10 AM on April 14, 2012

has anyone ever "rehabilitated" a poorly used (concave/convex-ed, uneven slope) stone?

More than I'd like to think about (chisels concave a stone pretty efficiently). You can do it with coarse sandpaper and a FLAT surface. I use an chunk of marble that was an insert in a table once upon a time. A piece of granite counter top works well. So does the cast iron wing of a table saw, though I prefer to do it wet, with wet/dry sandpaper, and would probably bite you if you did that on my table saw.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:17 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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