Before you choose a knife sharpener, you need to know what type of knives your friend has. Japanese style and European style blades are manufactured with a different angle edge. Most European knives have an edge between 22 and 25 degrees per side, Japanese style edges are between 10 and 15 degrees. Choose a sharpener that is correct in angle for the knife edge.
recommended types of sharpeners after the jump
If your friend is the type who is hands on and patient, and will take the time to learn and practice, a sharpening stone or whetstone is the best sharpening method. A whetstone can be used on either European or Japanese knife angles. For a good starting whetstone choose a stone with a medium coarse grit on one side and a fine abrasive grit on the other side. A 6000/1000 combination stone is a good combination for beginners. Phoenix Knife House sells an instructional video on how to use a whetstone to sharpen.
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Buy an edge guide to go along with the sharpening stone. Edge guides help the user keep a steady angle while sharpening. Extended practice with an edge guide also helps develop the hand-eye coordination and the muscle memory for freehand sharpening.
Hand held pull through knife sharpeners and electric sharpeners are a good choice for the timid, those afraid to try their hand or those short on time needed to master sharpening with a whetstone. An advantage of hand held pull through and electric sharpeners is the built in angle guide, a comfort for the user who fears ruining the angle edge of the knife.
Both hand held pull through sharpeners and electric sharpeners come with grinding wheels made from different materials. The price of the unit is a good indicator of the quality of the sharpening mechanism. Look for a pull through sharpening unit with three stages, the third stage, the polishing stage can be use to hone the knife in between sharpening.
Chef's Choice line of electric sharpeners offers a range of quality electric sharpening products. We recommend the three -stage electric knife sharpener. A good pull through for Japanese knives is the Minosharp hand held sharpener with ceramic wheels. Wustoff and Henkle also make knife sharpeners to meet the specifications of European style blades. In addition to Phoenix Knife House, hand held and electric sharpeners can be found at Sur La Table and William Sonoma.