Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Sep 15, 2009 11:58 PM

Chef's Choice electric knife sharpener - Model 115 vs 120?

Does anyone know the difference between Model 115 and 120? I can't see to find much information online regarding Model 115. This is a model that Costco and HSN carries. Model 115 seems to look closest to Model 120. I don't know what the differences are between the two models. Costco in Canada is selling Model 115 for $99. Is this a good deal?

What are your experiences with electric knife sharpeners? I have a bunch of victorinox paring knives that are getting dull. I was hoping to get an electric sharpener to sharpen them. I don't know how much it costs to get knives professionally sharpened but I figure if the electric sharpener does the trick , over the long run, the sharpener will pay for itself. Any thoughts?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I can't help with the difference between those two models, but in a moment of what can only be described as temporary insanity I purchased a Model 120 a couple years ago based on the recommendation of someone who apparently doesn't know crapola about knife sharpening. Fortunately, I only ruined one good knife before the "sharpener" went into the bowels of the basement, where it remains, and I went back to sharpening by hand. My knives and I have remained on good terms ever since.

    I'll try to be objective about the faults of the Chef's Choice. It removes too much metal, is difficult to control, can't sharpen close to the bolster (which admittedly may not be an issue for stamped knives), and excels only in turning fine cooking tools into little piles of grayish dust. I was never able to produce what I would consider to be a sharp edge with it. Perhaps with sufficient training and practice, and with sufficient knives to ruin in the process, I could eventually get good results, but I wasn't prepared to find out.

    1. Sorry FF, l cannot live without it. Bought serial number #128 in the early eighties, when just the two holer and it eventually wore out and bought a 120 about five years ago. Have a lot of knives and tried stone, whetstones,and a zillion other things and could not get a sharp knife. For whatever reason this works perfectly for me, my knives can slice things see through thin with no grief. l have a feeling the difference between the 115,120, and 130 are small. The 300 is industrial and will last for generations, but these three are probably almost the same. They keep coming out with additional models at a similar price point, so they may be the same, just an effort to lower prices. Do admit though on my older Dexter knives, you are correct does not work close to the bolster, but rarely before did anything work either.

      1. My suspicion is that the M115 is a special for Costco. It appears identical in spec to the M120 and any differences are cosmetic. It is not even mentioned on their own web site.

        Whilst I empathise with FlyFish I will take a slightly different position. If you have a bunch of reasonable Calphalon, lower-end Henckels, Cuisinart etc knifes then these sharpeners are reasonably good. The Amazon reviews for the M120 are about as good as you could wish. On the flip side to that I would not allow the sharpener within a country mile of my Shuns. Your Victorinox knives are upper middle ground. I would use it - but very rarely on stage 1. My go-to sharpener would remain a steel.

        As in all of these I would read through the Amazon reviews before making a decision. As there are 130 of them it should give a reasonably balanced view.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Paulustrious

          Should have mentioned, do not use on my high level Japanese knives, these l leave to Korin to sharpen.

          1. re: Paulustrious

            I will play dissenter here: I've (shock!) used it to good advantage on my high end knives. I get a better edge than on a sharpening stone. What can I say?

            The only thing I will say is that one should be regularly using a plain old steel more often; I don't resort to sharpening more than twice a year (some knives, just once a year).

            1. re: Karl S

              Please, then, your opinion: would it be insane to use one (I'm thinking the 130) on all my brand new Wusthof IKONS? I live probably 100 miles, at least, from the nearest trustworthy knife sharpening service and still am a beginner at using a steel.

              1. re: Beckyleach

                Well, if they are brand new, they shouldn't need sharpening yet. You should be using the steel for some time before you will need to sharpen the knives, unless you are using them like a prepper in professional kitchen.

                I use it on my fine knives (except for a special Japanese knife that is incapable of being sharpened on it).

                My only question is that if you are obsessive-compulsive about your knives - that is, if you value them as objects of desire more than as functional tools - then you might as well ignore the discussion. For me, knives are there to be worked. The only reason I've gathered a selection of finer knives over the years is that I've found the right one of each type (they are not a matched set by any means) for edge, size and fit with my hand. I have no children, so I am not planning on them lasting for generations.

                1. re: Karl S

                  I had a motley collection of various cheaper Henckels and Sabatiers, but once I got my hands on a Wusthof IKON I knew it was the knife for me, and recently have acquired (off Ebay at great prices) an 8" chefs, 6" utility, 4" somethingorother, and a 3.5 " paring knife in this brand.

                  No, I'm not the least knife-obsessed <g> but I do want to use sharper ones than I have in the past. The last two knife guys I trusted with my knives treated them like they were lawn mower blades. :-(

                  So, they're new, but I'm looking down the road. AND I need to learn how to use my Wusthof steel. Does anybody have a good YouTube recommendation? I'm math phobic and as soon as I start second guessing myself ("is this a 20 degree angle? Oh, my god! What if it's really a 30 degree angle and I'm ruining the blade! How hard do I stroke? Will I sever an artery???") the steeling stops, immediately.

                  1. re: Beckyleach

                    You can find the precise angle your edge is set at by placing your knife flat against a block of soft wood and SLOWLY moving the angle up while gently pushing the blade forward until the knife bites into wood. Works with hard leather, soft plastic, certain foodstuffs, whatever - as long as it's a flat surface without much give that your knife can cut into. That's your angle. You can safely go a few degrees higher than that with a steel. Mind you, a few degrees is not much.

                    Just as importantly-- make sure you are using very little pressure while steeling. A grooved steel puts enormous pressure on a very small area of the edge. You don't need to push. And go slow. Smooth long strokes.

                    Here is a perfect video of what NOT to do.

                    And here is the right motion, done in a safe way for a beginner.

                    Edit: the technique of finding your edge I mentioned above works when your knife is sharp. If your entire edge is badly rolled, then your results might be skewed. And if the edge is pretty dull, then you would either have to raise the angle to get it to bite into wood or it might not bite at all. Of course, if that's the case, a steel won't do you any good anyway.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      It's January, but I just saw this. Thank you for the links and advice!

                2. re: Beckyleach

                  "would it be insane to use one (I'm thinking the 130) on all my brand new Wusthof IKONS? "

                  No one can tell you that simply because it 's a matter of personal preference.
                  A grinder will only get a knife so "sharp". Simply because some one else lacks enough skill to use a stone and gets "better" edges with a grinder only means one thing. They probably spent more than they needed to on knives that are beyond their ability to use properly. If you take a $400 Japanese knife and an $30 Forschner and put them on a grinder they are going to be almost equal in terms of sharpness.
                  Hand sharpen them on stones and they are worlds apart. Every one should consider their sharpening abilities and how they will sharpen before they purchase knives. German steel like Wusthof is very reliable and not prone to chipping like Japanese steel. However the down side is that they need to be sharpened more often. If you are ok with spending more $ to get the knife you want and a grinder gets them "sharper" than you can by hand then by all means use one. You can probably do just as well if not better than many of the those who claim to be professional knife sharpeners and just grind away. However you will be far better served by learning to sharpen your knife by hand. There are other options that fall short of hand sharpening that are both easier and will offer a superior edge to a grinder like the Edge Pro. (See Alans post down thread).
                  You do not use a steel to sharpen your knives. A steel is used to re-align the edge. Here is a link for a knife sharpening. If you have more interest you may want to consider picking up a copy of Chad Wards book.


            2. I have the Chef's Choice 130, and I'm very happy with it. It was the top choice in the Cook's Illustrated test, and the Wall Street Journal's test, as well. It's not suitable for ceramic knives, but is great for metal knives, including serrated. I was afraid that it might take off too much metal, but after the initial sharpening, I've used only the "steel" (stage 2), which removes no metal at all, or, occasionally, the strop (stage 3). My knives are VERY sharp now, and even my serrated bread knife (which is older than I am), can again cut through large breads easily.

              I know there are those who think electric sharpeners are the work of the devil, but honestly, I'd rather use an electric sharpener that is easy and fun, and perhaps replace my knives in twenty years, than have the bother of a whetstone. But that's just my opinion.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Channa

                I agree. I think that knives that are being used as intensely as those in a professional restaurant kitchen have the level of use that might require much more frequent sharpening (as opposed to steeling), but I am not using my knives more than 10 minutes a day and at that level, the electric knife sharpener like Chef's Choice is nothing to get snooty about.

                1. re: Channa

                  I have to give a Ditto to Channa. I don't own the 130 model but a friend of mine who bought one last year offered to sharpen my knives a few weeks ago. I, with great trepidation, accepted. I got a near ripe tomato from the pantry to test each knife on and one by one I gave her my 4 30 Y/O Gerber blades, then a Santoku, then an old Cutco serrated. She was very careful to follow her manual exactly and when each knife was finished we sliced into the tomato. Each knife was wonderfully sharp. Finally I gave her my huge Wustof chef's knife. I am contemplating buying this model for myself.

                2. I won't get into the merits of Chef's Choice sharpeners, except to say that they are less than ideal for most knives. Neither will I comment on the wisdom of spending $100 on an electric sharpener (or $5 on a professional sharpening) for a knife that cost $5. What I will say is that the Chef's Choice is a lousy choice for sharpening a Victorinox paring knife.

                  The knife blade has no heel; the bottom of the edge meets the bottom of the handle. So when you try to put the blade in the sharpener, the handle gets in the way. About .75" of the edge closest to the handle can't be sharpened. Considering the short (3.25") blade, this is a HUGE drawback. And if you sharpen it more than a few times, you'll create a "step" in the edge that will make the knife impossible to use effectively.

                  Your best bet is to learn to sharpen the knives yourself. You can do it freehand, or, for a little more than the cost of the electric sharpener, you can get a jig that makes it easy to sharpen knives properly. ( Otherwise, the most cost- and time-effective thing to do is just buy new knives.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Do not agree with the 'step'. After the first time using the chef's choice to, using their words, to get the blade at proper angling for sharpening with the first hole where steel is removed, the second chamber is all you ever need, and it removes almost no steel. Been sharpening a very old Dexter 10 inch chef's for 25 years on it, with a huge bolster, thus does not get near the back edge, and there is no step of any kind nor any place where it can be told where the sharpening started and where not capable to be sharpened. From what l checked from your link, the edgeproinc costs way more than the chef's choice anyway.

                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                      Sharpening a knife by definition involves the removal of material. If you're not removing material, you're honing the blade. And if you remove material, you're going to create a step. Maybe not a big step, but a step nevertheless. And each time you sharpen the knife, the step will get a little bigger.

                      PS - the basic Apex kit is $150. I don't know if that counts as "way more" than $100, but IMO it's a far better value because it will do the job right.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        True, but primarily after the first 'sharpening', you are honing the blade with zones two and three, or so l thought. l always thought of it as an electrical steel.

                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          The 'honing' wheels still remove metal. Any abrasive applied to steel removes metal. According the Chefschoice, each new level puts a new bevel on the edge - it couldn't do that by any means but by removing metal. Alan is correct (assuming he's right about there being 0.75 inches where the knife isn't sharpened - I don't own a chef's choice so I can't verify) - eventually you will have a 'step' about 1/4 of the way up your paring knife. I couldn't say how long this will take. Given that it's an electric sharpener that claims to put a brand new triple-beveled edge on a very dull knife in under 3 minutes, I expect that it wouldn't take too many sharpenings before it's noticeable, even if you avoid stage 1.

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            Have to disagree, step one yes, step two l was told just hones, regardless, it may but after @ 150-200 sharpenings no visable changes, will settle for that. Whatever level it is. Do not use a paring knife, but the smallest l sharpen is a 5" blade on a non bolstered handle and see no change on that as well. All in all, not to put too fine a point on this, hee hee, but l have been totally pleased with the sharpener for decades and whatever shortcomings it may have, have not affected me during this time;

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              'Hone' is a confusing word. By hone, I assume you mean to say that it straightens the edge without removing metal. Chef'schoice's own user manuals state that this is not what stage 2 and 3 are doing.

                              Alan's comments apply only to knives like the forschner paring knife where the edge runs directly into the handle. If your 5 inch blade has a heel and no full length bolster, then you wouldn't see a change since the entire blade would be getting slowly but evenly ground down.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                No not the 5", but the 8",10", and 13" show nothing, all older carbon steel. The point l am making is that even if there is steel removal as you say, these knives compared to a new chef's knife with bolsters look exactly the same compared , in thickness of blade and width and length of blade as well. Thus sharpening them for decades on this device has not removed enough steel to be visable after all that time. The few blades l had professionally sharpened look different even after a few sharpenings.

                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                  That is my experience with professional sharpenings too. Many professionals use grinding wheels or belts and these do remove metal quickly. Even waterstones remove enough metal to be noticeable after a few years of regular sharpenings. Quicker if need be.

                                  What you say about the chefschoice may be true. I don't use one so I can't verify. The point was that if it actually sharpens a knife, it is by definition removing metal, and you will thus eventually have a step in the edge of any knife whose edge runs into the handle. That could take 5 sharpenings, 5 years, or 50 years. I'm surprised it has taken so long for your knives and would like to hear from others either confirming your experience or not. Thanks for the input though.

                                  Sorry for the mini hijack of the thread.

                    2. re: alanbarnes

                      alanbarnes: "I won't get into the merits of Chef's Choice sharpeners, except to say that they are less than ideal for most knives."

                      We have to disagree -- or agree -- with that statement. Unless the knife you start with is a Chef's Choice knife to begin with, all but the top-end Chef's Choice electric sharpeners will reshape the edge of the blade. (The top-end Model 1520 permits the user to choose the shape of the edge, we are told.) The Trizor (so called by Chef's Choice) edge is arch shaped, with two grind angles in the taper. The Trizor shape is not quite as ultimately sharp as a straight 20-degree or 15-degree grind -- though it is easy to exaggerate the difference in ultimate sharpness. However, the Trizor edge stays acceptably sharp longer, and requires less frequent steeling between sharpenings, than a straight ground taper does.

                      As a result, for a simple workaday knife used by ordinary folk who are not knife fetishists (like us), the condition of the edge of a Chef's Choice-sharpened knife is likely -- at the time of any given use, not immediately after sharpening -- to be sharper than the degraded edge of a well-sharpened straight ground blade the edge of which has not been straightened on a steel as recently as it should have been.

                      How is that for equivocation?