Maintaining the edge of their precious kitchen knives can be a daunting task. There are plenty of methods, leading new chefs to wonder what the best way to sharpen a knife really is.
In this article, we will break down all the sharpening methods you’ll see and explain which is the best overall.
What Are the Ways You Can Sharpen a Knife?
There are four main techniques or devices that can be used:
- Whetstones or oilstones
Whetstones and oilstones are blocks of gritty material. You usually have to use water to sharpen with a whetstone, and oil when using an oilstone.
Stones are also categorized by their grit number. The higher the grit, the finer the stone.
- Pull-through sharpeners
These are manual devices that have slots made of two tungsten carbide blades forming a V, or rods coated with diamond dust or ceramic. You pull your knife through the slots to remove part of the material on the knife and sharpen it.
- Electric sharpeners
These electric devices feature motor-powered discs spinning within the sharpening slots. These discs are coated with coarse materials that grind on the blade when you pull your knife through the slots.
- Sharpening systems
These systems typically consist of sharpening stones or belts of different grit levels. They can be manual, semi-manual, or electric. Most systems have guides that hold your blade at the desired angle while you’re fixing its edge.
Each of these methods can produce a sharp blade under the right circumstances, but some are certainly better than others. In addition, some sharpening methods are better for certain types of knives than others.
What’s the Best Way to Sharpen a Knife?
Each of the sharpening methods has its own pros and cons.
Electric devices would seem to be the best choice on the surface. They’re fast and easy to use because they only require you to turn the machine on, then drag your knife through a slot. It requires a minimal amount of physical effort.
However, electric sharpeners have several downsides. While they are fast, this comes at the cost of losing more material (i.e. your knife gets smaller and harder to remain sharp over time) with each sharpening session. Furthermore, these machines usually aren’t great for thinner knives, as they can easily break the blades.
Manual knife sharpeners are compact, affordable, and easy to use. Of course, they have several downsides of their own. For instance, pull-through sharpeners that don’t have a honing stage can often accidentally make a knife edge a bit jagged instead of smooth and sharp. Plus, most pull-through sharpeners only provide sharp edges for short periods. Their effects don’t last very long compared to other sharpening methods.
Sharpening systems are better than either of the other two options. They allow you to grind at a constant angle, so they’re easy for less experienced sharpeners to use. They can also result in fantastic, long-lasting edges because the precision of the sharpening angle ensures good edges each time you use them.
The downside is that their clamps or apparatuses are usually only suitable for small knives, so you can’t use them with bigger blades. They can also cause scratches on the handle or surface of a knife.
Ultimately, using the whetstone is the best way to sharpen a knife, even if it takes the most skill and practice. A whetstone allows you to customize the angle of sharpening for every blade that you bring to its surface. Even better, there are many types of sharpening stones or whetstones, so there’s something perfect for every phase of a full sharpening process.
Using a whetstone guarantees that your knife will have a long life span. You can use a whetstone with any type of knife in your collection regardless of their sizes.
There’s no denying that learning how to use a whetstone properly takes some time, but everyone can figure it out with a little patience and the right guide.