How to sharpen a knife using an electric knife sharpener

How to sharpen a knife using an electric knife sharpener

Even the best quality knife blade will eventually become dull through repeated use – but an electric knife sharpener makes it quick and easy to restore its edge. 

Why you need to keep your knives sharp

Working with a dull knife is hard work – you need to apply more pressure and use more effort.  There’s also less precision – a blunt blade gives you less control and slicing something finely becomes increasingly difficult.  For these two reasons it’s safer working with a really sharp knife – there’s less chance of it slipping across the surface of the food and cutting your fingers.

How does an electric knife sharpener work?

There are many different types but they all contain a powerful electric motor that drives one or more grinding wheels.  These wheels shave off the dull metal from the blade to create a fresh sharp edge.  Most electric knife sharpeners include multiple slots, each one used at a different stage of the sharpening process.  Two-stage sharpeners have a coarse and a fine slot while three-stage sharpeners have coarse, fine, and polishing (or fine honing) slots for added control.

Electric knife sharpeners – pros and cons

Using a whetstone to sharpen a knife by hand is not as easy as you might imagine.  There are a lot of different types of stone to choose from and you will have to learn the correct techniques.  Some of these products are quite expensive and require a high degree of expertise to master the necessary approach.

Electric knife sharpeners don’t demand you to learn and perfect expert skills – they make it quick and easy for anyone to sharpen a wide variety of blades from chef’s knives to paring knives.  You can confidently sharpen your knives at home – there’s no need to pay an expert to do it for you.

Are there any downsides to using an electric knife sharpener?  Yes, a few – but relatively minor.  These appliances have an aggressive grinding motion and shave off more metal than a whetstone.  This means you need to follow the instructions outlined in your manual - if you deviate from the process you could damage your knife.  Last, but not least, an electric appliance may not sharpen the entire length of the blade evenly – with some brands the section of  blade closest to the heel may not fit snugly in the slot and the grinding wheel won’t sharpen it fully.

Using an electric knife sharpener – step-by-step

Every electric knife sharpener is slightly different so these are just general guidelines.  Read the instruction manual that comes with your model very carefully before you proceed.

  1. Put the knife sharpener on a stable surface before you turn it on and make sure your hands are dry
  2. Assess which slot/stage is needed for your knife. If the blade is very dull you’ll need to start with the coarsest setting. If the blade still has a bit of an edge it may be sufficient to just give it a polish with the fine grindstone.
  3. Turn on your machine – you should hear a slight whirring sound. Following the instructions in your manual, place the blade in the appropriate slot then slowly draw it towards you. Make sure the blade is connecting with the grinding stone fully but be careful not to press down too hard - simply let the blade sit securely within the electric knife sharpener without excessive downward force.

Repeat this process a couple of times then carefully run your thumb along the blade if you can feel a burr of rough metal on the edge of the knife then this stage is completed. 

  1. Repeat this process with the medium and fine grinding slots. You’ll probably need to pull the blade through a couple of times to get the required result.  
  2. Turn the unit off then wash and dry your knife thoroughly. Test that the knife is sharp enough by slicing a tomato or cutting through a piece of paper.

Every kitchen should have one

Once you’ve got an electric knife sharpener and used it a couple of times you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it!  The whole process takes no more than a couple of minutes and means you are always working with a blade that will deliver optimum performance with minimum effort and risk.

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