Keeping your knife sets impeccably sharp is a cornerstone of proficient cooking. A sharp blade ensures precision and safety in the kitchen. Learning how to use a knife sharpener is essential to maintain this edge. Whether you have manual or electric sharpeners, the process involves a few key steps: preparing your knife, finding the correct angle, and drawing it through the sharpener to hone the edge. 

Regular maintenance is crucial for optimal performance. After use, gently clean your sharpener to remove any metal filings and residue to ensure it’s ready for next time.

Choosing the Right Knife Sharpener

Selecting the appropriate tool to sharpen your knife is vital. Sharpening stones offer a traditional approach, while modern sharpening methods range from manual to electric devices.

Manual vs Electric Sharpeners

When deciding between manual and electric sharpeners, consider the control and convenience each offers. Manual sharpeners provide a hands-on feel, while electric models can quickly restore edges with minimal effort. For those less confident in their sharpening skills, taking your knives to a professional sharpener may be best.

Sharpening Stones

Sharpening stones are the bedrock of traditional knife care. When sharpening your knives, these stones offer a level of control that electrical options can’t match. Sliding the blade across the stone methodically allows for a customized edge. Pairing your sharpening stone with honing steel can provide the ultimate maintenance routine.

Honing Steels

For those who regularly sharpen their knives, honing steel is invaluable. They swiftly realign the blade’s edge and are particularly handy for quick touch-ups. While they don’t replace sharpening stones or electric sharpeners, honing steels are a convenient way to maintain sharpness after every use.

how to use knife sharpener

Sharpening Techniques and Steps

Start by placing the blade’s heel against the sharpener at an angle of 20 degrees. Firmly hold the handle and pull the blade toward you, sliding it across the length of the blade while maintaining pressure. Repeat steps for both sides of the blade.

  1. Manual Knife Sharpener

Before sharpening, it’s essential to prepare your knife. Clean the blade thoroughly, ensuring no food residue remains. Use your cutting boards as a stable surface while inspecting the blade for any nicks or unevenness that might affect the sharpening process.

When sharpening, the angle and pressure are essential. Maintain a consistent angle of 20 degrees and apply even pressure as you pull the knife through the sharpener. This consistency is crucial for achieving a sharp, even edge along the entire length of the blade.

After sharpening, it’s time to finalize the edge. Run the knife through the finest grit to polish and smooth the blade. This step removes any burrs and ensures the sharpness of your knife will last through many uses.

  1. Whetstone

Begin by immersing your whetstone in water for approximately 45 minutes. This soaking is critical as it lubricates the stone, preventing the knife from overheating and ensuring a smooth sharpening action.

Keeping a consistent angle is crucial for a uniformly sharp edge when sharpening your knife on a whetstone. Aim to maintain an angle of about 20 degrees between the blade and the stone. Visualize keeping a tiny matchstick between the blade and the stone to maintain the angle. Each time you pull the knife across the stone, ensure this imaginary matchstick stays in place.

After you’ve sharpened your knife with a coarser grit, it’s time for the finishing touches with a fine grit stone. This is where you’ll polish the edge to a razor-sharp finish. Lightly draw the blade across the fine grit, maintaining the same angle.

  1. Electric Knife Sharpener

Start by turning on the machine and selecting the appropriate slot for your dull blades. With a secure grip, gently pull the blade through the sharpening slot, from heel to tip, applying consistent pressure. Repeat this process as necessary, moving to finer grits to polish the knife’s blade to a sharp finish.

Before sharpening a knife with an electric sharpener, ensure the machine is placed on a stable, flat surface. Plug it in and familiarize yourself with the various slots—typically, the coarsest slot to fine. Select the correct slot based on the dullness of your blade and the type of knife you’re sharpening, such as kitchen or pocket knives. Repeating the same process for each side of the knife is important to ensure an adequately sharpened edge.

After you’ve achieved a sharp knife, turn off the electric knife sharpener and unplug it. Remove any metal shavings or debris from the machine using a clean towel. Some models may have removable parts that can be washed separately. Always dry the knife and sharpener thoroughly before storing to prevent rust.

Understanding Knife Sharpness

A chef’s arsenal is incomplete without a well-maintained knife block and sharp knives. Sharpness determines a knife’s efficiency on cutting boards and is a critical factor for precise cuts. To assess sharpness, hand wash your knife and test its edge by slicing through a sheet of paper. If it cuts cleanly, the knife is sharp. Otherwise, it’s time to sharpen.

Identifying a Dull Knife

Recognizing a dull knife is crucial for maintaining your knife block. If slicing becomes laborious or the knife squashes rather than cuts cleanly through food on cutting boards, it’s time to sharpen. To ensure your knives are in top condition, hand wash them after each use and regularly inspect the blade for dullness.

The Difference Between Honing and Sharpening

Understanding the distinction between honing and sharpening your knives is fundamental. While sharpening removes material from the blade, creating a new edge, honing realigns the existing edge without shaving off metal. Use honing steel for regular maintenance to keep your knives’ edges straight and true between more intense sharpening sessions.

how to use knife sharpener

Honing Your Skills With a Steel

Once you’ve sharpened your knives, maintaining their edge with honing steel is essential. Honing realigns the knife’s edge between sharpenings, ensuring peak performance. It doesn’t remove metal like sharpening does, but it’s vital to preserving the sharpness of your knives. Incorporate honing into your routine to keep your knives sharp and ready for any task.

When to Use Honing Steel

You should hone your kitchen knives regularly before or after each significant use. If your knife is not slicing as cleanly or requires more force to cut than usual, it’s time for a honing session. Regular honing can significantly extend the time between sharpenings and is especially important for high-quality knives that can maintain an edge longer.

Wrapping Up

As you sharpen your knives, remember the importance of maintaining the angle for a consistent edge. With the right tools and techniques, you can efficiently sharpen and hone your blades, ensuring they’re always ready for action. A sharp knife makes the cutting or dicing job easier and safer. Keep practicing, and soon you’ll be sharpening like a pro!

Mastering the art of knife sharpening involves understanding the importance of a consistent angle, using the appropriate grit for the task, and following through with each stroke. These skills are fundamental to keeping your blades in top condition.


Eliza is a culinary maven with an undeniable passion for the art of cooking and a deep understanding of all things kitchen-related. She is a renowned kitchen expert and a source of inspiration for aspiring chefs around the world. With years of hands-on experience and a knack for creating delectable masterpieces, she has established herself as a leading authority in the culinary industry.

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