Razor Sharp: 3 Sharpening Tools and When to Use Them

Even if you’re a finely honed machine in the kitchen, a dull knife can quickly make you lose your edge. Sharpening is an integral skill in any chef’s arsenal, but not all sharpening tools are suited to every single application. Get a little more information on three of the biggest sharpening tools in the game to make sure you choose the right one for your situation.


The grandaddy of all sharpening tools, the whetstone remains the most versatile and adaptable tool out there due to its manual nature. However, this means that the effectiveness of the whetstone falls entirely on your shoulders, so you’ll need to practice slicing the blade at the proper angle to get good results. Once you master using a whetstone, it can be a game changer; you can sharpen almost any type of knife and get good results.

  • Best For: General use/sharpening knives with full bolsters
    • Fun Fact: Even though whetstones need to get wet to work, they’re actually named after the term old English term “whet,” meaning “to sharpen.” 

Electric Sharpener

New-school and powerfully convenient, electric sharpeners are without a doubt the fastest way to restore a dull knife. Electric sharpeners typically have numerous slots, each with a different level of coarseness, meaning that you have good control over the amount of sharpening. Also, the blade slots take some of the user-error risk out of the occasion, but that doesn’t mean that electric sharpeners are flawless. Perhaps most importantly, electric sharpeners are not compatible with full-bolster blades, making them slightly less versatile than whetstones. Additionally, they’re pricier than other sharpening methods but if you can afford it, electric sharpeners are undoubtably worth it. 

  • Best For: Quick, dependable sharpening/restoring very dull blades.

Sharpening Steel

Also known as a honing rod, this tool is made for just that. A sharpening steel is best suited for keeping your knives nice and sharp rather than bringing them back from the brink of destruction. As opposed to whetstones, steels barely remove any metal from the blade, meaning that you can repeat the honing process more often. Don’t overdo it when sharpening though; 6 or 7 run throughs on each side will be more than enough to keep your blades sharp. 

  • Best For: Maintaining sharpness