How to Use a Knife Sharpener

Two Methods:Manual Knife SharpenerElectric Knife Sharpener

High-quality knife sharpeners can be convenient and effective kitchen utensils. The sharpening process varies slightly depending on whether you have a manual or electric version, but the technique is actually fairly simple for both types.

Method 1
Manual Knife Sharpener

  1. 1
    Examine the knife sharpener. There are multiple types of manual knife sharpeners. Some only have one slot, while others may have two or three.
    • Each slot should have two steel, ceramic, or diamond-coated disks on either side, and these disks are what sharpen the blade of the knife.
    • Simple knife sharpeners only have on sharpening slot, but others have two or three. If the knife sharpener has multiple slots, the slots should be labeled according to coarseness. The coarsest slot will usually be labeled as "coarse" or "1," and the finest slot will usually be labeled with the final number in the sequence or the word "fine."
  2. 2
    Insert the blade into the coarsest slot. Position the blade in a straight cutting position in between the two sharpening disks. Keep the base of the blade as close to the disks as possible, and make sure that the blade remains perpendicular to the body of the device.[1]
    • Note that if you only need to touch up the blade of a knife, you may wish to skip the coarsest slot and move onto a finer level. Coarse slots on multilevel sharpeners are usually meant for sharpening blunt knives.
  3. 3
    Pull the blade through the slot. Using light pressure, pull the blade back in a horizontal motion, drawing the blade through the disks from base to tip.
    • Some knife sharpeners can be held by hand as you work with them, but it's usually easiest to use your non-dominant hand to hold the knife sharpener down on a table or similar work surface. You can manipulate the knife with your dominant hand.
  4. 4
    Pass through the same slot again. Return the blade to its starting position, then lightly draw it through the disks again, working from base to tip.
    • Note that you'll likely need to repeat this motion several times on this slot. If the sharpener only has one slot level, pull it through four to six times. If it has multiple slot levels, only pull it through this first slot two or three times.
    • For each pass, start at the base and end at the tip. Do not pull the knife back and forth through the slot since doing so could damage the blade.
  5. 5
    Repeat the process with the remaining slots. Work through the remaining slots, moving from coarsest to lightest. Draw the knife through each slot using the same technique as the first slot.
    • Don't skip over any of the slot levels unless the instruction manual tells you to do so. Usually, these levels are designed to sharpen dull blades in intervals, and skipping levels could minimize the product's effectiveness.
  6. 6
    Rinse and dry the knife. When you're satisfied with the sharpness of the knife, rinse away any shavings under cool, running water. Carefully dry the blade with a clean towel.[2]
    • Once the knife is clean and dry, it should be ready to use again.

Method 2
Electric Knife Sharpener

  1. 1
    Turn on the machine. Plug in the machine and switch the power button to the "on" position.
    • The vast majority of electric knife sharpeners have two or more grinding slots, each representing a different degree of coarseness. The coarsest slot should be labeled as "1" or "coarse," and the finest will be labeled with the final number in the sequence or "fine."
    • Each slot contains a grinding wheel or stone, and these wheels actively turn against the blade as you draw it through. Since this method is more intense than that used with manual sharpeners, electric sharpeners may have more success refining severely dull blades.
  2. 2
    Pull the blade through the coarsest slot. Wedge the heel of the blade into the coarsest slot, then lightly pull the blade back through the slot until you skim past the tip of the knife.[3]
    • When inserting the knife, position the base of the blade as close to the slot as possible. Always work from the base through the tip.
    • You should also push the blade as deep into the slot as possible so that it comes into full contact with the grinding stone.
    • As you pull the knife through the slot, the machine should automatically guide it through at a 15 to 20 degree angle. The handle will gradually angle up throughout the process.
  3. 3
    Repeat. Generally, you should make a total of two passes through the first slot and through each of the remaining slot levels.
    • Pull the knife through the slot following the same procedure as before. Only pass through from base to tip; never push the blade through the machine in a back and forth motion.
  4. 4
    Work through the remaining slots. Draw the blade of the knife through each of the remaining slots, working from coarsest to finest.
    • Follow the same procedure for each slot, and repeat the process twice for each one.
    • Unless otherwise instructed by the machine's manual, do not skip over any of the slots. Skipping slots may reduce the effectiveness of the machine.
  5. 5
    Rinse and dry the blade. Even though many electric knife sharpeners collect the shavings using inner magnets, you should still rinse the blade under cool, running water. Carefully dry it with a towel when finished.
    • If the machine does collect shavings, you may need to periodically empty the collection bin to keep the knife sharpener in working order. Consult the instruction manual for details on how to do this.
    • Once the knife is clean, it should be sharp and ready to use.


  • There are other tools you can use to sharpen a knife. Whetstones and sharpening steels are among the most effective, but in a pinch, you could even sharpen the blade of a knife on the bottom of an old ceramic mug.
  • While knife sharpeners typically work best for kitchen knives, many can also be used for others blades, including pocket knives and field knives used by hunters and fishermen. For these blades, however, manual knife sharpeners are typically easier to carry and more effective than electric versions.


  • Some knife sharpeners work very well, but low-quality versions can actually damage your knives.[4] Do your research before making a purchase to verify that you're getting a good product.
  • Consult the instruction manual when working with single-edge blades, serrated knives, or other specialty knives. These standard instructions apply to knives with smooth, double-edge blades, but other varieties may need special care. For instance, serrated knives should only be passed through the finest slot of the sharpener, and single-edge smooth blades should only be sharpened on one side, which may require an adjustment in technique.

Things You'll Need

  • Knife sharpener (manual or electric)
  • Clean towel
  • Sink

Article Info

Categories: Cooking Knives and Blades