Learn how to sharpen your knife correctly so you can prepare your dishes with ease.See: How to Chop an Onion
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How to Sharpen a Knife (and Hone It) the Right Way
Every few months, you'll notice that your chef's knife has a harder time yielding perfectly thin slices and precise dices. You might even find your knifework is slipping—literally. And aside from being annoying to cut with, a dull knife can be seriously dangerous. To keep your fingers (and your dinner) in good shape, you'll want to learn how sharpen a kitchen knife by using a whetstone or a sharpener, and maintain that edge by honing it with a steel rod.
The Best Chef's Knives for the Money
How to Sharpen a Knife With a Mug
Cavan Images/ Getty Images
If you've ever found yourself with a dull knife, a pile of ingredients to chop, and no sharpener in sight, the solution to faster, safer cooking is already sitting in your cupboard. That's right, a ceramic mug is your key to a knife that's sharp enough to sink through a tomato, slice a jumbo onion, or cut through a butternut squash with no fear of slippage.
When it comes down to it, doing meal prep with a dull knife simply isn't safe — after all, how are you going to cook all kinds of delicious recipes from The Spruce Eats if you're nursing an entirely preventable kitchen injury? Keeping your knives sharp lets you focus on the knifework at hand (instead of the work the knife is doing on your hand).
Choose a simple, sturdy mug whose handle sits flush against the container. Avoid anything with an ornate, delicate, or decorative handle, as you'll need to maintain a very firm grip on it while you're sharpening.
How To Sharpen A Knife With A Mug
Here's how to do it:
- Hold the mug upside-down in one hand, then place the base of the knife blade at a 45-degree angle against the exposed ceramic rim at the bottom.
- Keeping a firm grip on both the mug and the knife handle and maintaining that 45-degree angle, drag the knife against the rim using even pressure as though you were using a traditional sharpening steel. Do this three times on the first side.
- Repeat on the other edge of the blade, drawing the knife against the ceramic rim three times.
- Repeat using the first edge of the blade, but do it two times.
- Repeat using the second edge of the blade.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 once more, but do it one time on each side.
- Carefully wipe the resulting carbon dust from the blade using a clean, damp dish towel, then slice away!
Using the three-three-two-two-one-one method ensures that the blade's edge is sharp and centered. Favoring one side will cause the blade to skew one way or the other (also called a "rolled" edge), so be sure to apply even pressure to both sides for a centered edge that will immediately grip the ingredients. If the edge is sharpened too far in one direction, the improperly sharpened edge will push ingredients away instead of cutting through them.
Now this technique won't get your knife professional-grade razor-sharp and is not a replacement for a quality knife-sharpening steel. You should still have one of those, and give each knife 10-15 drags on each side every couple of weeks. But in a pinch — because hey, sometimes you need to slice a tomato right now — this mug hack will absolutely do the trick.
To add to my sentence from the previous section, to sharpen a knife you are scraping away metal from the knife with an abrasive at an angle.
So if you look at a typical double bevel knife, the edge is made of two angles that meet in the middle. This is set by the person or manufacturer who made your knife which is usually somewhere between 15-25 degrees on one side. The lower the degree, the sharper the edge.
So do you need to figure out the specific degree of the chef knife you want to sharpen? Not at all, this is something that I feel is completely over thought by beginners. For this case, we are trying to match the edge angle set by the manufacturer.
In the video, I use the “magic marker” trick to get feedback on where on the blade I am actually sharpening. Here is a great chart from Japanese Knife Imports showing the feedback examples:
Credit: Japanese Knife Imports
Should I Have a Pro Sharpen My Knives?
READER QUESTION: Are there any good knife sharpeners for home use, or should I take my knives to a professional for sharpening?
Great question! To start, let's quickly recap on knife care terminology.
- Sharpening a knife shaves off a bit of metal to bring back the knife's sharp edge. If you're a frequent home cook and use your knives at least once a day, you should sharpen your knives 2 to 3 times a year.
- Honing a knife with a honing steel realigns the edge and helps keep the knife sharp. It doesn't remove metal like sharpening. If you're cooking a lot, you should hone your knives 2 to 3 times a week.
Professional knife sharpeners charge on average about $1 an inch, or $8 to sharpen an 8-inch chef's knife. This is a great option if you have want to offload the responsibility and ensure your knives get a tip-top treatment. Depending on how many knives you use regularly, though, it can get costly if you're having them sharpened a few times a year, especially since you'll still want to purchase a honing steel to use at home. (I like this one, but this is a more budget-friendly pick.)
If you want to take charge of your knives and do your own sharpening, there are good knife sharpeners for home use. They're not cheap, but could still be cheaper than professional sharpening when you consider the cost of sharpening knives a few times a year over many years.
I have and use this electric knife sharpener from ChefsChoice. I got it as a gift years ago, and it has been a solid performer -- it's fast, easy to use, durable, and most importantly, really works to get my standard 20-degree edge knives super sharp again.
If I were buying an electric knife sharpener now, though, I'd go for the updated 15 Trizor XV model, which comes in at $10 more than the model I have. It's universally praised for being an electric sharpener that can do all the things: sharpen, hone, and polish both Western-style knives with 20-degree edges (serrated, too!) and Japanese knives, with their thin, razor-sharp 12 to -15-degree edges. Even better: it can turn a knife with a 20-degree edge into one with a super sharp 15-degree edge.
-Cambria, Product and Lifestyle Director, avid knife-user, and pro electric knife sharpener
How to Sharpen a Knife With a Whetstone
There is nothing more frustrating in the kitchen than a dull knife. Not only does it make prep work a chore and your finished product less attractive, but it's also downright dangerous. A dull blade requires more pressure to cut into a food, and can easily slip off of a tough onion skin and into your finger. Ouch.
Most home cooks should sharpen their knives at least twice a year, and much more frequently if they use their knives every day. There are three ways to go about it.
- Method 1: Use an Electric Sharpener. Quality electric sharpeners are an option, but I strongly discourage their use. First off, they remove a tremendous amount of material from your edge. Sharpen your knife a dozen times, and you've lost a good half-centimeter of width, throwing it off balance, and rendering any blade with a bolster (i.e. most high-end forged blades) useless. Secondly, even the best models provide only an adequate edge. If you don't mind replacing your knives every few years and are happy with the edge they give you, they'll do the trick. But a much better choice is to.
- Method 2: Send it out to a professional. This is a good option, provided you have a good knife sharpener living nearby, and are willing to pay to have the services performed. If you plan to sharpen your blades a dozen or so times a year, as I do, this can get quite expensive. All but the best professionals also use a grinding stone that, again, will take away much more material than is necessary from your blade, reducing its lifespan. Want to forge a stronger relationship with your blade? Then you'll want to.
- Method 3: Use a Sharpening Stone. This is the best method by far. Not only will it give you the best edge, it also removes the least amount of material. With a fine enough grit, your knife should be able to take hairs off your arm when you've finished. Additionally—and I'm not kidding about the importance of this one—the act of sharpening your knife will help you create a much stronger bond with your blade, and a knife that is treated respectfully will behave much better for its owner. The only problem? It takes a little know-how.
That's where we come in. Get yourself some whetstones (also commonly referred to as waterstones), follow the instructions, and practice. You won't believe the difference a sharp knife can make in your cooking.
Shopping and Maintenance
When buying a waterstone, look for a large one, at least two-and-a-half inches wide by eight inches long, and an inch in thickness. Stones come in various grit sizes, ranging from around 100 and up to 10,000+. The lower the number, the coarser the grit, and the more material it will take off of your knife.
Bear in mind: The higher the grit, the sharper the edge you will get, but the more strokes it will take to get you there.
I recommend keeping two stones in your kit. One with a medium grit (around 800 or so) to perform major sharpening jobs, and one with a fine grit (at least 2,000) to tune the edge to a razor-sharp finish. For real pros, a stone with an ultra-fine grit (8,000 and above) will leave a mirror-like finish on your blade, but most cooks won't notice the difference in terms of cutting ability.
Dalstrong Elite Spotlight
The chef’s knife is the most versatile and useful knife in your knife set. It is the one you will grab most often, the one you use for chopping, slicing, dicing and everything in between, and it’s the one you may even want to have two of.
Learn everything you need to know about the best knife sharpeners on the market. When was the last time you sharpened your kitchen knife? If the answer is “gee, I really can’t remember, it was so long ago,” your reputation as a chef might be in danger.
From knife block sets to steak knife sets and everything in between. There’s tons of factors to consider when it comes to deciding on a kitchen knife set. Even those who are already knee-deep in the world of knives can find it overwhelming, so for the uninitiated it can be absolutely daunting.
Knife sharpening rabbit hole: Viking Edge strop upgrade
My focus has shifted back to issues of kitchen knife sharpness maintenance—and my surprising success in relying on a green loaded strop. It’s really only surprising if you think using wet stones is the only way. Critical demands for sharpness often rely on stropping, not stones. For shaving, here’s an example:
I think the word “strop” comes from the leather “strap” used for straight blade shaving. Mounted on a board—with two strips of leather attached, it is the sharpener of choice for woodworker tools, sporting knives, and pocket knives. For straight razors used at barber shops, the leather strop is often enough for blade maintenance, but for the other uses, the mounted strop is loaded with compound.
The most frequent practice I imitated was to load green compound on one side, and use raw leather on the other—so, that’s what I did. I didn’t expect much. The secret that I think made it work for me was that I discovered a consistent stroke I could use to maintain an approximate fifteen degree angle. Since fifteen degrees works for all my knives except the birchwood, I could standardize my stroke.
It worked! I could pass the paper test before/after. I saved my two honing rods for immediate touch-up and haven’t needed anything else since.
My new $30 strop, “The Viking Edge,” has wider (7.5 cm.) and longer (25 cm.) strips of leather: one rough, and the other smooth:
The two sides almost feel like they came from a barber shop, whereas the ones on my paddle strop feel like they came from a craftsman’s bench. Looking at both of them, side by side, leads me to imagine using them together: I could load both sides of my paddle strop, and use my new strop for polishing and refining: no loading.
I’ve loaded my paddle strop with green (fine) on one side, and red (ultra fine) on the other. I then will leather strop with my Viking Edge—first on the rough side, then the smooth. For my stroke, I’m still planning to always stroke away, from base to tip of the knife as I move from the near to the far side of the strop. For the return, I do the other side, bring the knife back toward me—cutting edge away.
What I’ve already proven to myself is that, with a home cook workload, I can maintain a sharp edge on quality knives as long as I have a hobbyist enthusiasm and attention to detail. Will my upgrade and new two strop strategy make a meaningful difference?
Best Knife Sharpening Services
- Best Overall:Carisolo Grinding
- Best Value:Sur La Table
- Best Knife Subscription Service:Togu Knives
- Best for Professional Chefs:Korin
- Best for Mobile Service:National Sharpening Co.
Best Overall : Carisolo Grinding
Why We Chose It: Midwest-based Carisolo Grinding has been in the knife sharpening business for five generations.
Pricing discounts on larger orders
Packaging and shipping cost included
Founded by fourth-generation knife grinders and now run by the fourth and fifth generations of the family, Carisolo Grinding is based in Wisconsin. It provides both regional delivery and a mail-in sharpening service nationwide. All knives are hand-edged on a water-cooled grindstone by a master grinder and then buffed and honed. Any necessary repairs such as broken tips or chips can also be repaired. In addition to both double- and single-beveled knives, Carisolo can also repair machine blades (i.e. food processor blades).
Pricing is tiered based on the number of knives, starting at $49 for up to five knives and going up to $100 for 17 to 20 knives. All shipping costs are included in the pricing. Customers are asked to select a box size corresponding to the number of knives they plan to send in Carisolo Grinding will then ship out the box with a return label. Then, customers will send in their knives for sharpening via the U.S. Postal Service. The sharpening itself will be done in one day, but the entire process, including transit time, typically takes about ten days from when an order is placed.
Carisolo Grinding goes beyond sharpening services the company also offers a cutlery rental program for professional kitchens and maintains a sister company, Post Knife, a sharp knife subscription service.
Best Value : Sur La Table
Why We Chose It: Sur La Table offers knife sharpening at its retail stores nationwide at a great price.
Sharpens both Western and Japanese styles
National kitchenware chain Sur La Table offers in-store knife sharpening services at all of its more than 100 retail locations. Sur La Table was founded during the 1970s, with its first store opening at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington. Besides kitchen tools, cooking equipment, and serving ware, retail stores typically offer a full calendar of cooking classes.
At just $5 per knife, Sur La Table will sharpen any standard kitchen knife, including Western and Japanese styles. Note: Serrated ceramic knives and scissors are not accepted. Sur La Table sharpens knives by machine, so the service is not as bespoke as some others, but knives will still be razor-sharp. Knives are typically ready for pick up within 24 hours of dropping off, but this may be longer during peak shopping seasons such as the holidays.
Best Knife Subscription Service : Togu Knives
Why We Chose It: Togu Knives is a unique knife subscription service that sends customers newly sharpened knives every two months.
Seamless exchange process
High-quality, durable knives
Only offers two styles of knives
Knives shared between customers
Many of us are familiar with home subscriptions for food products, but what about kitchen tools? Launched in early 2020, Togu Knives has introduced a fresh new subscription concept for home cooks, guaranteeing they will never find themselves without a sharp knife. For $6 per month, you will receive a freshly sharpened pair of knives—a 7-inch Santoku-style, all-purpose, double-beveled knife and a small, 3 1/2-inch paring knife. A new shipment (containing a Santoku and paring knife) will arrive after eight weeks, and you will return the used set. This cycle continues throughout your subscription period. Note: Knives can be returned earlier if they seem dull before the next scheduled shipment, but this scenario is unlikely.
Once an order is placed, Togu will ship the first pair of knives to arrive within three to five days. All shipping is free, and each replacement pair comes with a prepaid shipping label and packaging for easy returns. Togu’s knives are made from durable VG-10 steel (the gold standard when it comes to kitchen knives), making it easy to get a fine edge that lasts longer. After each used knife set is returned, it is refinished, sharpened, cleaned, and sanitized before being sent off to another customer. All sharpening is done by hand on ceramic whetstones, a labor-intensive but precise process.
Best for Professional Chefs : Korin
Why We Chose It: Korin has a long-standing reputation for its master knife sharpeners who meticulously sharpen and repair knives by hand.
Sharpens using traditional stone method
Easy online ordering form
Packaging and postage for shipping not provided
A favorite go-to retailer among professional chefs, Korin Japanese Trading, specializes in Japanese knives, kitchen products, and tableware. Located in the heart of Manhattan at its showroom, Korin has expert knife sharpeners in-house who sharpen knives by hand on a stone and sharpening wheel. Korin is the first company in the world given authorization and certification to re-sharpen and repairs several premier brands of Japanese knives.
The company offers mail-in sharpening and repair services. Forms for sharpening services are available online, along with detailed instructions for mailing in knives. Sharpening fees are $15 per knife plus shipping. The knives are usually sharpened within one to two weeks and then shipped back to the customer. In addition to sharpening and repairs, Korin can clean rusted blades and discoloration in most cases.
Best for Mobile Service : National Sharpening Co.
Why We Chose It: National Sharpening Co. has a regional mobile knife sharpening service as well as an option to mail in knives for sharpening and repair.
Can sharpen a large variety of styles
Tiered pricing with good value
Mail-in information not available online
Packaging for shipping not provided
National Sharpening is based in North Andover, Massachusetts, but services customers all over the country. Founded by Thomas Panniello in 1993, National Sharpening Co. offers sharpening and repair services for various knives, clippers and shears, and kitchen cutlery of any kind, including both Japanese and Western-style knives. National Sharpening is able to sharpen everything from a paring knife and chef's knife to a steak knife, serrated knife, and a mezzaluna. Sharpening is done using a combination of a water-cooled machine and stone to create the sharpest edge possible.
Its mobile service is available for customers living in Massachusetts, Southern New Hampshire, Southern Maine, and Northern Rhode Island, but mail-in services are available to customers nationwide. Pricing starts at $6 for a paring knife, $8 for a standard chef's knife, $10 for a serrated knife, and $14 for Japanese knives such as Global or Shun brands. Turnaround time is approximately one week. Mobile services are made by appointment only, and customers are encouraged to contact the company directly by email to receive instructions for mailing in knives.
The Basic of Knife Sharpening
So your knife is dull as a dog biscuit, huh? And you want to do something about it, but don’t know where to start?
You have found the right article, my friend. Sharpening a knife is a lot like many of these skills that fall into the self-reliance category.
It’s something that virtually everyone could do just a few short years ago. With that in mind, I would like to point out the basics of how to sharpen knives correctly.
If you take the time to watch the video at the end of this post, you will also see some of these in practice with various knife sharpening devices.
To sharpen any knife you need to go through the same basic steps which are: getting the proper sharpener, knowing the angle you need to sharpen on (this is really important), preparing your stone, and actually using proper knife sharpening techniques.
Get a Proper Sharpener
There are tons of knife sharpeners out there and which one you get is dependent upon the experience and confidence level that you possess. You can get one as simple as a handheld sharpener, diamond sharpener, or stones.
The handhelds are for those of us who do not feel confident in our skill and want something that gets the angle correct each time and is safe to use. The diamond sharpeners and stones come in various grades of coarseness.
If you have an incredibly dull knife you are going to need to utilize a coarse stone. A very coarse stone will take off much more material than a fine stone will.
Personally, I have a coarse stone and a fine stone as you can see in the video.
Know Your Bevel Angle
This is the angle on the sharp side of your blade. You will notice that some knives have a steep angle right at the sharp side, others have an angle that basically slopes all the way to the back of the blade.
A general consideration is that most of your thin knives, like a mora brand or fillet style knife, will not have a much actual angle.
What Is a Fillet Style Knife? A very flexible type of knife used for filleting or preparing fish.
Whereas, thicker blades will have a much steeper angle. Keep in mind that a good rule of thumb for sharpening is 20 degrees.
I have always laid two dimes down on the stone and then rested the knife on them to get a good idea of this angle.
Prep Your Stone
Do not feel as if you need to get too fancy here. In the video, you will see I discuss using nothing more than spit on the stone to get the desired effect.
Honing oil has its uses, however, mostly it makes a knife slip a bit too much for my liking. A good rule of thumb, if you determine you need to lubricate your stone, is to use a water-based lubricant (spit or water) on the diamond stones and then use oil on Arkansas, and similar stones I discuss in the video.
With that said, I rarely use oil when sharpening and my knives are sharp as razors.
Have you ever sliced or watched someone slice the Thanksgiving turkey? If so, you already have a leg up on sharpening a knife.
Whether you are using a stone or diamond sharpener, imagine you are slicing off a thin sliver of the stone. You should always start the blade near the handle and then slice towards the tip.
Remember, slice off a small sliver of the stone.
Watch knife sharpening in action in this video by Nature Reliance:
There you have it! Even these basic tips will have your knife sharpening service and skills level up a notch.
By reading this and then watching the video I want you to be the person everyone looks up to when needing a sharp knife.
Do you have your own technique in knife sharpening? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!
For awesome survival gear, you can’t make at home, check out the Survival Life Store!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 15, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
Knife Sharpening Information
We get so many calls asking if we sharpen knives. Well…great news…we don’t sharpen knives but we DO facilitate a service by which you can get your knives (and scissors) sharpened.
Many of you many know our long-time employee, Becky. But you might not know that Becky’s husband, Bruce, has been a maker of knives for a number of years. Rarely do we see Bruce without a custom-made knife attached to his belt (custom-made by him!).
He is highly qualified to sharpen your knives. It’s super easy to get it taken care of. All you have to do is bring in your knives (we suggest wrapping them in a towel or a stout paper bag), drop them off (one of our employees will complete the paperwork for you, and come pick them up after you get our call that they are ready.
A little more that happens–we call Bruce and let him know we have knives here for him to pickup, he takes them home and sharpens them, he drops the back with us with an invoice, we call you to let you know they are ready. Because we only facilitate the transaction, it is CASH ONLY–no credit/debit cards, no checks, no cookies. You can see below that the cost of having a nicely sharpened knife is very reasonable.
In between sharpening, you should hone your blades on a regular basis probably more regular than you would think. Essentially, if you USE your blades, you should HONE your blades. We have several honing methods for sale for all different types and styles of blade.
Honing is what you do to your blades on a regular basis, with use, and doesn’t remove steel from your blade it just removes the ‘curl’ from the edge.
Sharpening is what you do when honing no longer works. It actually removes a bit of steel from your blade and gives a new edge. You should not sharpen your blade with every use.