Ensure your blade stays sharp by investing in an easy-to-use handheld sharpener. We tested simple pull-through gadgets to bring you a review of five best buys.
Best bits: Compact size and suction pad base
Comments: This diminutive gadget is a smart invention – the smallest sharpener we tried, it takes up barely any kitchen space, and the lever secures the suction base to the surface incredibly firmly – so much so, you could sharpen one-handed. It feels safe, intuitive to use and after three pulls our blunt knife was very sharp.
Best… for overall sharpening
Best bits: Excellent sharpening stone and safe-to-use handle
Comments: This sharpened our knife beautifully and was probably the best sharpening stone of all. The handle places your hand a safe distance away from the blade area, and the suggestion of adding water to lubricate the wheels worked a treat.
Best… beginner sharpener
Lakeland compact knife sharpener
Best bits: Inexpensive price point, small kitchen footprint and ease of use
Comments: A good choice for a beginner cook and people with small kitchens, this small sharpener has a good grip and a comfortable mechanism. It’s intuitive and features two settings.
Best… for the outdoor cook
Best bits: Transportability and quickness of sharpening function
Comments: A good choice for a budding Bear Grylls, this tiny, portable pocket sharpener could be fitted to a keyring. However, without a handle or suction mechanism, this requires a steady, experienced hand to use it safely.
Best bits: Super comfortable handle and sturdy feel
Comments: This safe-feeling sharpener has only one setting but sharpens well. The handle is comfy and easy to hold, and the thumb guard makes it feel extra safe.
Tested by Barney Desmazery
Knives are one of the most commonly-used pieces of kitchen kit, but you won’t get very far with one if it’s blunt. A good sharpener can make a top chopper out of even the cheapest of blades. A ‘dull’, unsharpened knife is actually less safe to use than a sharp one, and some professional chefs will even sharpen their knives daily.
What should I buy?
Lots of knife enthusiasts swear by a traditional steel for sharpening – but in actual fact this metal rod ‘hones’ a knife, which is essentially realigning the blade and not, strictly speaking, sharpening it. This knife skills video shows you how to use a steel. Whetstones usually come as a flat block of stone, and while they’re very efficient, require a certain amount of skill to use them properly. Hand-held sharpeners are usually small, compact and the best choice for home cooks or beginners – they often come with a safety guard and the wheel action is very intuitive to use. For that reason, we tested handheld sharpeners only.
What we looked for
Ease of use and comfort: We looked for sharpeners that can be used by people of all skill levels.
Sturdiness and steadiness: A sharpener that feels robust and is steady in the hand and on the work surface.
Safety: A top priority – waving sharp pieces of metal around is no trifling kitchen matter. We looked for sharpeners with safety functions and guards to protect against nasty accidents.
Sharpness: The ultimate test. We looked for sharpeners that quickly and efficiently grind a knife to optimum sharpness – a freshly-honed knife should be able to cut through a piece of paper.
Groundness of blade: We marked down sharpeners that left blades with rough edges.
More on knives…
More buyer’s advice
This review was last updated April 2017. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.