The composition of the stone affects the sharpness of the blade (a finer grain, usually, though not always, produces sharper blades), as does the composition of the blade (some metals take and keep an edge better than others). For example, Western kitchen knives are usually made of softer steel and take an edge angle of 20–22°, while East Asian kitchen knives are traditionally of harder steel and take an edge angle of 15–18°. The Western-style kitchen knives are generally in the range of 52–58 on the Rockwell scale, which denotes the relative hardness of a material.
Clamp-style sharpening tools use a clamp with several holes with predefined angles. The stone is mounted on a rod and is pulled through these holes, so that the angle remains consistent. Another system is the crock stick setup, where two sticks are put into a plastic or wooden base to form a V shape. When the knife is pulled up the V, the angle is held so long as the blade is held perpendicular to the base. Several cutlery manufacturers now offer electric knife sharpeners with multiple stages with at least one grinding stage. These electric sharpeners are typically used in the kitchen but have the ability to sharpen blades such as pocket or tactical knives. The main benefit of using an electric sharpener is speed with many models that can complete the sharpening process in one to two minutes. The disadvantage is that the sharpening angle is fixed so some specialized knives, like a Japanese style Santoku, may need additional attention to sharpen to the ideal angle.
A hybrid manual-electric sharpener, the Chef’sChoice Hybrid 210 uses a motor and abrasive wheels to grind the new edge and employs a manual stage to hone it. This sharpener is eminently affordable. However, our top pick, the ProntoPro 4643 multi-blade-angle manual model (as well as its $30 to $40 single-blade-angle kin) produces a better edge and doesn’t make us worry about breakdowns the way the Hybrid 210’s lightweight motor does.
If I thought that the 12-inch option of the Messermeister rod was a little longer than necessary you must be wondering why I would include this Winware rod which is only available in a 12-inch option and a 14-inch option. I stand by my opinions and will confidently say here that I would not select either of these rods on the sole basis of their extreme lengths. That being said, many other consumers have selected these sharpeners, despite (or maybe because of) their length and have reported being very satisfied with the results they have achieved.
This set of two Norton combination waterstones provides four grits and also includes a flattening stone as an added value. The 220, 1000, 4000 and 8000 grit sides will handle everything from aggressive shaping to final polishing. They are 8" long by 3" wide, big enough to handle most knives and tools easily. Our most popular waterstone kit, this has everything you need to both sharpen with waterstones and maintain the stones themselves. A great starter set.