Years ago, cowboyardee has a knife sharpening thread which summarized the various common home sharpening methods. This following post summarizes the conclusion of the thread. This post was referenced many times in the past, so I thought it will be useful for us to have it here for future reference. I made some very minor changes to clean up the post. For example, I uploaded the photos
Below is the post completely reformatted. Let me know if you think it is an
Below is a comparison of different methods of sharpening. All numerical
scores are relative. Scores are on a 1-5 scale. 1 is the lowest or least desirable
score and 5 is the highest.
Carbide shearing sharpener (Accusharp type)
Performance… 2-3 [a]
Versatility… 1 [b]
Speed… 1-3 [c]
Affordability… 1-4 [d]
Electric sharpener (Chef’s Choice powered sharpeners)
Abrasive rods in an X shape (handheld Wusthof sharpener)
Speed… 2 [e]
Ease… 4 [e]
Performance… 1 [e]
Affordability… 5 [e]
Versatility… 2 [e]
Variable-Angle rods (Spyderco Sharpmaker)
Speed… 2 [f]
Wheel sharpener (cheap, handheld Chefs Choice sharpeners)
Jig (EdgePro, Wicked Edge System)
Speed… 1 [g, h]
Performance… 4 [g]
Affordability… 2 [g]
Versatility… 4 [g, h]
Speed… 3-4 [i]
Performance… 1-2 [j]
Ceramic/diamond honing steel
Speed… 1-4 [k]
EXPLANATION OF SCORING
Speed - how fast these methods are as they are actually used by most people.
In other words, this is not just a measurement of grinding power
Ease - considers not just ease of use, but also learning curve
Performance - how sharp an edge it produces, how it affects edge retention,
whether it allows you to thin behind the edge for improved cutting and
Affordability - 1=expensive and 5=cheap. Sorry for any confusion
Versatility - a combination of two things. One is whether a sharpener works
well on different types of knives, and different edge angles, and different
types of steel. The other is whether the sharpener quickly changes the geometry
of the edge, usually by removing metal very aggressively, thus damaging
performance or shortening the lifespan of the knife.
EXPLANATIONS OF TYPES OF SHARPENERS
Carbide shearing sharpener (Accusharp type):
Tungsten carbide blades set in a V which shave bits of metal off the edge
Abrasive rods in an X shape (handheld Wusthof sharpener):
Rods are at a fixed angle, and sharpen both sides at the same time. Often found
as one part of a two part sharpening system - usually along with a carbide
Example: Wustof’s 2 stage sharpener
Variable-Angle rods (Spyderco Sharpmaker):
Rods set at an angle, but only one side is sharpened at a time. Rods can
sometimes be laid flat and used without an angle guide like very narrow
Wheel sharpener (cheap, handheld Chefs Choice sharpeners):
Wheels hold the knife against stationary v-shaped abrasives (sometimes, just
springed walls are used instead of wheels). Both sides are typically sharpened
Jig (EdgePro, Wicked Edge System):
Un-powered mechanical device boasting varied abrasives, very controlled
customizable sharpening angles
A handheld grooved steel rod used as the knife’s only form of sharpening.
Ceramic/diamond honing steel
A handheld ceramic or diamond abrasive-coated rod used as a knife’s only form
[a] Depends greatly on the knife being sharpened
[b] Not only do carbide shearing sharpeners remove metal quickly and typically
not adjust their angle to the knife - they seem not to work on harder, more
brittle steels, causing chips and splinters rather than sharpening smoothly. I
tried one recently on a hitachi white steel ‘fruit’ knife (hrc 63) - the result
[c] Early on, sharpening takes a looong time. With practice, most people get
[d] You can get the stones to do good work for under $10 (a hardware store
oilstone) and great work for under $70 (a combo medium and fine grit
waterstone, a cheap coarse stone, and a homemade strop). BUT many people who
use whetstones wind up spending more than that, either because they view it as
a hobby they want to enjoy or because they are chasing the ‘perfect edge’ or
because they become convinced early on that their mediocre results are the
fault of their equipment rather than their still-underdeveloped skill.
[e] These ratings are just for the abrasive rods part of the sharpener, not for
the combined 2 stage system using a carbide sharpener. Many people buying the 2
stage system seldom use the rods or else find that the rods are mainly useful
in maintaining a mostly-sharp edge, but not in sharpening a dull one.
[f]Sharpening a fully dull knife with one of these takes a LOOONG time. But
maintaining a sharp edge is reasonably quick.
[g] These factors are heavily dependent upon the pro sharpener in question.
Figures provided are guesses/averages, assuming that your professional
sharpener at least is minimally competent.
[h] These factors especially
[i] A honing steel is fast assuming you use it every time you use the knife.
[j] Many say that a steel only trues an edge, and for most people that is true.
However, I’ve come across people who use their grooved steel like a file
(applying more pressure), and actually scrape off enough metal that the steel
is effectively sharpening the knife, albeit not especially well. This type of
use is dependent on technique and also what knives you’re using.
[k] A ceramic steel is fast assuming you use it every time you use the knife.
It is very slow to sharpen a fully dull knife with one.