For enjoyable dining, a well-equipped home kitchen is a necessity. It’s usually the most visited place other than the bedroom, a station where we have meals and drinks alone or with others. One of the most useful appliances a cook could own is a Sharpener.
These tools are used to hone and also the reshape blades to produce new burrs. Most home sharpeners can do both to a degree. Redoing the edges of knives before they get scratched or too dull saves time in repeating the procedure and helps to preserve their material. All units work by drawing the metal repeatedly across an abrasive. These come in tungsten carbide, ceramic, steel or diamond surfaces, which are used to reshape blades. Most models have at least two surfaces, one with coarser grit to remove metal, and a finer one to smoothly polish edges.
Different models come with different compromises. Simpler hand tools are more compact and cheaper, while fancier models allow more control of their operation but also require more practice to master.
- Sharpening machines provide less control but are easier and quicker to use. Most are large units meant to be used on the counter. The knives get pulled slowly through slots, and motorized abrasives inside the work. The way in which these are positioned is set by internal guides which keep their blades inserted at proper angles, but certain models accommodate multiple angles to suit various styles. Most have blade styles angled at 20 degrees, but “Asian” ones are usually angled at 15.
- Manual sharpening tools come in many versions. A common type is a handheld tool with two ceramic rods set at certain angles. Knives are stroked against both in sequence, which takes some practice but is effective.
- Sharpener rods are great for honing but not for reshaping really dull material. As there’s no base, the tool is gripped in one hand while the other pulls the knife across.
- Slot sharpeners pull knives repeatedly through a guiding slot like that of electric models. But this takes longer as the abrasive surfaces are not motorized.
- Whetstones like flat Japanese water stones are manual types which take a lot of practice to master, and if used incorrectly can further dull a blade. The type is not popular with users and usually not recommended.
- Good performance. The most important consideration is the ability to produce a consistently sharp and polished, unscratched edge.
- Hard abrasive. Diamond is the hardest and fastest-sharpening material, followed by tungsten carbide and polished ceramic. Higher grit numbers indicate abrasives with finer surfaces.
- Adjustable angles. Some types let inexperienced users keep the blade at correct angles, but others need more practice to use. The best accommodate various angle standards such as 15 and 20 degrees.
- Operating stages. Coarser material is applied to reshape the edge, while finer material is used to touch-up and polish while saving steel.
- Safety features. Good manual models place a barrier between fingers and the blade for safety. Electric models employ slots or rails as guides.