Pocket knives are a popular gift item. We always think we’ll need one, so we probably carry it around everywhere. But unless you’re a power user, you don’t think about sharpening tools. That said, a frequently used pocket knife should be honed roughly once a month.
So when you’re shopping for the best pocket knife sharpener, you want one that lasts ten sessions or more, which is roughly a year’s worth of use. You might also want it portable, just like your switchblade. With that in mind, let’s review ten popular knife sharpening models.
For something so sturdy, Smith’s Pocket Pal is surprisingly light and portable. It measures 3.5 inches by 1 inch, is 0.01 inches thick, and weighs 0.353 ounces, so it’s slim and perfectly pocket-sized.
Yet it packs a lot of heft. You can use the Pocket Pal in three sharpening modes – it fine sharpening, coarse sharpening, and honing. Each option engages a separate blade.
There are two sharpening stone slots with a carbide sharpener and a ceramic sharpener. The two are clearly labeled and have preset sharpening angles to suit various blades and tasks.
They’re conveniently positioned so you can adjust your knife blade for comfort and effectiveness. On the bottom of the sharpener, a retractable conical rod snaps in and out of place for honing purposes.
Both blades are replaceable and reversible, so you can keep your Pocket Pal forever and just keep switching its blades, pun intended. The sharpener has a lanyard slot, so you could attach it to your keychain to keep it in constant reach.
The abrasion levels on this sharpener are 400 grit for the rod and 600 grit for the ceramic blade slot. Avoid getting your sharpener wet.
This US-made pocket sharpener is tiny but powerful, and it’s stylish too. But although it has two ‘whetstone’ slots, you should never put water. Just wipe it with a damp cloth after every use.
Versatility is this sharpener’s middle name. Because it has two different sharpening surfaces, it can handle any knife you throw at it. The Wamery sharpener comprises two pieces.
Its handgrip is shaped like a pen, complete with a clip to attach it to your pocket. Both pieces are roughly 8 inches long. The clipped piece is the ‘holder’ and it pairs with a sharpening needle.
The needle has a narrow half-sphere at the top for flat blades. Its bottom half is a tapered, diamond-coated, conical needle that works best on serrated knives and small surfaces like hook tips, blender blades, scissors, or chainsaws.
The tapered tip hones while the half-circle side is for sharpening. This clipped side of this two-stage sharpener has an adjustable ring at the bottom.
The ring can widen or narrow to snugly grip whichever side of the sharpener you’re using. The ‘pen’ section also has a safety handle to avoid injury as you work.
For added safety, convenience, and style, the needle tucks snugly into its handle when it’s not in use, making the sharpener fully retractable. The sharpener only weighs half an ounce, so it’s pretty and portable.
This knife sharpener is elegant and multi-functional. But when you’re using the honing section, remember to only use downward/forward strokes. Otherwise, you might damage your blade.
If you thought a three-pronged sharpener was impressive, check out this 4-stage rival. It has a carbide slot, a ceramic slot, and a diamond honing cone, just like Smith’s.
But it also has a fourth serrated ceramic sharpening surface. The serrated section slants off the side of the device while the honing needle retracts underneath the pocket knife sharpener, next to the finger grove.
The groove is a small dip on the underside of the sharpener. It provides leverage to easily slip out the conical honing rod and it also provides a snug hold for your index finger or middle finger while your sharpen your pocket knife. The sharpener boasts ‘effective results in three to four sharpening strokes’ as long as you use the right surface for the right task.
Lansky’s sharpener is larger and bulkier though. It’s 8.5 inches long, 3.5 inches wide, and 0.1 inches thick so it’s a more bulky model. It weighs a little over 4 ounces.
Its ceramic end can sharpen up to 1,000 grits and the diamond rod gets to 600 grit. Be careful with your pocket knife though – ceramic sharpeners are not meant for ceramic blades. They’re strictly for steel.
The Lansky BladeMedic has everything you need for your pocket knife, whether it’s a bit of first aid honing to realign a dent or a deeper dive into ceramic sharpening. It’s heavy though.
Pocket knife sharpeners are often shaped like pens for portability and convenience. But here’s a pro tip: if it’s a ‘sharpening pen’ it’s more likely to be a honer than a sharpener, because the narrow shape is best suited to a honing needle or sharpening rod. This Victorinox knife sharpening pen is an exception because it has both a diamond-coated rod and a stone slot.
The sharpener has a pretty red-and-black case that’s 5 inches long and has a 2-inch diameter. When you pull the top off, you’ll find a stone ‘nib’ at the front where you can slip your blade for sharpening. This sharpening notch is ceramic. The bottom is a diamond-coated honing surface that’s broader than your average honing needle. This thick rod can serve larger knives.
This pen-styled sharpener is Swiss but it’s manufactured in Germany by a company that’s known for both its knives and its sharpeners. Given this joint heritage, the precision, balance, and engineering in this pen are beyond reproach. The sharpener pairs well with Swiss Army knives because the two slots can hone every sub-section of that trademark pocket knife.
The sharpening tool weighs 1.41 ounces (40g) and when the lid is on, it measures 230mm. So it’s not exactly pocket-sized. But it’s still reasonably compact and great for folding knives.
Speaking of German ingenuity, this cassette-shaped sharpener is an interesting one. It’s sufficiently compact at 3 inches by 2 inches and it’s 1 inch thick, weighing 1.6 ounces. It also has a lanyard hole with a little metal-beaded chain that fits right onto your keys.
The sharpener has two whetstone slots with carbide and ceramic sharpening surfaces. It’s Solingen-sources, as verified by the trademarked trident logo. Solingen is the home of the world’s best cutlery, silverware, knives, and blade accessories (including knife sharpeners). While this handy tool can sharpen any blade, it’s size is perfect for pocket knives.
To prevent slipping as you sharpen, the outer casing of your pocket knife sharpener is textured. This allows you a firmer grip as you hone your knife blade. In case you’re puzzled about what slot to use for what knife, the sharpener has labels that show the sharpening material and the sharpening level. Carbide offers coarse sharpening while ceramics are more for finer honing.
When you order a Wusthof pocket knife sharpener, be sure if the type you’re getting. Some models lack the cassette shape while others have different color combinations. Buyer beware.
Tools are functional devices, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be stylish too. And the Sharpal is quite à la mode. Its linear design, sharp diagonals, and pretty mix of black-and-orange are delightfully fashionable. But it’s a practical tool too, with its three sharpening stages and retractable honing needle. It looks a little like a Transformer, which just adds to its cool factor.
This robot-like device measures 3.5 inches by 1.4 inches when the honing rod is folded in place. And apart from two sharpening slots and a rod, it has other survival features. There’s a lever you can pull to start a fire and a loud emergency whistle tucked into the opposite end. The whistle gets as loud as 110 decibels, which is about the volume of a car horn or a live rock concert when you’re standing three feet away.
The sharpener has a bright orange textured finger-hold for easy non-slip usage. This finger-hold is rubber-coated, giving you a soft touch and enhancing your comfort without compromising your grip. Beyond pocket knives, the Sharpal also works on fish hooks and serrated edges, so it’s the ideal outdoor companion. The honing rod offers medium performance at 400 grit.
The 6-in-1 Sharpal offers proven longevity with over 10,000 swipes in each of its sharpening slots. Its honing needle has an extra special grove for honing hooks and pointed tools.
Straps make everything better, so adding a strap to your sharpener just might turn it into the best pocket knife sharpener. This AccuSharp has a simple strapped design with a distinct white and blue color palette. The gadget has an L-shaped design which makes it easier to hold. But because it looks more like a staple gun, it might be confusing for a first-time user.
The AccuSharp 001C measures 5 inches in length, width, and depth. It looks light but weighs two ounces, with its sharpening notch at the shorter tip of the L. Although it only has one slot, it can sharpen both straight and serrated edges. The sharpening slot is V-shaped and loaded with two blades – a tungsten carbide and a diamond-coated. The ‘strap’ serves as a finger guard.
The outer casing of this AccuSharp is screwed on, so it’s possible to remove, reverse, and replace the two sharpening stones. This extends the lifespan of your pocket sharpening tool. The main difference in usage between this sharpener and its rivals in the positions. With most pocket sharpeners, you put the sharpener down and slide the knife over it. This one is inverted.
The gun-shaped handle means you have to place the blade down fist then slide the sharpener over it, which can feel awkward and requires more pressure. It also means your knuckles are essentially hovering over a sharp blade at fairly fast speeds. The finger guard is therefore essential to prevent injury when buying this US-made sharpener. Keep that in mind.
AccuSharp offers this pocket knife sharpening tool in white-and-blue or black-and-orange. It comes with a lifetime warranty and is dishwasher safer. But don’t lose the finger guard strap!
When a pocket knife sharpener comes with an instructional DVD, that tells you two things. One, it’s hard to use, even if its designers claim the opposite. Two, its manufacturers care about customers. And you do need that virtual demo because the counter-intuitive look of the Spyderco will throw you. At first glance, you won’t be quite sure what it is.
It does come with spare sharpening blades, which is always helpful. To use the sharpener, pull off the casing lid and slot in the relevant sharpener. Inside, there are several slots where you slip in the sharpener at a 30° or 40° angle. Standing your knife vertically and sliding it along the diagonal sharpening stone. The outer casing is made of ABS plastic that doubles as storage.
After use, you can slip off the stones, lay them flat on the base, and cover the case. This makes your sharpener fully portable. Plus, if you’re not a visual learner, the shipping box also has a booklet with written instructions and step-by-step diagrams to walk you through. Note that it’s a larger device – 10 inches by 10 inches by 12 inches, so it’s a bit too big for your pocket.
It’s heavy too – 1.3 pounds. So portability is not a guarantee with this sharpening device. The pack comes with six individual add-ons: four ceramic sharpening stones (two medium-grit brown ones and two fine-grit white ones). The gadget also has two brass safety rods. Each of the ceramic sharpening stones has a triangular wedge-shaped with a rod groove along its length.
Spyderco is a strange-looking device, and it has a bit of a learning curve. But once you get the hang of it, it’s swift and convenient. It’s US-made and needs no water, oil, or lubrication.
For the lovers of low-fuss simplicity, this pretty ceramic whetstone is just the thing. It’s a two-sided sharpener with a white ceramic top ad a gray synthetic sapphire bottom. The top does fine honing while the darker bottom is better suited for coarse sharpening. The stone doesn’t need to be wetted or lubricated – it works more effectively when dry. It has a protective leather case.
The CC4 sharpener – as it’s sometimes called – can hone o to 1 micron on the ceramic side and sharpen above 1 micron on the sapphire side. It measures 1.3 inches by 3.9 inches and weighs about 3 ounces. This dual-function whetstone has higher grit than any of the sharpeners we’ve reviewed so far. The ceramic grit is 800 to 1,000 while the sapphire grit is 1,400 to 2,000.
This means you get better performance and less hassle since you don’t have to change blades or oil parts. You just use the brick until it wears down then replace it. The ceramic section is slimmer at 2mm while the gray synthetic sapphire section is 5mm deep. You can clean the stone using water, mild soap, ceramic cleansing products, and a soft non-abrasive washing pad.
Anything that has Alpha in its name is already brimming with testosterone. Add some jungle green paint and cross-hatched, diamond-shaped, textured surfaces for extra masculinity. That seems to be the premise of the Alpha Tek – rough and rugged. It’s a pretty compact device.
And it has a key chain lanyard, so you can keep it in a pocket, toolbox, or drape it on your keys or backpack. The sharpener is designed to stand vertically during use, so its base has non-skid rubber feet to enhance surface grip. Being a 2-stage sharpener, it has both carbide blades that get up to 1,500 grit. The blades are crossed and they can sharpen your pocket knife in seconds.
For something so tough-looking, it’s surprisingly small. It fits inside the average palm, measuring 7.5 cm by 5.8 cm by 2.4 cm and weighing just 1.6 ounces. Both the ceramic section and the carbide section are made by crossing twin blades into a preset slicing angle. This allows for quick, effective, no fuss sharpening while applying minimal effort and pressure.
This is one manly gadget you’ll be happy to have in your pocket. It looks good, works great, and will soon become your best pocket knife sharpener. And it’s affordable too.
The type of sharpener you buy will depend on the type of switchblade you have. If your pocket knife mostly sits in a utility drawer, the sharpener can be a bulky, stationary model. But if you’re more of an outdoorsy type, you want a portable piece you can lug around. Ideally it should be the same size and heft as your knife. What other features are as important as you choose?
Type of Task
Ordinary people use the terms ‘honing’ and ‘sharpening’ interchangeably. It’s a rookie mistake that marks you out as a novice. How so? To knifing pros, honing is more like straightening. Say you try to cut a can with your knife and the blade bends or dents in the process. Honing repairs the misshapen knife and ‘centers the edge’. This doesn’t necessarily make it sharper.
On the other hand, sharpening is when your blade is dull and can no longer cut effectively. So you make it keener by ‘rubbing off’ the blunt bits and leaving a sharper (but shorter) edge. The difference is in nanometers and may not be noticeable. Technically speaking, honing tools and sharpening tools are distinct. You can’t replace one with the other, so be careful what you buy.
Type of Tool
There are four main types of sharpeners. Whetstones are the oldest, most affordable, and most popular. They’re roughly an inch thick and they wear down with every use, so once it’s worn to the base, you need to replace it. Use the stone evenly rather than focusing on the middle.
This rookie error that soon leaves a ‘valley’ in your stone. Sharpening steels and knife hones are more for realignment than sharpening. They’re sometimes considered the best pocket knife sharpener because switchblades are often used as makeshift screwdrivers or can openers.
Meaning they often need honing. Also, pocket knives don’t need to be as sharp as kitchen knives, so honing is generally sufficient. The final category comprises electric sharpeners which are usually too bulky for portable pocket knives. Plus, they require batteries or electricity to work.
Because pocket knife sharpeners should be portable, it helps if they have a compact design and low weight. The material your sharpener is made of plays a huge role in this. Plastic sharpeners can be small and light, but they won’t last as long as their heavier metal cousins. So you need to balance longevity and physical lightness. Whetstones are generally made of stone.
The most popular type in the US is natural Arkansas stone, but sharpeners can also be made from ceramics or diamonds. Steel is also a popular component in the best pocket knife sharpener. The body of the sharpener might be made of metal or durable ABS plastic. Buy the sharpener in person so you can physically test its portability. If you can’t, watch a video for sizing context.
Some whetstones have to be wetted to keep them functional. So before you press your pocket knife to the sharpening surface, you have to pour some water on the stone. Other sharpening stones work best with honing oil as a lubricant. And some types get spoilt when wet so you can only use them for dry sharpening. Diamond sharpeners are mostly dry.
Electrical sharpeners require an AC power outlet, dry cells, or even rechargeable batteries. Because your pocket knife goes everywhere with you – from the office to the outdoors – you may not always have access to power, oil, or water on demand. So buy a sharpener that suits your circumstances. For pocket knives, get a knife oil that doubles as a sharpener and pivot lubricant.
We’ve been using the terms pocket knife, switchblade, and folding knife interchangeably. They’re all small utility knives, but while a switchblade has a subtly positioned button to snap the knife out, pocket knives and folding knives have to be coaxed out of their sheath blades. This may involve twisting the unlocking mechanism or flicking your wrist to release the blade.
These knives also come in different styles, including serrated edges, curved cutting surfaces, or pointed tips. Honing needles are great for textured knife edges but won’t work as well on a smooth knife except for spot treatments. Meanwhile, electric sharpeners often have presets for various types of knives. You can also check for adjustable angling and multi-stage options.
Your Pocket Partner
Whether you’re a light or heaver pocket knife user, we recommend Smith’s Pocket Pal because:
It has three sharpening options for fine, coarse, and hone.
The slots are clearly labeled by type and function.
These two blades (carbide and ceramic) can be reversed and replaced as needed.
It has a retractable honing needle for serrations, hooks, chainsaws, etc.
It’s hardy but compact and sits snug in your pocket.
The sharpening angles are preset easy blade adjustment.
Florence is a writer and editor located in Irvine. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Buzzfeed, and Wikihow, among others. She enjoys Pets and Cooking and serves as a consulting editor for The Cannibal Beer & Butcher.