Smith’s Advice for Buying the Right Sharpener

2011 November 29

We recently received an inquiry from a consumer wanting help with buying the right sharpener and a suggestion for a good field sharpener.  His inquiry and our response is this week’s blog post.  Maybe this will help anybody else out there looking at buying a good knife sharpener, but not sure which one to choose.

I am trying to decide between manual or electric sharpener.  Also, deciding between diamond or ceramic electric sharpener. My application is hunting knives with 440 stainless and 440 carbon steel. My research steer me towards the Smith’s Ceramic Edge Pro. Is this the correct decision?  Also, any suggestions for in the field application?  – Mr. Giles

With regards to your inquiry below, let me see if I can help you with your decisions.  First, let’s look at “Manual versus Electric Sharpeners.”  Both of these types of sharpeners work.  They both will get your knife sharp.  The only major differences are cost and time.  Obviously, the Electric sharpener is going to be more expensive, but if you own several knives or like to sharpen other peoples knives, the electric sharpener will prove beneficial.  Electric sharpeners are made to work quickly and precisely.  These benefits come in handy when sharpening several knives at one time.  I have no doubt you could achieve the same results using a manual sharpener for a much cheaper investment, but it will take you MUCH longer to get there.

Now, let’s look at “a diamond wheel electric sharpener versus a ceramic wheel electric sharpener.”  As you may or may not know, diamonds are the hardest substance known to man.  This means they are very aggressive when used to abrade metal.  They work quickly on even some of the hardest of steels.  Ceramics on the other hand are used for finishing and polishing, so they remove very little metal when sharpening a steel blade.  Based on these characteristics, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Diamond abrasives remove metal quickly, so they work very fast.  They don’t, however, leave a very smooth edge on the blade.  If you look at the cutting edge of a blade that has been sharpened using diamond abrasives under a microscope, you will see lots of micro-striations near the edge of the blade.  The blade will look rough and sort of eat up.  The ceramic abrasives will work in just the opposite manner.  They will give you a very smooth and polished final edge, but they will take forever to sharpen a very dull or damaged blade, especially a blade that uses very hard steel.

A smooth, sharp edge cuts better than a rough, sharp edge when cutting softer items like fruits or vegetables, but some people like a rough edge, especially if they are skinning or caping an animal or packing out meat, because the rough edge works like mini-serrations.  The rough edge actually grabs and holds whatever you are cutting while the sharp edge cuts it.

I would suggest you go with the diamond electric sharpener if you are planning to use it for sharpening your 440 steel hunting knives.  It will sharpen them faster and will give you the type of edge needed for their application (i.e. skinning animals, cutting tough meats, cutting cloth or tree limbs, etc.).  However, choosing a good sharpener should always be based on the “right fit” for the person using the sharpener.  If you think the ceramic electric will work better for you because you will also be sharpening other types of knives (i.e. kitchen knives, soft steel pocket knives, etc.) then by all means go with your gut.  The last thing we want is for one of customers to buy a sharpening product that he or she never really felt comfortable with.  He or she never really achieves success when this is the case.  Hopefully, I have given you enough valuable information regarding electric sharpeners and abrasive materials that this won’t be the case.

And last but not least, “field application.”  If you like a quick, simple, fixed-angle style sharpener, I would suggest our Pocket Pal Knife Sharpener.  It sharpens both standard edge and serrated edge blades, and it’s small enough to carry in your pocket or fanny pack.  It also works well on blades made of hard steels.  Now, if you prefer “freehand” sharpening (i.e. like sharpening on a whetstone), then I would suggest our Diamond Combination Sharpener.  It has both a 4″ x 1″ Coarse interrupted surface diamond abrasive stone and a 4″ x 1″ Fine interrupted surface diamond abrasive stone built into one compact unit.  It comes with a soft rubber handle that stores and protects the stones when not in use.

I hope this helps you with your decisions.  Remember, they all sharpen.  It just comes down to finding a sharpener that you are comfortable using and one that is geared toward sharpening the types of knives you use.  Let me leave you with these words of wisdom our President, Richard Smith, tells everyone that ask him for advice on how to sharpen a knife…….”The best way to keep a knife sharp is to never let it get dull.”

Good luck and keep it sharp!

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