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Published Aug 18, 2023 12:52 PM
Most people have seen a knife butchered (pun intended) by someone using a power tool to sharpen a knife. That’s because most tools that get pressed into service as a sharpener are bench grinders and rotary tools. In my sharpening business, I’ve seen dozens of knives that needed rehabbing and reworking after someone hamfisted them with a grinding wheel.
But I’ve also used power tools to fix (as much as possible) those very same knives. The difference between destruction and a mirror-polished edge is in the design. Several electric knife sharpeners on the market today, if used properly, will put a sharp, refined edge on a knife. I put several of the best electric knife sharpeners to the test to help you find the right one for you.
How I Tested the Best Electric Knife Sharpeners
I recruited friends to bring me two dozen of their beat-up knives. The knives ranged in size and style to test the sharpeners with a variety of blades, inlcuding:
Some knives had broken tips and large rolls and chips, and some just needed a touch up.
While sharpening the knives, I evaluated each sharpener for ease of use, skill level required, quality of the edge, and how easy it was to remove damage. Only the sharpeners that produced a good working edge and, in my opinion, are worth owning made the cut.
Some sharpeners hit the trash can almost immediately and aren’t worth talking about. But my final list of the best electric knife sharpeners includes the best of the best.
The Best Electric Knife Sharpeners: Reviews and Recommendations
- Includes five 1 x 18-inch belts from 120 grit to 12,000 grit
- Adjustable edge angle from 10 degrees to 35 degrees
- Can sharpen any knife or tool (Chisels, axes, scissors, etc.)
- Adjustable belt speed
- Able to sharpen serrations
- Produced the sharpest edges
- Belts last longer because of increased surface area
- Made the fastest repairs
- Requires the most skill/practice
- Most expensive sharpener in the test
The Blade Grinder Attachment is not a self-powered tool. As the name suggests, it’s just an attachment. It works with the Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition sharpener, so you must purchase both. But it’s worth the cost of entry. The belts are wider and longer than standard Work Sharp belt sharpeners, and the adjustability allows you to get the perfect angle for any task and knife style.
With the optional stropping belts, you can get near-perfect, polished edges, and with the extra coarse belts, reshaping a broken tip or removing a large chip is quick work. Outside of sharpening, you can square the spine of a knife to make it better for scraping a fire steel or making tinder, and it’s capable enough that you can dip your toes into knifemaking.
Keeping a steady angle while sharpening takes practice since there’s no guide, but once you get it down, it will produce the sharpest edge possible. As with all electric sharpeners, you must be careful not to round the tip, especially on the coarser belts.
To keep from rounding the tip, be sure not to rotate the handle too far as you near the end, and keep your pass as one fluid motion, not pausing while the tip is still on the belt.
If you want the best edges possible from an electric sharpener, this is your tool. While the Blade Grinder attachment has a learning curve, I think it’s worth it for the unmatched end result.
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Best for Kitchen Knives: Chef’s Choice 15XV
- 3 stages of sharpening
- Large guides for easy operation
- Honing/Stropping disks can be dressed to extend useful life
- Will sharpen serrated kitchen knives
- Easiest to use
- Detailed instructions for sharpening specialty and single bevel Chef’s Knives
- Quietest motor of all sharpeners tested
- Low edge angle for excellent slicing
- Slowest tested for repairing chips and reprofiling
- Won’t accept thicker blades
This was the only kitchen knife sharpener to make my best electric knife sharpeners list because it actually did the job it claimed—unlike others I tested. I found it quiet, efficient, and easy to use, producing consistent edges.
I like that you can leave the Chef’s Choice 15XV on the counter because it doesn’t look like a tool from the garage. Its rectangular shape helps it easily stow in a cabinet.
I found that this sharpener is best suited for maintaining the sharpness of your kitchen knives rather than fixing heavy damage. Since the guides are too narrow for many of my outdoor knives, this sharpener lost points for versatility but gained them for ease of use.
My kids (11 and 14) easily operated the Chef’s Choice 15XV after a 30-second tutorial and got solid edges from it. I say solid edges because the 15XV won’t produce mirror-polished hair whittling edges, but it gives a great working edge for kitchen knives. It’s a great tool to just leave on the counter so you can periodically run your steak knives, chef knives, and even your serrated bread knives through it to keep them up to snuff.
The 15XV has what Chef’s Choice calls a Three Stage Trizor Edge with coarse, medium, and stropping wheels for a nice refined edge. However, you have the option of not stropping the edge if you want it a bit “toothy” to get through fibrous fare with ease. The instruction book helps show how to best sharpen serrations and specialty edges. If you’re looking for a tool to keep your kitchen sharp and want it quick and easy, the Chef’s Choice 15XV might be the one for you.
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Best Value: Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener Mk.2
- Three grits are included with the tool (two of each grit for six belts total)
- Two-speed motor
- 20 and 25-degree adjustable guide
- Cassette head swivels and locks for use on other tools
- Price: $89.95 – $109.95 depending on where you buy
- Lots of bang for your buck
- Excellent edges
- Demo videos are available using the QR code on the box
- 3-year warranty
- Limited angle adjustment
- The motor is only on when the trigger is being squeezed
The Mark 2 is a no-frills belt sharpener that produced great edges on various blades and did it on a budget. Work Sharp updated their original sharpener by adding a two-speed motor to make it more versatile and a pivoting cassette head (which holds the belt and blade guides), making tool sharpening easier.
The sharpening guide has two settings: 20 and 25 degrees. The 20-degree guide is excellent for outdoor knives but a little steep for kitchen knives—usually sharpened to a finder 15 degrees.
Still, the 20-degree edge gets shaving sharp results, and the 25-degree setting is great for impact tools like machetes and larger chopping knives. The guides make it easy to get repeatable results, and the coarse belt makes repairing damage quick and easy.
Using the Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener Mk.2 is pretty straightforward. There’s a trigger that you squeeze to turn the sharpener on while your other hand uses the sharpening guide to slide the knife from heel to point. You can interchange the belts from coarse to fine as you sharpen.
But, there is a learning curve to using the Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener Mk.2, and it revolves around when to let off the trigger to stop the belt when you’re at the tip of the blade. Stopping the belt as you reach the tip will prevent you from rounding it off. The directions and well-made demo videos linked on the box make it clear the best technique to use so you don’t round the tips off on your knives.
In testing, I found the trigger switch is easy to operate, and the handle is comfortable and ergonomic if you have a bunch of blades to sharpen. Replacement belts are readily available and inexpensive, but the belts you get with the tool should last you quite a while. The Mk.2 was the runaway winner for the best value in electric knife sharpeners.
Most Versatile Electric Sharpener: Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener Ken Onion Edition
- Five grits included ranging from 120 to 6000
- The angle guide adjusts from 15 to 30 degrees
- Variable speed control
- The locking power switch allows for prolonged use and two hands on the knife
- The swivel head and removable guides allow for sharpening nearly anything
- Wider belts mean extended life and faster results
- More powerful motor with cooling fins for big projects
- Guides make for easy operation and repeatable results
- Excellent sharpness achievable
- Removes material quickly if you aren’t set up properly
The Ken Onion Edition is so named because it was designed and upgraded from the base model with inputs from the famous knife maker himself, and those upgrades make a big difference.
The Ken Onion Edition works similarly and does everything the Mk.2 can, but better and faster. And it does some things that the Mk.2 doesn’t. For example, I removed the guides (not possible on the Mk.2) and rotated the head to sharpen the blades on my lawnmower. And I did it while they were still on the mower. I know this review is about knife sharpening, but come on, that’s cool.
Obviously, the Ken Onion Edition will sharpen any knife you have with its wide range of angles available on the guides. This means you can get a mirror edge on the super thin chef knife down at 15 degrees, or your sharpened pry bar of a survival knife can have a nearly indestructible 30-degree edge angle. There is a built-in guide for sharpening scissors, and it actually works well. It’s not just an afterthought. This is the only sharpener in the Work Sharp line that will accept the blade grinding attachment reviewed above if you want to go that direction.
I have a Ken Onion Edition that is four years old with hundreds of hours of use from my sharpening business, and I have a new one, and I can’t tell the difference between them in their performance. This is a versatile and robust sharpener that is well-made. If versatility and performance are your top priorities, take a look at the Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition.
Things to Consider Before Buying an Electric Knife Sharpener
Choosing an electric sharpener is similar to choosing a knife. You have to be honest about what you want to do with it. Is this strictly for the kitchen? Do you have damaged knives that need repair? Are the knives you want to sharpen just for hunting and outdoor use?
If you’re looking for a kitchen tool, the 15XV will do all you want it to. If you have a wide variety of knives, some with thicker spines or recurved edges, then one of the Work Sharp Belt Sharpeners will be much more versatile, and the Mk.2 should work perfectly for you. But, if you want to bring your edges to the next level and need a sharpener that will pull double duty in the garage or barn, then go for the Ken Onion with the blade grinder attachment.
But, be aware that not all sharpeners are created equally. Plenty of cheaper sharpeners look very similar to the 15XV, but they use cheap stones instead of abrasive discs, and they quickly overheat and damage the metal at the edge. Others have guides so narrow that you can’t get the heel far enough forward to sharpen it. One sharpener I tested was so loud and shaky (due to cheap, unbalanced synthetic stones) that it walked across the table if I didn’t hold it down. It also threw loads of sparks when the blade made contact. Did it grind the edge? Yes, so much so that it made a divot and heated the edge blue. Most of these sharpeners show up on Amazon for a third of the price or less, so beware of deals that are too good to be true. Save up a little and get a quality tool to take care of the knives that keep you going in the kitchen or outdoors.
Q: Can electric sharpeners damage my knife?
Yes, but so can most sharpening methods. The biggest risks with electric sharpeners are rounding the tip off, getting too much heat in the blade, and “burning” the edge. These risks are basically out of the picture when you follow the directions for the sharpener. I recommend practicing on inexpensive knives that you don’t care about as much or that are already damaged while you are learning the basics of your sharpener.
Q: Are all electric sharpeners the same?
Absolutely not. There are some very poorly designed and executed electric sharpeners out there that look attractive because of the price, but they lose their luster when you hear the terrible noise and watch them burn parts of your edge while not reaching other parts. They may look like some other quality sharpeners, but they don’t work the same way.
Q: Are electric knife sharpeners messy?
Sharpeners with exposed belts will create metal “dust” as they remove material, so you should do it on a surface that is easy to clean or in an area where the dust won’t get on food. I use an old box underneath them to catch the shavings on the off side of the belt, and they only make it a few inches from the sharpener. The Chef’s Choice 15XV keeps all shavings internal and has a clean-out port on the bottom, which is great for the kitchen.
Final Thoughts on the Best Electric Knife Sharpeners
Since no knife can hold its edge forever, having a quality sharpener is just as important as having a quality knife. Although I own and use sharpening stones and clamp style sharpeners, and guided systems with diamond stones, nothing beats the speed and convenience of a quality electric sharpener. If you’re looking to keep your tools up and running and razor-sharp, and you don’t want to take the time to learn a whole new skill, jumping to one of the best electric knife sharpeners might be your best move.