Electric vs. Manual Knife Sharpener

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Knives are meant to be long-term tools. A good set can last a lifetime and even be passed on to future generations. Beyond selecting suitable knives in the first place, maintaining them properly is crucial. The first step is choosing the perfect knife sharpener. 

An electric knife sharpener uses an electric current to seamlessly sharpen knife edges. It offers users ease, speed, and precision. A manual sharpener requires more time, attention to detail, and energy to sharpen blades but can prolong the durability of knives. 

In this article, I will look at the differences between electric and manual knife sharpeners, as well as tips on how to make sure your set stays in prime condition. 

Is an Electric or Manual Knife Sharpener Better?

A manual knife sharpener is better for knives long-term. Electric sharpeners can gradually wear down the knife edges after continued use. However, manual sharpeners are gentler on blades and will help preserve their integrity. 

Let’s look more into the pros and cons of each. 

Electric Knife Sharpener

Pros

  • Sharpens knives quickly
  • Gives a perfectly sharp edge
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Can damage knives over time
  • Sharpener only lasts one to five years, on average

Manual Knife Sharpener

Pros

  • Easier to control the amount of sharpening to match your preference
  • Wetsone and dry sharpeners can last decades
  • No need to worry about electronics
  • Do not damage the knife-edge over time

Cons

  • Harder to use for people who struggle with hand-related tasks
  • More expensive
  • More time and work to use

Are Pull-Through Sharpeners Safe For Knives?

 A pull-through sharpener is an alternative style, putting the blade between two plastic handles. It works both sides of the blade at the same time. 

Pull-through sharpeners are not safe for knives, and can actually be more harmful than helpful. Not only can they cause chips in the metal, but they also put pressure on the handle during sharpening. The pull-through itself is often weak, with the plastic pieces snapping and no way to repair them. 

Whether you choose an electric or manual sharpener, you are better off staying away 

from the pull-through variety.

Is an Electric or Manual Knife Sharpener Easier To Use?

An electric knife sharpener is easier to use than a manual knife sharpener. Electricity helps the device to operate at high speed, sharpening knives rapidly and precisely. On the other hand, manual sharpeners are time-consuming because they require more effort to get the blade evenly sharpened.

Manually sharpening your knives can take even longer if you’re sharpening a set. Each blade has to be dragged across the surface of your chosen sharpening device and checked to make sure it has reached the right level of sharpness. Most electric sharpeners come with settings that allow you to sharpen the knives thoroughly on the first try. This makes it easy for beginners or casual cooks to quickly sharpen their sets.  

Manual sharpeners will also require you to inspect the blade after a few strokes to ensure it’s even on either side. The process of continually sharpening the knives and inspecting the blades can be tedious for those that use their knives frequently or need to sharpen them more often. 

Furthermore, it might be challenging to use manual sharpeners for those who have certain medical conditions. Arthritis or paralysis in the wrist or hands, for example, might put a manual sharpener outside of your reach. If this is the case, finding a high-quality set of knives that can withstand electric sharpeners more heartily, such as stainless steel knives, can help mitigate some of that damage.

Can I Use an Electric and Manual Knife Sharpener on the Same Set?

You shouldn’t use an electric and manial knife sharpener on the same set because the devices will sharpen your blades differently. This can result in damage to the knives, or difficulty when cutting, slicing, or chopping.

Since electric sharpeners can weaken the blade and some ceramic sharpeners can cause minor chips, you are always taking a risk when sharpening your knives. However, it’s still better to have one reliable sharpener, than alternating between two, to get the desired results.

Working with one sharpener will also help you to find the balance in how you like your knives sharpened. The device will also become easier to use over time. 

Creative Alternative Ways To Sharpen Knives

Believe it or not, there are some ways you can sharpen knives without a sharpener nearby: 

  • Frozen eggshells: In a pinch, you can freeze your used eggshells, crush them into dust and carefully rub the blade against the powder. It won’t significantly sharpen the edge, but it can fix up a dull knife enough to safely use it once or twice until you get an actual sharpener.
  • Ceramic coffee mugs: Ceramic coffee mugs are usually rough at the bottom with no glazing. This keeps it from sliding across the smooth surface of a table or counter when in use. You can glide a blade against this portion to remove any build-up that might be dulling your knife.
  • Nail file: Have you ever wondered why so many survival kits come with emery board-style nail files? They have multiple purposes, and one of the best is a quick sharpening of a knife. Use the roughest edge and rub it three or four times in one direction against the blade on both sides. Don’t do this with metal files, which can cause scratches or chips in the knife. 
  • Sandpaper: Sandpaper works in the same way as a nail file. Just be careful not to use anything with too harsh a grade, as they can scratch the metal. If you have ceramic knives, be very gentle if you use sandpaper or a nail file since they are more prone to scratching. 
  • Leather belt: You may have seen people using worn leather strips on their knives. They aren’t sharpening but instead realigning the edge. Sometimes that is all your knife needs to give you a better cut. If you use a leather belt, be sure to do it on the side that sits against your body. Stropping the knife can lead to marks in the leather that you might not want to see. 

How To Maintain Your Knives

Sharpening your knives can help maintain their practicality and usability, but they also need other forms of regular maintenance too. Here are some tips on maintaining your knives:

  • Handwash only: Dishwashers are murder for knives, so handwash them only. 
  • Avoid wooden handles: Wood handles might look pretty, but they can rot on the inside thanks to moisture. 
  • No knife blocks: Whether made of plastic or wood, a block is often full of bacteria that will wipe onto the knife each time it touches the edge. When you pull them out, it might also be dulling the blade. Try a magnetic storage strip instead. 
  • Old cutting boards: If your cutting board has scratches, gaps, or stains, it may be time to replace it. Bacteria can lurk in cutting boards, which will transfer to the knife and your food while you use it.