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Aug 9, 2010 12:43 PM

knife sharpeners?

I can't seem to get the knack of using a steel - so I am wondering your thoughts about buying one of those electric knife sharpeners that also just hone the edges. Otherwise I have been using for the past umpteen years an antique Aladin sharpener that I hold down on my counter and run the blade thru (it also could have been attached to the inside of a cabinet). I know that some are for Japanese blades and others have separate edges for making the differentiations. This was supposed to be my last year's holiday gift but I put it off not sure that it was a good thing to do to my knives.

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  1. I have used a "Chef's Choice" for 10 years, prior to this I only used a multi-grade wet stone. The advantage of the Chref's Choice is that yyou eliminate the need for a steel; since the CC has a strop wheel that hones the edge and aligns the molecules to a razor edge. There are several models for the CC; I have the 3 wheel model that covers even nicked or damaged knives.

    7 Replies
    1. re: ospreycove

      "aligns the molecules to a razor edge"?

      Aligns the edge probably. I don't think it can align the molecules.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Chemical....Actually it seems to be brought down to the molecular level.

        (Source Broadway Panhandler Manhattan)
        Honing (Butcher's) Steel

        A knife's edge has an irregular tooth-like appearance under a microscope. These teeth aid in cutting, but it is best to rub the very edge of the blade to perfect smoothness with a honing steel. A honing steel is typically a hardened, magnetized steel rod with tightly spaced grooves etched into the shaft. The steel smoothes and de-burrs the edge with the tiny metal particles clinging to the magnetized steel as it re-aligns the molecules in the knife blade to maximum sharpness. The shafts on steel rods typically range from 9" up to 14" in length. In order to ensure a smooth stroke, a steel length of at least 1" longer than your knife blade is recommended.

        1. re: ospreycove

          I don't know. I just don't believe the "aligns molecules in the knife blade to maximum sharpness". First, the magnetic field on a honing steel is way too weak to make any molecule realignment. Second, there is no real reason to believe a magnetically aligned blade is sharper. In fact, when knives are made, they are heated a temperature which would randomized the atomic structure and they are cool down. There is no any attempted to magnetically align the molecules.

          If any of these is true, then people should never use a magnetic knife strip to store their knives, because the magnet would alter the molecules and dull the knives. I am pretty sure that statement is false.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            By molecules, methinks they mean "large groups of molecules". I.e. microscopic chunks of steel.

          2. re: ospreycove

            You might be able to re-align the molecules of steel or ferris based (iron) metal while in a molten state, but moving or realigning metal with a magnet in it's cooled and hardened state would be something I would like to see.

            First off all the magnet would have to be very strong, a permanent magnet (non electric) would never be strong enough. An electro magnet might be able to do it but you better have the knife and the magnet securely and accurately positioned and tied to hundreds if not thousands of pounds to keep them from moving and being drawn together. This type of magnet would be so strong it would make steel objects fly through the air at a high rate of speed. You would turn it on and half the objects in your house would fly at you, nuts, bolts, knives, TV's, stereos, your teenager with braces, your dogs collar, etc. This would be an enormously popular video on you tube.

            If you could accomplish all this, I think you would just distort the metal if not possibly produce heat and ruin the temper or anneal.

            1. re: cajundave

              "but moving or realigning metal with a magnet in it's cooled and hardened state would be something I would like to see."
              I forget a lot from metallurgy in college, but the molecules in steel and aluminum continue changing forever within the structure. See artificial aging

              1. re: Dave5440

                Some metals are classified as precipitation hardening metals. When a precipitation hardening alloy is quenched, its alloying elements will be trapped in solution, resulting in a soft metal. Aging a "solutionized" metal will allow the alloying elements to diffuse through the microstructure and form intermetallic particles. These intermetallic particles will nucleate and fall out of solution and act as a reinforcing phase, thereby increasing the strength of the alloy. Alloys may age "naturally" meaning that the precipitates form at room temperature, or they may age "artificially" when precipitates only form at elevated temperatures. In some applications, naturally aging alloys may be stored in a freezer to prevent hardening until after further operations - assembly of rivets, for example, may be easier with a softer part.

                Examples of precipitation hardening alloys include 2000 series, 6000 series, and 7000 series aluminium alloy, as well as some superalloys and some stainless steels.

      2. be aware that a sharpener and a steel perform two totally different functions.

        1 - the sharpener does as advertises, removes metal to sharpen
        2 - the steel merely straightens the edge from use without removing any metal

        jfood has the three stage chef's choice as well (only use 2 on a bi-monthly basis). he also uses a steel each time he takes the knife out to use.

        10 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          A little more info on the honing/stropping of a fine edge.

          July 26, 2010
          Did You Know – Part 6 (using a sharpening steel)
          I thought I might write a post about using a sharpening steel because I learned about how one works only a couple of years ago.

          Finding out how it works gave me the confidence to use it more often and more effectively.

          A sharpening steel does not sharpen a knife, it actually only maintains a sharp edge by realigning the molecules of the blade.

          A steel will not work on a blunt knife.

          Done regularly, along with careful hand washing, drying and storage you will preserve the blade a lot longer.

          1. re: ospreycove

            it is a great little addition to the knife drawer...thx

            1. re: jfood

              I have a Lansky sharpening system. It seems to give the sharpest edge of anything that I've tried, but it's real fussy to use and a pain for real large or real small knives. I have the regular and the diamond Lansky sharpening systems. It's also kind of scary to use and you can cut yourself very easily if you're not careful. The Chefs Choice electric sharpener sharpens the edge ok, but it seems fussy to use also and you have to run the knife through many times if it's really dull. I never can seem to get a real sharp edge by using it. I also have some of the manual ceramic "chock stick" type sharpeners. They work ok at first, but seem to clog up with metal dust after being used a few times. To me there doesn't seem to be any real easy or quick way of sharpening knives. All of the methods seem to have their drawbacks.

              1. re: Antilope

                I use crock sticks and think they're really quite good and easy to use. I clean them using a sponge and Bar Keepers Friend scouring powder to clean them and they work like new. Yes, it's a bother but a minor one.

                1. re: BluPlateSpec

                  Try a single ceramic crock stick as your "steel", and you probably will never touch a real steel again.

            2. re: ospreycove

              A steel with grooves in it is a file, as is one made of an abrasive. They most certainly remove metal from a blade, and can be used to make a dull blade sharp. They're actually really aggressive at removing metal, and don't have any place near a knife made of modern hard steels. The old "steel realigns the edge" idea is nonsense. Steels work, when they work at all, by removing material from the edge.

              1. re: dscheidt

                you may find that not many will agree with the statment that a steel is "really aggressive at removing metal" and "Steels work, when they work at all, by removing material from the edge".

                It is more of a honing than a sharpening.

                You and jfood will have to agree to disagree.

                1. re: dscheidt

                  Quote: 'The old "steel realigns the edge" idea is nonsense. Steels work, when they work at all, by removing material from the edge.'

                  Grooved steels do both. How much of each they do depends on how rounded the grooves are, the technique and pressure used, and factors in the knife itself - how tough/brittle the metal is, relative hardness, how acute and thick the edge is, edge distortion. Beyond that, they also contribute some degree of 'glassing' to the edge - sort of smearing the metal as opposed to abrading or bending it (smooth steels and glass honing rods do a lot more of this).

                  As an example, a grooved steel used well does not removed metal very aggressively from old soft-carbon steel knives (like carbon Sabatiers) because the metal is more malleable than brittle. These are the knives that grooved steels were designed to pair with. In real world usage of course, some metal is almost always removed. But that's not what really causes a soft-steel knife to feel sharper after a few passes of a grooved steel.

                  If you find that your grooved steel is removing a lot of metal from your knives, there is probably either something wrong with your technique, or you're using it on a knife it's ill-suited towards.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    Cow......Learning to use a steel properly is far more important than spending the better part of a night laboring over the whetstone. There are as many YouTube videos and online guides to using a steel as there are stars in the sky, but the key is to do it lightly. By using a steel, you're attempting to realign a few molecules of steel back into a cutting edge; heavy pressure will only lead to a truly dull blade.

                    1. re: ospreycove

                      "Learning to use a steel properly is far more important than spending the better part of a night laboring over the whetstone."

                      Depends on what type of knives you use and how sharp you want them to be. For some knives, steels are useless or nearly so.

                      Also, you drastically overestimate how long it takes to use a whetstone once you know what you're doing with it.

            3. Smilingal, what type of knives do you have? Are you looking to get others?

              It makes a big difference as to whether an electric sharpener is a good idea.

              I'm not experienced with the Aladin sharpener, but how do you like it? I know that the carbide sharpeners often wind up needing their carbides replaced often. Has this been the case with it? How old is it? Did it sharpen well when new? How about now?

              18 Replies
              1. re: cowboyardee

                The previous post was a quote from Tom Mylan, (see below), in his article in Atlantic Mag.
                I guess professional butchers have their own way of doing things...................

                Tom Mylan - Tom Mylan is the executive butcher and co-owner of the local, sustainable butcher shop The Meat Hook in Brooklyn, NY. He loves good meat, good music, and good whiskey, but not necessarily in that order.

                All Posts | Email Mylan

                1. re: ospreycove

                  His advice is good for butchers and the majority of home cooks using western-made knives.

                  I was just pointing out that there is more than one way to skin a cat (or bone a chicken). Using a steel on a yanagi for example would be a very bad idea.

                  Also, if you're like me (not to say you should be) and you like your knives a good deal sharper than is strictly necessary for most kitchen tasks (using knives made of very hard steel with very acute edges), then a steel is significantly less useful than it would be for Mr. Mylan or his presumed readership.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    COW. Granted, I am not one to buy works of art knives, and I do not criticize those that do. I am proud of my collection of custom and production knives obtained from small "messer fabriks" in Germany. Purchased when I was living there. For me, and my use, buying ultimate grade knives is like buying a a Cosmi Autoloader Shotgun for $9,000.00 when my Winchester pre 1964 Model 12 (now worth only about $600.00) is more than well suited for my upland birding needs. It is all where you find your

                    1. re: ospreycove


                      Harder steel knives do not have to cost more than softer steel knives. A Tojiro DP knife is slightly cheaper than a Henckels or a Wusthof. That is the whole point why some people believe these hard steel Japanese knives are putting pressure on the standard European knives. Many are in similar price range. These hard steel knives are work knives, not "art knives". They just do not work well with a honing steel.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Chem.......yes, I have a few Japanese knives too, and the difference you state is well noted!!

                      2. re: ospreycove

                        Agreed. I'm often worried when talking about sharpening and such here that others will think I'm implying they're doing something wrong. A forschner or two along with a honing rod and either a chef's choice or occasional professional sharpening is completely adequate for a serious cook.

                        Some people like having copper pans. Or fast cars. I like the feel of an extraordinarily sharp kitchen knife, even if the extra time I'm spending sharpening it to perfection is starting to cut into the time I save using a knife so sharp. I just enjoy it. I dunno why.

                  2. re: cowboyardee

                    I have a Chef's Global and Henkels Santuko a Sabatier Chef's - these are the ones I use the most often - then a few smaller ones. The Aladin is this 5" plastic piece that has the sharpener in the groove. It is almost silly that this sharpens the knives as well as it does - but as I said - I do feel it has been losing it's ability. I manually run the blade thru many times until I feel that it sounds and feels different than it did when I started!

                    1. re: smilingal


                      You have nice range of knives. Personally, I am not a huge fan of electric sharpeners. I prefer sharpening stones, or any manual sharpener. However, back to your specific question, if you like an electric sharpener, then you should consider the Chef's Choice M1520, mostly because it can handle the ~15o edge bevel of your Global and the ~20o edge bevel of your Henckels and Sabatier.


                      It is not cheap.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        yes - I have had my eye on that Chef's Choice - and i will probably splurge - but of course with a 20% B,B,+B coupon. Even with chef's assistance, I can't seem to get the knack of the honing blade - and I guess i would also have the same trepidation with a stone.

                        1. re: smilingal

                          What does "I can't seem to get the knack of the honing blade " mean? Do you mean a knife seems to get more dull after putting it through the honing blade? Maybe you need to strop the knife. Try putting it on a leather belt or on your jean -- just to verify this is the case before getting more expensive leather strop.

                          I am going to throw this question out for others who know more.

                          To all, I am wondering if you need to strop or polish the blade after the honing stage of an electric knife sharper? I am wondering if this is why smilingal (original poster) does not get good results after the honing stage. On one hand, this is often true for manual knife sharpening. On the other hand, my impression is that the honing stage on these electric sharpener is not really done on an extra fine surfaces, so stropping may not do much.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Interestingly, the original Chef's Choice triple angle machines instructed the user to never, ever use a steel or any kind of hone as it would ruin the special shape of the edge the machine made. They insisted that you hone only on the final wheel - usually a ceramic wheel. I don't know if that is still in there or not.

                            My problem, when I owned one of these years ago, was that honing on the machine never produced a sharp enough edge for me, and I would have to go through the entire cycle each time I needed a little touch-up. I put a significant amount of wear and tear on my knives before I figured out that this was ridiculous. Thank goodness I learned the lesson on my Henckels and Wustoff knives, and not my Hatori or Al Mar VG-10's.

                            1. re: applehome


                              Thanks. Yeah, I remember the whole Chef's Choice trizor. I think it is still there. VG-10 is nice :) Well, I like it anyway.

                              1. re: applehome

                                I have a two stage chefs choice and I use a steel in between sharpening. I am sure my knives are not as sharp as cowboy and chem but if I can slice a tomato or raw beef I am ok.

                                From what you have said it sound like the marketing guys at chefs choice are full of it when it comes to the third stage. This is often the case with manufacturers, they think if they stretch the truth it will sell more.

                                1. re: cajundave

                                  I still don't know if the third stage on the Chef's Choice is: (a) not improving the edge or (b) making the edge worse -- for applehome and smilingal

                              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                I meant that I guess no matter how I try i don't feel comfortable working with it for fear of messing up the blade so I suppose therefore i don't do what needs to be done for an adequate job. I meant working with a steel not on a machine.

                                1. re: smilingal

                                  I suggest you to (1) buy a cheap knife and (2) practice on it. You can steel your Henckels and Sabatier, but you probably don't want to do that to your Global.

                                  1. re: smilingal

                                    My problem with the chef's choice was that I could not use it to touch up. But if I went through the whole cycle, it came out plenty sharp. Also if I used a steel I could use it for a while, but when I went back to the machine, I had to start from scratch. I was afraid of the wear and tear on the knives - I quickly got to the point on these forged knives that I had to grind down the bolster.

                                    1. re: applehome

                                      "I quickly got to the point on these forged knives that I had to grind down the bolster"

                                      Ounch. That is one reason I am holding back on the Sabatiers knives. Thanks for the information.

                        2. AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener

                          It costs ~$10 and does an AMAZING job.


                          Now, I'm not making the argument that it does a better job than a Chef's Choice (at $140, it had better!), but consider this $10 tool will easily carry you along nicely for months and months before you even need to think about taking it in for a professional whetstone sharpening (which will cost you $8-10 anyway for a standard chef's knife). In fact, I've gone a year now without a professional sharpening-- only using this ridiculously simple manual sharpener, and every time it returns a razor edge to the blade. This even put an amazing edge on 15 year old cheapo knives that I've been carrying around since college. Amazing.

                          Mr Taster

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            Does this unit do alternate angles? Will it work on Globals as well as western knives?

                            1. re: applehome

                              No idea! What I do know is me dull knives no dull no mo.

                              Mr Taster

                            2. re: Mr Taster

                              Best I can tell from smilingal's account, this is pretty much the same type of device as the Aladin sharpener she has been using. Very quick, puts a decent edge on (depending on the knife), no angle control, shears off a decent amount of metal, carbides wear out comparitively quickly. Sound about right?

                            3. OK, I hate to rain on the parade here, but grab your umbrellas folks.

                              Among other things, I have been a knifemaker and worked in a custom kill/cut and wrap plant. I have had probably 25 different sharpening systems over the years. Water stones, paper wheels, belt machines, Chef's Choice, the pocket rods, the bench stones, microtome stones, diamond steels and stones, edge guide doodads, etc., etc., pretty much everything. Between hunting and the meat plant, I've used knives A LOT, dressed a lot of animals. The knives I make I try to get as sharp as possible. I've got GREAT hand-eye, and know the theory and instructions like I wrote 'em. I even bought a microscope to see what's really happening at the edge.

                              Yet I SUCK at sharpening, and my experience is that 95+% of other people suck at it, too. Even when they've tried for years to learn, like I have. Now when I say I suck, I mean that I can sharpen my kitchen blades so that they have SOME edge and aren't so dull they're dangerous. But nothing like a TRULY sharp piece that has been done by someone with the "knack". Hair-popping sharp that makes tomatoes fall into 2mm slices all by themselves.

                              My friend Bob Kramer is a master ABS bladesmith who has the knack. He's also probably the most highly skilled sharpener alive anywhere. Bob says folks who use their knives for household and cooking use should have their blades PROFESSIONALLY resharpened once a year, and licked on a ceramic rod "steel" monthly. That's it. Hollow-grind, chisel-grind, flat, convex, all the same.

                              The only rub is finding a pro sharpener who isn't with us imbeciles in the lowest 95 percentile. If you live anywhere near even a medium-sized city, there are some available to you. AVOID the grocery-store butchers (who are like me--they just THINK they know sharp).

                              So, save your money and counterspace and buy yourself some freedom from frustration. It's one of the few things that is NOT better done by DIY.

                              Shower's over gearheads--back to gadget coveting.

                              18 Replies
                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                I was where you are until I bought the Edge Pro System. It's more of a jig than a device. It lets us poor schmucks that don't have steel in our blood get a lot closer to that shaving utensil each and every time you sharpen. However - having said that - you don't always want to shave with a kitchen knife. Understanding what you want to use the knife for is as important as knowing how to sharpen it.


                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  That matches my sentiment... weekly sharpening with the $10 AccuSharp gadget (w/ daily steeling of course) and leave the real sharpening to a pro with a whetstone. That seems to me like the best way to go, rather than dumping the big bucks on an electronic gadget that, at its best, is just an approximation of a professional sharpening.


                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    I don't believe that kaleokahu was speaking well of any gadget - but I'll let him speak for himself.

                                    Unless AccuSharp makes one for the super-thin knives with their narrow angle, you're leaving out the OP's Global. Of course, Global has their own ceramic pull-through (Minosharp). One of each would still be cheaper than the Chef's Choice.

                                    Chef's Choice does make a unit (1520) that can do both angles, although I hate the thought of a Global on any electrical machine. The hard, thin metal is more brittle than western steel - and you can more easily chip or burn in a spot. Globals should be hand-sharpened.

                                    I use an ungrooved steel hone every time I pull a knife out of the block - I don't see how I could get by with a weekly pull-through and still keep what I consider to be a sharp edge. The VG-10's and other hard steel blades do hold out better, but they require honing as well, for which I have a ceramic rod. They also get touched up on the stone quite often, and that's where I have a problem with the Chef's Choice - in my mind, there's no such thing as a touch up - you're building the edge up from the base each time.

                                    1. re: applehome

                                      I didn't mean to imply that kaleokahu espoused any gadgetry... I meant that my belief matches his in that "only professionals can do a truly proper sharpening job".

                                      That's why I do what I do in the interim-- choosing a device that maximizes effectiveness while minimizing cost, labor and precious counter/cabinet real estate. Mind you, I don't take apart carcasses so I have no need for specialty or expensive blades. I use Victorinox Fibrox 8" chef's knife and 4" paring knife for 95% of my cooking needs. Stamped blades, amazingly comfortable handle and sharp, and inexpensive enough that you don't have to treat them with kid gloves.

                                      Mr Taster

                                  2. re: kaleokahu

                                    I couldn't agree more. I'm a good cook, have worked as a chef, but I suck at sharpening knives -- I'm dangerous with a Chef's Choice -- so I take my knives (Wusthof stainless, early 1980s vintage), to a professional sharpener once a year or so. I steel each knife about every other time I wash it, right before I put it in the knife holder, and I always have sharp knives.

                                    It's one of the best things I've ever done for myself, and it wasn't expensive, under $10 for an 8" chef, 6" sandwich, and 3" paring.

                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      For another perspective:

                                      Not that there's anything wrong with sharpening by a skilled professional, but hand sharpening isn't all that difficult. It can take a while to learn, though.

                                      True, there are some people who are just naturals at it and can do amazing things with a waterstone
                                      Maybe this is the 5% you're referring to?

                                      I'm no master, but I can put a much sharper edge on a knife than a Chef's Choice could, and I don't think I'm any wunderkind for doing so. I've also taught a couple people to hand sharpen. They can both get a decent knife sharp enough to pop hair, blitz through tomatoes, and leave clean edges on sashimi. Maybe I was just lucky that I and those I've taught were all in that special 5%, but I sort of doubt it.

                                      If someone doesn't want to learn to hand sharpen, that's totally understandable, but certainly more than 5% can pick up the knack to a useable level. Used to be that all professional cooks sharpened their own knives.

                                      Sorry you had difficulty learning. Were you just frustrated that you couldn't get a knife as sharp as a really masterful pro, or did you have a hard time getting a useful paper-shredding, armhair-popping edge?

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        Hi, cowboy!

                                        Do you mind elaborating a bit more on this "hand sharpening" tehnique of yours that you are talking about.

                                        You've got me really interested in wanting to learn.

                                        What type of tools or gadgets do I need?

                                        I dont want anything electric.

                                        1. re: achilles007

                                          This link has a video demo. The guy is using the smaller version of the system that Leolady and I talk about down lower in this thread (the video guy's model [IM200] has an 8" stone, but since I have some 10" knives, I got the 11.5" IM313 model):


                                          1. re: achilles007

                                            The minimal one needs for hand sharpening is a knife and a flatstone. Obviously, we all have knives. As for stones, the older American way is to use an oilstone. However, waterstones are gaining for popularity. Waterstones are more expensive, but you can get a relatively cheap one at ~$20 dollars.

                                            For intro knife sharpening, I thought Mark Richmond videos did a good job:

                                            I thought videos from this following guy is pretty good as well:

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              Hey Chem:

                                              What do you charge for sharpening, and do you have a satisfaction guarantee?

                                              Your Friend Kaleo

                                              1. re: kaleokahu


                                                I don't have a satisfaction guarantee because I am not a professional sharpener. :)

                                                I must have unintentionally mislead you. Sorry. My career profession is: chemist.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  But you sound like you know what you're doing, even so...

                                              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                The Richmond videos look great. About the Youtube ones: any idea why I see his text written all over the video window? (I can't see much of anything but the words he's speaking.)

                                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                                  Bada Bing,

                                                  The caption is a new feature on youtube. Some videos have it, some don't. On the lower right on the youtube screen, there is a red icon "CC". Click on it and the captions will disappear. Hope this help.

                                                  I will say that Mark Richmond's videos are just a bit more informative especially on waterstone and Japanese techniques. Thomas Stuckey's videos are well-spoken and confident. His technqiues work for both oilstones and waterstones.


                                                  I find it is a bit more helpful to search "Thomas Stuckey expertvillage" on youtube to get a list:


                                                  Most expertvillage videos are really horrible, but Thomas Stuckey's video are good.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    Thanks for the tips! I haven't known about expert village, but I instantly noticed how many of his comments were, basically, "Thanks for an expert village video that is actually good and informed!"

                                                    1. re: Bada Bing

                                                      :) Your welcome. Yes, people thank Thomas because many expertvillage videos are mediocre or downright horrible. Here is a bad (and funny) video:


                                                      Please do not actually follow the instructions. The knife is the wrong knife. It is a nakiri bocho, not a cleaver. The techniques are also wrong.

                                          2. re: kaleokahu

                                            I'm with kaleokahu. Get your knife professionally sharpened. I use a place here in San Diego, for a $20 I got 4 chef's knives, plus a paring knife, carving knife and kitchen shears sharpened well enough to cut through the fabric of space-time. Really, really sharp. I'd rather spend $20 once a year for awesome performance than spend $60 for a sharpener that only does a mediocre job with my knives.

                                            More here: