What is a knife sharpener?

A knife sharpener is a tool that is normally used to sharpen the knives either by grinding against a hard & rough surface. Typically a stone is used for this purpose. Also a soft surface with hard particles, for instance, sandpaper is used too.

Types of Knife Sharpeners

Electric Sharpeners

Most of the electric sharpeners utilize a 2 to 3 step process for creating, sharpening & honing the edge on a blade. The first step utilizes a coarse grit to sharpen dull blades & the last step uses a fine grit for honing sharp blades. Most of the electric sharpeners have guides that allow a user to get the perfect angle, which makes them ideal & more popular because they greatly simplify the precise task of sharpening knives.

Handheld Sharpeners

Just like electric sharpeners, handheld knife sharpeners simplify the sharpening process, though they are generally limited by having fewer slots to sharpen with. One of the basic advantages of handheld sharpeners have is their portability, & their small size & manual operating method, which make them ideal for cooking professionals who frequently find themselves traveling.

Honing Steels

Most sharpening steels don’t actually sharpen knives.  Sometimes its referred to as sharpening steel, whet steel, or sharpening stick, sharpening rod or butcher’s steel or chef’s steel. Basically, it’s a rod of steel, ceramic or diamond-coated steel which is used to realign blade edges. These are either flat, oval or round in cross-section with up to 1 foot long. But know the difference, that the steel & ceramic honing steels may have longitudinal ridges, while the diamond-coated steels are smooth, however, embedded with abrasive diamond particles.

The traditional honing steel neither hones nor sharpens the blade, its function is just to realign a curved edge rather than remove metal from the edge. Because the term ‘hone’ is associated with light maintenance performed on a blade without the effort & precision normally associated with sharpening, so the name “hone” was loaned. In the year 1980, the ceramic abrasives gained popularity & proved equal, if not superior, a method for achieving the same daily maintenance tasks. But later manufacturers replaced steels with ceramic sharpening “steels” which was, in fact, hones.

Sharpening Stones

A sharpening stone is another tool to sharpen the knives. Most common materials which are used for sharpening stones are made of Novaculite, aluminum oxide, & silicon carbide, which are commonly known as Arkansas, India, & Crystolon stones respectively. Where Arkansas stones are totally natural stones, while India & Crystolon are man-made. Arkansas sharpening stones vary from fine to coarse in grit type, while India stones are better suited for fine sharpening & Crystolon are better for initial coarse sharpening.

Serrated Knife Sharpeners

Serrated knives are difficult to sharpen with a stone because of their shape of the blade. Common sharpeners, both manual & electric, will actually damage your serrated blades. Nonetheless, there are certain knife sharpeners that are able to accommodate serrated blades too. Also, manufacturers state whether their sharpeners can be used with serrated blades in their manual or literature. So be careful when you make a purchase.

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