Best Pocket Knife Sharpeners, Reviews – 2023
Any knife that has ever been created out of any solid materials such as metals, alloys, or ceramics needs to be sharpened at some point if it is intended to be used at peak performance for an extended amount of time. Knife sharpening sounds like a simple process, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye with this process. There are many factors to consider; material, grit, angle, power, type, length, durability, all of these play a role in knife sharpening and deciding which sharpener is suitable for you. Not all of these factors are weighted the same. Some factors don’t affect the effectiveness or functionality of the sharpener but might still make a significant difference in your purchasing decision. These can be anything from size and weight to aesthetics and design.
This article will not focus on non-portable, heavier, or highly professional sharpeners since that’s not in the scope of the article’s subject. Instead, I’ll be talking primarily about a popular type of sharpener: the portable or pocket knife sharpener. Although narrowing our focus reduces the number of factors we have to consider, there are still quite a few of them. Before I can get into my reviews, I need to make sure we’re on the same page as far as the definitions and terminologies are concerned. These terms can be somewhat complex, and different sources may have slightly varying definitions, leading to misunderstanding for the end consumer.
Let’s start with defining grit, and explaining the variety of grits as well as their purposes. In sandpaper, grit is very clearly defined as “the size of the particles of abrading materials embedded in the sandpaper.” There are many ways to measure this, but the most common one is how many particles can pass through a 1(inch)2 filter. However, the grit of a blade sharpening surface like a whetstone takes into account a lot more factors. The obvious one being particle diameter, but other factors include hardness, shape, exposure, chemical composition, and durability. It’s a lot more complex and confusing, and the standardization procedure of whetstone grit is far out of the scope of this article. Keep in mind that the lower the grit number, the more coarse and rough it will be.
As a general guideline, below 100 grit is meant for reshaping and repair of heavily damaged edges. 100-250 is for sharpening very, very dull blades and repairing chips or damage. 250-550 is for repairing deep nicks and scratches, also for sharpening dull blades. 550-1000 is for seldom sharpening and smoothing out scratches and lighter nicks and chips. 1000-2000 is for often use honing and sharpening already good blades. 2000-4000 is for creating very sharp edges, and for regular daily/bi-daily edge maintenance. 4000-6000 is for creating very, very sharp edges to the point where they become delicate and will bend or chip on contact with any harder foods. 6000-8000 is for mirror-smooth, incredibly sharp but very fragile edges. This sharpening is only helpful for very niche use-cases and is not recommended.
The next point on this list is the angle. This refers to the angle formed between the two whetting edges inside the sharpener. A sharper and more acute angle will mean a sharper but more delicate edge, while a more obtuse angle will achieve vice versa. Likely the most critical decision you’ll be making is whether you should carry an electric knife sharpener or a regular unpowered variant. The advantages and disadvantages of both are about what you’d expect.
An unpowered sharpener is more reliable and easier to take care of, while an electric one makes the actual job of sharpening easier. However, this debate is a lot more worthwhile on a countertop sharpener, because if you want a pocket sharpener, electric ones come with three extra flaws: power sourcing, weight, and durability. If it’s not battery-powered, you cannot use it on the go. And even then, you’ll have to keep note of how much charge is left in the battery, so you don’t run out when you need it the most. Moreover, electric sharpeners tend to be heavier due to the motors, servos, and all the circuitry. This also makes them less durable and less reliable in case of damage.
The last point we will be discussing in some detail here is the material used in the sharpener. The three most common types are ceramic, metal carbide, and diamond. You might assume that diamond would be the best, but it’s not that simple. A diamond sharpener just means that there are tiny crystalline diamonds in the abrasive substance on the whetstone. As you know, diamond is very hard, which means that a diamond sharpener is very good at resetting edges. However, it is very aggressive and takes off a lot of metal, not what you want if you’re just trying to perform regular maintenance sharpening. As for ceramic, it’s on the other extreme from diamond. This means that it’s great for maintaining an already honed edge, and a ceramic sharpener is ideal for polishing and smoothening edges. They’re not very efficient for a dull or chipped edge. That’s where metal carbide sharpeners come in. Usually tungsten carbide, these are fantastic at sharpening a dull blade quickly without being too rough on the edge. It’s not the best at either end, but for a seldom sharpening when the knife becomes noticeably dull, there’s nothing quite as good as a tungsten carbide sharpener.
With all that being said, let’s get into my recommendations and their reviews to hopefully help you settle on the sharpener that’s perfect for you. Keep in mind that the list is not in any particular order and is just a general compilation of some of the best pocket sharpeners on the market, in my opinion.
- Accusharp 001C – $15
Simple and reliable are two words that come to mind when I think of the Accusharp 001C. It’s made of so few parts and simplistic in design and appearance that even a child could put one together from the base pieces. This isn’t to say that it’s any worse off for this focus on simplicity because the tungsten-carbide sharpening material is still very effective. The design may not look like much, but it has some thought put into it since the sharpening motion is very natural and fluid, especially as you repeat the same motion a couple of times. While this doesn’t do as many things as some of the other options in this price segment, it does a bang-up job of the straight-edge sharpening it’s designed for.
- Victorinox VN43323 – $15
Despite its design and looks, this product is not a pen. It’s the Victorinox VN43323, and it’s one of my favorite options on this list. The Victorinox name comes with a lot of history and heritage; they’re the people who came up with the original Swiss Army Knife. Boasting over a century of experience and work ethic, Victorinox is a reliable and recognisable brand, and it does not disappoint with this sharpener. Extremely portable and incredibly functional, the VN43323 has angled ceramic sharpening blades for plain edge knives and a flat low-to-medium grit whetstone for pre-sharpening and edge resetting. All of these features are in the form factor of a capped pen, and it’s all at a very reasonable price.
- Smith’s Abrasives Pocket Pal PP1 – $12
Smith’s has a long history of making blades and blade sharpening products, and they’ve always been very high-quality, well-engineered, and reliable. Their “Pocket Pal 1” was one of their earliest ventures into the sharpening field, and it remains one of their best products. It’s very versatile, including a coarse 400 grit carbide sharpener, a fine 800 grit ceramic sharpener, and a fold-out, round, diamond-coated 400 grit rod for sharpening serrated edges on the go. If you’re not a fan of the design of the basic PP1, there are many variants and colors. There’s also a “tactical” series featuring a more angular design with a slight premium in cost depending on where you buy from. Functionally, all variants are the same and feature only aesthetic differences.
- Spyderco Tri-angle Sharpmaker – $108
A premium product for a premium price, the Spyderco Tri-Angle is a highly functional and versatile item, boasting “everything necessary to sharpen any type of edged or pointed tool.” It may look a little complex at first glance but don’t worry, every purchase comes with an instruction book and a DVD guide. While I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say that it has everything necessary for any knife, it does have just about anything you could imagine needing in a portable sharpener. If the price is putting you off, don’t worry; Spyderco products go on sale very often, and most websites have them available for much less than the list price.
- Sharpal 101N – $10
Sharpal advertises their 101N as a lot more than just a portable knife sharpener. They like to call it a “survival tool” since it features an emergency whistle and an all-weather fire-starter. While their claims of the whistle providing “up to 110 dB” might be just a tad exaggerated, it undeniably brings extra utility to an already efficient package. It’s packed with a coarse tungsten carbide sharpener, a fine ceramic sharpener, and a diamond-coated tapered sharpening rod for serrated edges. Moreover, this relatively cheap product comes with a three-year replacement warranty! So you know that Sharpal is very confident in their product, despite the tall claims.
- Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener – $35
Bringing it back to the basics, Work Sharp follows a very simplistic large whetstone design with a lot of additional value. The large diamond-coated sharpening plate can be entirely removed and turned around for easier and safer carrying; under the plate is a broadhead wrench. There’s also a ceramic rod to the side of the sharpener for finer work, and there’s a specific serration sharpener near the guide pieces. However, the unique part of this sharpener is the leather strop to the side that no other item on this list brings. For the price, there’s a lot of available utility here.
- Lansky PS-MED01 Blademedic – $19
One of the most popular products on this list, Lansky’s Blademedic, is a bestseller, and it’s not just a fluke. It’s obvious that a lot of thought went into making this as compact and space-efficient as possible, with no extra bells and whistles. What you see is what you get with this device. Clearly labelled are the two types of sharpening blades: the coarse side with carbide material and the fine side with ceramic. Also present are a tapered diamond-coated rod and another ceramic blade designed explicitly for serrations. It exhibits a simple and reliable design for the customers looking for something more barebones than it is fancy.
- Gerber Gear Bear Grylls Field Sharpener – $27
Endorsed by the one and only legendary Bear Grylls of “Man vs. Wild” fame, this Gerber sharpener features his own “BG” logo and branding all over, even down to the orange-and-black color scheme. It also shows the Morse code for an “SOS” signal on the back, just in case. As for the actual sharpening surface, it’s a very space-efficient design with a coarse and a fine serration sharpener as well as carbide and a ceramic plain-edge sharpener. This tiny device should be satisfactory for most simple field sharpening.
- Wüsthof 2922 – $30
Wüsthof is a very old, very famous brand with international recognition for its incredibly high-quality design and impeccable engineering. Of all the products on this list, I feel most comfortable putting my reputation behind the durability of this sharpener. It may not feature as much functionality as some others here, but it does the simple coarse carbide – fine ceramic formula better than any else. The sharpener has a nice, comfortable weight, a soft grip, and a rubberized base. The price might make some readers skeptical of the lack of features, but the quality and reliability more than make up for it, in my opinion.
- Fällkniven FS4 – $31
Fällkniven is a Swedish company that has been making switchblades for quite a while. When they started manufacturing whetstones under their “DC” line, they came up with this brilliant concept for a portable whetstone. It looks and functions as a switchblade, but instead of a knife, it out pops a piece of high-quality Swedish whetstone. I only recommend this product to those who are already comfortable using a regular whetstone and have experience in effectively sharpening blades with one since it is a lot less user-friendly than just running your blade through a pair of ceramic sharpeners a couple of times. However, if you can make good use of this, I think it’s an elegant portable sharpening solution.