Updated on December 19th, 2017
Trying to decide which type of knife sharpener will work best for you in the battle of manual vs electric knife sharpener? It’s not an easy battle, since there are so many different types, methods, versions, brands bombarding you with options. One thing is for sure though, using sharp knives in the kitchen is imperative. Continuing to use dull blades when cutting and chopping can cause more than just frustration, it can cause injury. Thus, it’s important to figure this out. Just what type of knife sharpener should you buy? The question usually comes down to manual vs electric knife sharpener.
Manual vs Electric Knife Sharpener
While I am of the opinion that it can be useful to have both options in your kitchen, you may want to settle on just one, and for that we’ll have to get into the specifics of owning a knife sharpener. The decision of which to buy is all up to your personal preferences.
You need to carefully consider your criteria for selection. For more information about how to choose the right sharpener, see our full guide.
- What type of knives will you be sharpening?
- What is your price range?
- Do you need a small, compact sharpener?
Each of these factors has its own pros and cons. You could end up with a lower-cost sharpener that doesn’t work for the type of knives you want to sharpen, or you could pay a lot for a high-end sharpener that is more difficult to use than you want. In each of the sections below, we’ve included a table that will help you sort through the options.
One of the most important factors in determining which sharpener is best for you is the type of knives you’ll be sharpening. There is a difference between styles of knives that will help you understand what to look for in a knife sharpener. To have a better understanding, see this guide on the differences between Euro/American and Asian knife blades.
The case for manual knife sharpeners
Ability to sharpen knives by hand: There’s something to be said about running the tool over the blade with your own hands and feeling the abrasive wheels reshape and refresh the knife. Some believe that an electric knife sharpener is too aggressive with its sharpening, and can damage or ruin the blade, thus having control of the speed and pressure is important.
Better price point: While some manual knife sharpeners can be just as or more expensive than electric alternatives, most of them are affordable and won’t break the bank. You can get a pretty good manual sharpener for $10-20, or a really good one for around $60.
Smaller and easier to store: If you’re worried about this, you likely live in a small apartment, like I do. Kitchen space is at a premium. Manual sharpeners can easily fit into kitchen drawers. They are much smaller and more portable than bulky electric machines.
Good for a quick touch up: As I mentioned, I think there is a case for owning both a manual and an electric knife sharpener. This is the use case I was talking about. Manual sharpeners are great for a quick touch up to your knives in between full sharpenings with the electric sharpener. You can even take them with you camping or to a vacation home to keep your knives fresh while you’re away from home.
How to use a manual knife sharpener
This YouTube video from Wusthof will show you how easy it is to use a handheld sharpener.
Find one that’s right for you
Once you’ve decided that a manual knife sharpener is for you, it comes down to finding the right one. Unfortunately, there isn’t just one sharpener that is right for everyone. For that reason, we’ve put together a chart to help you choose between the top knife sharpeners for 2017.
In this table, the knife type “standard” refers to a standard straight-edge, 20-degree American/European blade. All sizes are in inches.
The case for electric knife sharpeners
Require minimal effort by the user: With powerful abrasive wheels of an electric knife sharpener, the job can be done with a fraction of the time and energy needed with manual or whetstone sharpeners.
Designed to be intuitive and easy to use: Most electric sharpeners have pre-set angle guides that allow you to just set the knife in the guide and slide it through with no worries. The machine does all of the calculations for you.
More features and functions: Most manual sharpeners don’t offer the features of an electric sharpener. If you have an extensive set of knives, including both American and Asian knives, an electric sharpener will give you the option to sharpen them all to the exact degree they require.
We recommend looking for an electric knife sharpener with 100% diamond abrasives and at least a two-step process that will first sharpen, then hone the knife blade.
How to Use an Electric Knife Sharpener
Though it’s really not much different than using a manual knife sharpener, you might want to see how you can pull the knife through the angle guides smoothly with the motor running, and what all of those slots are for! Here is a video by Smith’s, showing how to use their electric sharpener:
Find one that’s right for you:
Once you’ve decided that an electric knife sharpener is for you, it comes down to finding the right one. Unfortunately, there isn’t just one sharpener that is right for everyone. For that reason, we’ve put together a chart to help you choose between the top knife sharpeners for 2017. In this table, the knife type “standard” refers to a standard straight-edge, 20-degree American/European blade. All sizes are in inches.
I know this makes it sound rather easy to decide between a manual vs electric knife sharpener, and you’ve probably been struggling with the choice for a while. The thing to remember is that as long as you’ve done your homework and chosen the proper mechanics and abrasives, you’ll know what one you should pick. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but if you decide on a cheap knife sharpener, you can expect to get what you pay for. Whether you go with a manual or electric knife sharpener, be sure the abrasive used is high quality and that the guides are ideal for your type of knife. That’s all you really need to know to get sharp knives.
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