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Mar 7, 2011 05:39 PM

Knife Sharpeners - Spyderco Sharpmaker vs Chefs Choice Pronto

I'm look for a decent, bang-for-the-buck knife sharpener.

I have several cheap knives, some Henkels, and a Shun 12" chefs knife.

So far, I've narrowed my search to two models.

Spyderco Sharpmaker - It seems like the authentic way to sharpen a knife. It just seems more legit. I haven't heard any bad reviews of it, despite countless resources and reviews on it. Overall, a very decent, bang-for-the-buck knife sharpener that works for most knives. It offers the 30 degree angle for the Shun (and other Asian-style blades) and I believe 45 for general western knives (like my Henkels). Costs around $50 and you get a bunch of rods for customizing your edge.

Chefs Choice Pronto - It seems like the wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am approach to knife sharpening. You just stick your knife between the slots and take a couple swipes. It has two slots - one for coarse and another for polish/honing. There are plenty of other knife sharpeners like this, but this offers two slots, as opposed to the usual one. It just seems more legit, than something like Accusharp. That said, the cost is close to the Spyderco Sharpmaker. It's $40 at Amazon, and they have two types - 463 model for 15 degree edge (Asian-style) and 464 model for general western knives. Purchasing both (one for my Henkels and other cheap knives, and one for my Shun) would add up to $80. Reviews for the 464 are mixed, but the reviews for the 463 model are praiseworthy. I haven't found any other knife sharpeners of this quick-fix variety for Shun (and other Asian-style knives) with glowing reviews.

So what do you guys think is the better investment?

On one hand, Spyderco seems cheaper and more versatile. And it's pretty authentic - very manually involved. But I don't fancy taking 20+ minutes to sharpen a knife, everytime they go blunt.

With Chefs Choice Pronto, it should take two or three minutes, max, to sharpen a blade. But again, I've never owned these quick-fix sharpeners, and I have no idea how they stack up with something more traditional like Spyderco.

What do you guys think? Is the Spyderco that much better, that I should invest the extra time to sharpen my knives? Or is Chefs Choice Pronto good enough to be a suitable investment?

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  1. I have not even finished reading your post, but I know 99% I am going to say this, so I will. Between these two: Spyderco Sharpmaker

    Edited: I just finished reading your post. Same: Spyderco Sharpmaker

    5 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Could you please elaborate?

      I'm looking for more detailed responses, in terms of why one would choose Spyderco over the Chefs Choice Pronto 463 / 464.

      Is it that much better? Do you ever find the Spyderco process tedious?

      1. re: finalera


        "Do you ever find the Spyderco process tedious?"

        Let's me first say I don't have a Spyderco, but I doubt I will find it tedious since I use a flat waterstone for sharpening. I had a Chefs Choice manual sharpener years ago, but not Pronto. The problem with these manual sharpener designs is that they do not last very long. I made a picture for a different manual sharpener, but similar (not same) argument holds in this case. Take a look at the drawing:

        With this design, you will repeatedly rub the same spots (or very small area). Although the diamond abrasives on Chefs Choice are aggressive, they only form a very thin layer of diamond abrasive. Once it is gone, it is useless.

        Another thing is about the statement of "But I don't fancy taking 20+ minutes to sharpen a knife, everytime they go blunt" It may take you a very long time to sharpen a very dull knife with a Spyderco Sharpmaker, but if you are just upkeeping or maintaining the knife edge, I cannot imagine it will take you more than two minutes for once a month.

        Edited: I also think the finishing edge you get from the Spyderco is finer.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Thanks, I guess I'll get the Spyderco, after all.

          1. re: finalera


            :) Wait for a few more responses before you decide. Although I prefer Spyderco, I often learn from the counter/opposite suggestions. Someone may stop by and give a very strong logical reason for the Chef Choice Pronto. Best luck shopping.

      2. I have the sharpmaker and LOVE it! I'd buy 10 more. I don't have any experience with the other sharpener that you speak of, but my dad bought me this one, and he's had his for well over 20 years and still uses it weekly on his knives.

        8 Replies
        1. re: LaureltQ


          How often do you use your Sharpmaker on your main knife? And how long does it take you to sharpen/upkeep the knife for each session?

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I have 2 knives that I use for most everything, a 9" Wustof Chef's and a 6" Wustof Sandwich. I go through and give all my knives a thorough sharpening every few months, but "touch up" the edges on those 2 every couple weeks with just the white finishing stones and the 45 degree final edge (they advocate bringing the blade down to a 30 degree edge and back beveling it to 45 to have a thinner edge but still maintain a reasonable level of sharpness longer term). I seem to kill edges with my steel (I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong, but it's easier just to hit it with the fine stones). I figure when I eventually grind these knives down a lot more, I'll be somewhat more picky regarding what types of blades I use and I'll be ready to replace them anyway.

            My main problem is the cleaning of the stones. When I do a thorough sharpening of my 9" chef's, doing the 45 degree (coarse angled surface, coarse flat surface, fine angled surface, fine flat surface) and then the 30 degree (coarse angled surface, coarse flat surface, fine angled surface, fine flat surface), It will have clogged the stones up and I have to scrub them with some barkeepers friend to continue making progress on other knives. Other than that, I can get through 2-4 paring knives (I have like 4 victorinox ones that I use and put in the dishwasher, and then a wustof that I use when I have larger jobs and want something that feels more substantial in my hand.) between scrubbing off the stones. I only hit my bread knife every year or so because I don't do THAT much bread cutting and I've found that it has begun to wear the sharper points down off the serrations despite following the directions on their dvd. Knives usually take 5 minutes depending on your speed.

            It takes much longer to put the initial edges on my friends' large pocket knives. I assume this is a combination of the harder steel and the thicker blades (requiring removal of much more material) but touchups are almost as quick as when I do my kitchen knives.

            1. re: LaureltQ



              "Knives usually take 5 minutes depending on your speed"

              So you do touch up every couple of weeks and each time about 5 minutes, right? Or is "5-minute" refering the full sharpening time?

              Clogging is not uncommon especially for finer stones. The metal fine simply get in the porous.

              I do have one question when you wrote:
              "When I do a thorough sharpening of my 9" chef's, doing the 45 degree (coarse angled surface, coarse flat surface, fine angled surface, fine flat surface) and then the 30 degree (coarse angled surface, coarse flat surface, fine angled surface, fine flat surface"

              Do you really sharpen at 45o first, and then 30o? Or 30o first, then 45o? I thought people like to thin their blade at a lower angle like 30o and then put a microbevel at the bigger angle at 45o.


              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                CK - each time about 5 minutes except for initial sharpening which takes a bit longer. touch-ups take only 10-20 passes on the fine stones, so 1-2 minutes including setup and breakdown.

                You're right, I got the 2 angles mixed up.

                1. re: LaureltQ

                  :) Thanks. The 1-2 minutes duration for touch-ups information is especially helpful and is what I usually hear about.

              2. re: LaureltQ

                " I seem to kill edges with my steel (I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong,"
                I would stop using the steel if that's the case, your edge will last longer between touch-ups. What is the set up time for the spyderco?

                1. re: Dave5440

                  I haven't taken it out of the block in well over a year for this reason. No point IMO.

                  I take it out of the drawer, take the "lid" off, remove the 4 tri-angles and brass guard sticks, put the cover back on (it becomes a handle) and place the 2 sticks that I want to use and the guard sticks in, and it's ready to go. Maybe a minute? I keep it in the back of my silverware drawer which is RIGHT where my main workstation is so I don't even have to walk across the kitchen.

          2. I have a Spyderco and I am very happy with it. I use it about twice a year to sharpen my knives use a honing steel in between to keep them honed.

            1. Thanks everybody. Seems like Spyderco is the best bang for the buck in the $50 price range. Anything better is the Edge Pro, but those go for triple the cost, and depending on the set, could cost substantially more.

              For now, I'll just settle for Spyderco. Thanks again!

              3 Replies
              1. re: finalera

                You won't be settling with the spyderco. ;)

                1. re: LaureltQ


                  Yeah, I've never bought any knife sharpening kit before, so it's gonna be relatively easy to impress me. I just want sharp knives. I'm not looking to become an obsessed swordsmith. I have enough interests, as is, to keep me busy.

                2. re: finalera

                  Haha, chem proved the 'blink' theory.

                3. Just found this; I need one, too.


                  And a quality control concern from a long time Spyderco user who bought a new one and isn't happy:


                  13 Replies
                  1. re: mcf

                    Yeah, read that review on Amazon before. I guess you just have to hope he received a defective product... 'cause I don't think the Spyderco has any legitimate rivals in that price range. It's either the Spyderco or one of those quick-fix swiping knife sharpeners (Chefs Choice Pronto).

                    There's electrical, but the decent ones seem to ring in the $100+ range... but if you're gonna spend that much, why not Edge Pro, which is widely considered the best knife sharpener available, because you get the holy grail "mirror edge."

                    PS: Thanks for posting those articles!

                    1. re: finalera

                      I have seen that review too, but the complaints are unique. They do not appear to be widespread of similar complaints. As for rivals, I know Lansky offers similar products at lower price points. I haven't really heard much about them.



                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        lansky, the kia of sharpening systems...bought a set years ago, what a disappointment

                        1. re: BiscuitBoy

                          Thanks for the feedback. Do you mean it is a disappointment compared to say Spyderco Sharpmaker or do you mean it is a disappointment compared to flat waterstone? What are we comparing it to?

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            cheaply made, the optional base that's supposed to secure the knife clamp was wobbly, it took forever to get a suitable edge...I was always going back to my old school oil stones to finish the job (and I know you know I'm not a huge fan of even waterstones!). I ended up making a wooden jig to hold my stones at a 22 degree angle, while I pulled the blade across at a perp angle to the work surface, same logic I suppose the spyderco rig is based on. I've never seen the sharpmaker in person, but I know spyderco makes a helluva good knife, so I would think it must be decent product

                            1. re: BiscuitBoy

                              I watched the "how to use" video on the Lansky web-site, besides being cheap looking, it looks down right dangerous to use.


                              1. re: Dave5440


                                The Lankey video you have showed is the famous Lankey system -- its bread and butter. On the other hand, Lankey also has another system design which looks like Spypderco Sharpmaker. Take a look:



                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Yes that one looks alittle better, It would be hard to tell them apart without the name on it.

                              2. re: BiscuitBoy

                                "I know you know I'm not a huge fan of even waterstones!"

                                Actually, I didn't, but now I do.

                                Yes, my understanding is that the Spyderco Sharpmaker is better. Spyderco Sharpmaker rod is triangular in cross section and it allows the users to sharpen the knife with the corner of the triangle as well as the flat surface of the triangle. This allows speed vs uniform/smooth.

                                How much Spyderco sharpmaker is better than Lanksy, that I have no idea.

                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Yeah, someone told me about Lansky. They actually recommended it to me, so I went to Amazon, where a reviewer referenced that it's not as safe as the Spyderco.

                            Long story short, here I am.

                            1. re: finalera

                              Thanks. :) Wish you the best in making your decision. When you do get your product, please come back to tell us about your experience - the goods and the bads.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  I just got the Sharpmaker today. Here's my new post, if you're interested...