Written By
Published Sep. 30, 2021

The best sharpening stones are must-have tools for everyone from the most avid knife enthusiast to the amateur chef. These systems bring new life back into old knives and will allow you to make clean, easy cuts with your favorite hunting knife, fillet knife, bushcraft knife, butchering knife, or that old chef’s knife you use to chop up vegetables for venison stew.

I’m a custom knife maker, so I’ve had quite a bit of experience with a variety of stones in different styles and materials. To help you choose the best sharpening stone for you, I bought and tested several options. Here are the knife sharpeners that made my top picks.

Best Whetstone: Keenbest Sharpening Stone 

Key Features

  • Two double-sides stones
  • Silicon carbide construction
  • 7”x2.2”x1” sized stones

Why it Made the Cut

A simple and highly effective design makes this sharpening system a winner. Everything needed to sharpen even the dullest blades is included to cover all the steps necessary to obtain a sharp edge. And the cost is very reasonable, making it our pick for the best whetstone.

Pros and Cons

Pros 

  • Sturdy and simple design
  • Inexpensive cost
  • Contains all you need to effectively sharpen your knives in one kit

Cons

  • It comes with a set angle guide that may not work for every style of knife you sharpen
  • At 7 pounds, it’s a little heavy for travel

Product Description

The Keenbest Sharpening Stone is an inexpensive, easy-to-use set that comes with two whetstones, one with 400/1000 grit and the other with 3000/8000 grit. The heavy duty base is made of bamboo, with rubber on the bottom to keep it in place when sharpening — a convenience and a safety feature. The whetstones are two different colors, a light green and a light orange, allowing the user to quickly identify the proper stone. It also comes with a “resurfacer,” otherwise known as a flattening stone that is used to flatten the whetstones as they get worn away with use. Keenbest includes a leather strop and an angle guide — everything you need to sharpen and maintain your blades is included. Keenbest includes a helpful list of tips for using this system. There are more expensive stones on the market, but these stones are highly effective, and with a little patience and work, are great for getting that sharp cutting edge you’re looking for.

Best Natural Stone Sharpener: Smith’s Tri6 Arkansas Stone Sharpening System

Key Features

  • Three stones with different grades of coarseness, including one Arkansas stone
  • Holding cradle 
  • Dimensions: 4.6” x 9.7” x 4.6”

Why it Made the Cut: 

This system features a coarse synthetic stone, a medium synthetic stone, and a fine Arkansas stone. Each stone is 6 inches long and color-coded to ensure quick identification of the desired grit. The stones are mounted on a molded plastic triangle with handles for easy stone rotation and easy to read stone identification. Switching to the next grit of stone is as simple as rotating the triangle in the provided cradle and adding a bit of oil. The simple, well engineered system is a perfect setup for most any sharpening job. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Well designed, three-sided rotating holder makes switching from one stone to the other a breeze
  • The stone is held at a nice height allowing unobstructed movement while using
  • Made in U.S.

Cons

  • The base is made of a lightweight plastic material that may break if dropped

Product Description

The Smith’s Tri-6 Hone system comes with three stones of different grits on a rotating holder and includes a generous amount of honing oil that will allow for quite a few sharpenings. The stones come in coarse, medium, and fine grits, and are easily changed by rotating in the well-designed holder. The well-built system on the best natural stone sharpener holds the stone high off the table, allowing the user unobstructed movement while sharpening. Smith’s has also included an angle guide for finding the correct sharpening angle. 

Best Sharpening Stone for Pocket Knives: Ultra Sharp II 

Why it Made the Cut

Very easy to use and unlike some of the inexpensive diamond plates out there, these are not too thin. They feel good in your hand and have enough weight to be stable while sharpening your knives. Easy to read labeling makes determining the coarseness of the stones very easy. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Three different grits: 300/600/1200
  • Each stone is easily identified by the convenient labeling
  • Stone dimensions: 6” x 2” x 0.25”

Cons: 

  • 1200 grit isn’t considered extra fine by some avid knife sharpeners

Product Description:

This Ultra Sharp II kit takes the bite out of your abrasion resistant knife edges. That hard to sharpen knife will quickly become tame when using this best sharpening stone for pocket knives. The diamond impregnated surface that comes in the standard coarse, medium and extra fine grits gets even the most abrasion resistant knives sharp.

Best Sharpening Stone for Beginners: Lansky 4-Stone Deluxe Diamond System

Key Features

  • Comes with storage case
  • Ease of setup/ fairly accurate angle control
  • Four grits and four angles

Why it Made the Cut

The Lansky system ensures that you can sharpen your knife edge to the exact bevel you specify. It’s designed to give your blade a professional and razor sharp edge with little time invested. The controlled angle system has been tried and tested over time and still considered one of the best systems for the price. The knife clamp has 4 set angles of 17, 20, 25, and 30 degrees. These angles should give most users the correct angles for most of their knives. It’s easy to set up and use, making it our pick for best sharpening stone for beginners.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Easy setup and well written instructions
  • Plastic case for ease of transport and keeping system together
  • Lansky offers accessories to make this kit even more user friendly

Cons

  • Thumb screws loosen a bit with use, and may impact your sharpening angle

Product Description

Lansky systems feature a jaw like clamp that holds the spine of the knife, while the stones attach to a metal rod. The rod is placed into a premade hole in the jaws that determine the angle of sharpening. It’s a simple setup that does a pretty good job of controlling the angle at which you are sharpening. I prefer the diamond systems to the Arkansas stone systems, because the diamond stones really help sharpen the most stubborn stainless steel blades. Another advantage of the Lansky is that there are quite a number of accessories and other stones you can purchase to really customize your system. One accessory I would highly encourage is the Lansky Universal Mount LM009. This mount really helps hold the system and allows you to use both hands while sharpening. 

Best Diamond Professional-Grade Sharpening System: Wicked Edge WE130

Key Features

  • Four grits, including two diamond grits
  • One-step cam lock knife vise
  • Easy angle adjustment of 1 degree

This system has the ability for main angle adjustment of 1 degree, and fine angle adjustment of 0.5 degree. The knife clamp allows the system to be used on the widest variety of knife grinds, including blades that are full-flat-ground or distally tapered. The system includes coarse 100 grit, medium coarse 200 grit, and medium fine 400 diamond grit, and fine 600 diamond grit.

Why it Made the Cut

The Wicked Edge is one the most advanced and user-friendly sharpening systems out there. It offers the ability to adjust the sharpening angle from 13 to 35 degrees per side.

Pros and Cons

Pros 

  • Ease of use
  • Accessories can be added, i.e different grit stones, leather strop, etc.
  • Can sharpen blades up to 15 inches long

Cons 

  • Price will be a hurdle for most people 

Product Description 

The Wicked Edge is one of the most precise, angle-controlled systems you can purchase. It is expensive, but the design of the system is very user friendly and works very well. Many different stones and accessories can be purchased separately. The uniqueness of this system is the ultra-precision of the sharpening angle and how the system setup allows both hands to be free to quickly sharpen the blade. Unfortunately, the price of the system will be a barrier for most people, but it is an excellent system. It can be purchased with an aluminum or granite base that allows for a solid mount and it can also be attached to your home work bench if desired.

This is a dream system for avid sharpeners or collectors trying to save the original cutting angle of their knives. The system is well thought out, user friendly, and can be used by professional sharpeners to get the correct cutting and aid a mirror polish to the cutting edge.

Best Axe-Sharpening Puck: Straight Grain Axe Sharpening Puck

Key Features

  • 7.8 ounces 
  • 3-inch diameter 
  • 200 and 400 grit sides

Why it Made the Cut 

This best axe sharpening puck from Straight Grain easily sharpens outdoor tools such as axes, hatchets, and machetes. The weight and size makes it easy to carry in your pack, and allows for quick tuning of the edges of your wood cutting tools. 

Pros and Cons

Pros 

  • Made in the U.S.
  • Aluminum oxide 
  • Easy to hold in hand

Cons 

  • A higher grit puck to go along with this one would be helpful

Product Description

When outdoors and you are using chopping tools you want something to get the cutting edge back that is lightweight and easy to carry. The sharpening puck is a great design that fulfills these requirements. This puck is made in the U.S. and comes in two grits (200 and 400) on the opposing sides of the puck. The stones are set and cut by hand, and the puck has finger grooves to protect your hand while sharpening. 

FAQs

What you need to know about using and caring for your sharpening stones.

Q: How long do you soak a whetstone?

Soak a whetstone for 10 minutes in tap water before sharpening. 

Q: How do you use a sharpening stone?

To sharpen a blade with a stone, first determine if the knife needs a thorough sharpening or just a light touch up. If the blade has chips and rolls, start with your coarsest grit stone. If you just need to bring your knife from sharp to razor sharp, then start with a fine stone. Then find your sharpening angle and by matching the existing bevel. The goal is to create a bur on one side of the edge and then remove it when you flip the blade over. This is done by making even passes on both sides of the blade. You can also use a sharpening guide to help keep a consistent angle. 

Q: How do you clean a sharpening stone?

Clean a sharpening stone so it’s free of tiny metal filings by rubbing a small amount of honing oil into the stone.

Methodology

As I tested each knife sharpener I used a set criteria to evaluate them. Here were the main factors: 

  • Ease of Use (Can anyone get a good edge using the stone?
  • Accessories and Features (Does it have or work with angle guides?
  • Versatility (Can it sharpen hard stainless steel as easily as carbon steel?)
  • Longevity (How long will it last?

How do I test knife sharpeners? I sharpen a bunch of knives on them, and see how they perform with different blade steels and heat treatments. As a custom knife maker, I have quite a bit of knives and knife sharpening to do, so I gave each stone a good workout.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Knife Sharpener 

Will the knife sharpener be easy to use? Sharpening happens by removing material from the blade edge, and there really is no way to do this without some work. 

Do you want to get a precise edge angle? If getting a perfect 20 degree angle is important to you, then purchase one of the systems that holds the knife and controls the angles of the stones.

Do you want a polished edge on your knives? Get a system that offers a very high grit.

Will you be taking the sharpener with you? Although I prefer a good size stone when sharpening, the large stones aren’t convenient to take in the wild. 

You may have noticed that I didn’t include any motorized sharpeners. This is because most of the knives we get in the shop for repair have been damaged by these motorized units. These systems use a stone or belt that is turned by a motor. If you don’t have a lot of experience with them, it’s very easy to damage a knife by either removing too much material or by potentially overheating the edge and damaging the temper. I don’t recommend motorized systems unless you have extensive experience in sharpening and take time to learn how quickly it removes material. In our knife shop, we mostly use our belt sanders to sharpen the knives we make, but we have tons of experience in using these machines and slow the motors down as far as we can to control the removal of metal and the heat on the edge.

Final Tips and Thoughts

Keep a Sharpie in your knife sharpening kit to color the cutting edge of your knife. If you do not keep the correct edge angle while you sharpen, you will still see the black line on the edge. Secondly, don’t cut toward yourself, and you’ll never get cut. Third, if in an emergency you don’t have a stone with you, the bottom of a coffee cup or even the top edge of your car window can be used in a pinch. 

Experiment with different tools or systems to find one that works best for you. I prefer whetstones but they may not be for everyone. Keep all of your sharpening tools together in a safe place. Invest the time and a bit of cash, and you won’t carry dull knives anymore.

Outdoor Life Values

Outdoor Life editors don’t just enjoy hunting and fishing as hobbies—the pursuit of these passions make us who we are. Our writers are diehard outdoorsmen and women, too. For more than a century, OL has been evaluating the latest and greatest outdoor gear and providing our readers with no-B.S. reviews. We test products in the field under real-world conditions. We write about the pros and cons of every product we review so that you know exactly what you’re getting if you decide to purchase the gear we cover. Only the best hunting, fishing, backpacking, camping, and survival gear will make the cut in our reviews and roundups. If we’re covering it, you know it’s legit.

MORE TO READ