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It is a common myth that it is impossible to sharpen serrated knives, also known as the bread knives or serrated knives do not need sharpening. The truth is that these knives do need sharpening, and it is possible by using a dedicated serrated knife sharpener.
The saw-like cutting stroke of a serrated edge facilitates aggressive slicing. Despite this, serrated knives, indeed, hold their edges well. Above all, they are known for their ability to retain their sharpness for longer than other blades, including the straight-edged ones.
Still, it holds that no matter how good the quality of the build material of the serrated blade is, a time will come in its lifespan when it will need precise sharpening. Whether it is due to the friction of hitting with the cutting board or expected dulling with age, no knife can retain its original sharpness forever without a little bit of sharpening once in a while. When blunt, just as other blades, the serrated blades lose their ability to cut. Thus, they end up causing damage to foods by making uneven cuts.
However, sharpening a serrated edge is significantly different from sharpening a straight one. In this post, let’s find out more about sharpening serrated edges and the different sharpeners used for doing so.
3 Best Serrated Knife Sharpeners in 2021
Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker with Safety Rods
This triangular rod set is ideal for sharpening serrated blades. Its ABS plastic base holds four sharpening rods, each pair in V shape. The white ones comprise of fine grit, and the brown ones are medium grip holders, but both are made using ceramic stones. You also get two safety guards of brass.
The medium grit rods tend to discard more material with every pass, due to which they are only for sharpening rough spots. The other two are for finishing purposes and ideal for sharpening a serrated edge. Angled slots are at 15° or 20° on each side, meaning you can handle both sides of a serrated knife well.
- Versatile to sharpen any tool
- Ease of use
- Easy to clean
- Minimal material removal
- Affordable considering versatility
- Plastic base
Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener Ken Onion Edition
Consider this sharpener if you are looking for an ideal belt sharpener for your serrated knives. It is used by both homeowners and professionals, alike although it takes some time to learn it. It can sharpen any blade, including the serrated one.
The device can get into most corners where other sharpeners cannot reach. With the adjustable sharpening guide, the device can make precise edge bevels from 15 to 30 degrees.
The abrasive belts are flexible and interchangeable to make sharpening easy. They are of different levels of coarseness, ranging from very fine to rough. The 6000-grit belt is ideal for serrations. Further, you can change the belts’ speed for altering the angle of the cut or for fine honing.
- Speed adjustable and flexible belts
- Precision cutting edge
- A bit of a learning curve initially
Chef’sChoice Trizor XV EdgeSelect
This electric sharpener comes with a perfect blend of durability, versatility, and strength due to its Trizor edge and seamless 15-degree XV technology delivering an ultra-sharp edge. It takes less than a minute to sharpen even a serrated edge. It is made for transforming a standard 20-degree edge of knives used at home into a highly-performing 15-degree edge.
The sharpener features an advanced 3-stage system for maximum flexibility in delivering the ideal for any cutting task. The first two stages are coated with pure diamond abrasives for sharpening as well as honing even a serrated edge. The last state comes with a patented adaptable abrasive system for polishing such that the lifespan of a serrated edge is boosted.
You can easily sharpen bread, chef’s, santoku knives, pocket, and serrated knives. For ensuring ease of use, there are adaptable spring guides that facilitate precision control and auto-adjustment of the sharpening angle.
- Advanced technology
- Quick outcome
- Razor-like sharpness
- Somewhat costly
- A bit noisy
When to Sharpen Serrated Knives?
Serrated knives do not need frequent sharpening due to their ability to retain their sharp edge for long. This is a plus point as compared to knives with straight edges. Further, unlike other types of blades, you need to sharpen each serration individually for optimal effectiveness.
Knives with serrations are also more difficult to sharpen and usually take more sharpening time than those with plain or normal blades. What is more peculiar about these blades is that restoring their sharpness is impossible without modifying their original shape.
These reasons indicate to sharpen serrated knives only when you find that they have become less functional or efficient. Instead of sharpening frequently, you should sharpen only when knives with serrations cut less effectively and start to fray at the cut area or crush some items such as bread loaves.
Understanding the Serration Geometry
Before you know about the different serrated knife sharpeners and sharpening techniques, it is essential to comprehend the geometry of serrations. This will help you learn the sharpening procedures more effectively than those who are unaware of the geometry.
In the case of a straight edge, you are just dealing with one type of surface. However, in the case of a serrated blade, you have two geometries to handle. First is the gullet, which is an interior part typically featuring a curved shape between the serrated edge points.
As gullets need to be sharp, several of us misguidedly focus extremely on them instead of on the pattern’s teeth, the second geometry to handle.
The teeth initially step into the material and start the cut. Thus, you also need to repoint the teeth while polishing the gullet of the indentation. Similar to sharpening a saw, you restructure the teeth to restore their geometry along with that of the gullet.
Sharpening a Serrated Knife
If you have ever sharpened a standard chef’s knife, you are aware of the fact that a few long strokes occur on a sharpening stone followed by reversing it for the same step with the other side of the blade. Thus, for a straight edge, you just run the edge across a sharpening stone.
However, doing so with a serrated edge will end up grinding off the serrations. While this may render a good feeling of sharpness, it is temporary. Further, the method is unsuitable for the blade, as it can harm it irreversibly. So, it is essential to avoid it.
If you look at the serrated edge of your knife, it is easy to spot a series of separate curved serrations. You also can easily spot that one side is flat, while the other side of the blade is beveled, meaning there are grooves.
Thus, serrated knife sharpeners will sharpen each of these indentations individually, one at a time, taking more time than sharpening a straight blade. Further, you will never sharpen the flat side.
Fortunately, there are sharpeners exclusively made for this purpose. They are popularly known as the sharpening rods, made up of either ceramic or steel, a ceramic one being harder than the steel one. The size is a critical factor, but it is dependent on the indentations’ size. Apart from rods, there are other options such as dedicated electric and triangular sharpeners.
Different Types of Sharpeners for Serrated Knives
It is vital to note that not all knife sharpeners are designed for sharpening serrated blades. Many sharpeners, such as the electric ones that come with slots, will not have a dedicated slot for sharpening these blades. They are usually designed to handle only the smooth edges having no serrations.
On the other hand, those made for serrated knives, are designed to handle the full recessed part and sharpen only the serrated side meticulously. Thus, it is important to choose the sharpener that can sharpen indentations.
Any other sharpener will otherwise end up hurting the pointed tip or serrations. It can even mistakenly end up sharpening both blade sides or only the tip by leaving the recessed parts aside.
Further, sharpening serrations need much patience; it is not a child’s play and requires sharpening skills to restore the razor-like sharpness. Due to these reasons, many people seek professional help for sharpening their serrated knives.
Keeping in mind that serrated knives require different sharpeners from those used for straight-edged blades, let’s now explore the different types of serrated knife sharpeners that you can rely upon:
For a serrated blade, a sharpening rod is tagged as the most suitable sharpener. Some experts will suggest it as the only tool to have for serrated knives. While sharpening a straight edge is possible with nearly anything abrasive, sharpening a serrated edge needs a sharpener that can get into its grooves.
A sharpening rod works by penetrating inside those grooves or serrations. It is technically a type of honing steel that is thin, long, and narrow. It has a slight cone shape tapering to a point, meaning it features different thicknesses along the rod’s shaft. The underlying notion is to use something narrow enough to go inside the groove but big enough to sharpen the whole curve.
This geometry is effective, as the serrations on the edge are of various widths. And that you will apply that part of the rod, which fits the serrations. In simple words, you can find the exact size that goes with the form of each serration for sharpening it precisely. Before selecting a rod, ensure that the rod’s diameter is of the same size or smaller than the size of the grooves.
Sharpening rods are made using diamond, steel, and ceramic. Although the rod’s body is usually of stainless steel, the other two are used for layering to facilitate different levels of sharpening.
The rods made fully of steel do not actually sharpen the serrated blade but hone it. This is because the steel rod is identical to the steel knife in terms of hardness. On the other hand, diamond rods come with a diamond-layered exterior that proves to be too hard to sharpen with.
While a diamond rod can sharpen a serrated knife, it can end up sharpening some teeth well while leaving some dull. Further, it is tough to achieve an even outcome with a diamond surface, as it is highly abrasive. After all, sharpening a serrated knife is a bit more delicate task than sharpening a straight-edged knife. However, a medium-abrasive diamond rod can help you achieve the goal safely.
Thus, of all, the ceramic rod is recognized as the best type of serrated knife sharpener that is not that expensive and is versatile enough to sharpen almost any knife.
At times, a ceramic sharpening rod is also confusingly termed as ceramic sharpening steel. However, the build material should be ceramic. A ceramic rod is harder than other sharpening rods. Designed to fit into the indentations, the rod sharpens individual serrations while focusing on a single tooth at a time.
It works by discarding the unwanted blade particles. You are really discarding a thin coat of the blade’s material to reveal a new sharp edge. This is just like sharpening a pencil, during which you remove the core and wood to get a fresh lead point.
This is important to know, as it informs that you need something harder than the blade to sharpen. Ceramic is harder than steel. A high-polished ceramic rod is required for sharpening or honing a serrated edge. For harder materials, it should be made with at least 1500 to 1800 grit.
Following are the steps to use a ceramic rod against wide, narrow, and short grooves:
- Locate the blade’s side that is beveled or serrated. This side inclines down a bit just before the notches, which is the bevel. You will be applying the rod only to the beveled edge.
- Position the rod in one of the gullets and select a suitable angle. The bevel’s angle can be your guide here. The suitable angle between the blade and the rod is usually between 13 and 17 degrees.
- Move the sharpener to be compatible with the diameter of the gullet. In the case of a tapering rod, place it in the gullet such that its diameter is identical to or a bit smaller than that of the gullet’s size.
- Sharpen the targeted gullet by passing the rod along it to make a few short strokes. Move-in a single direction with gentle pressure but away from the edge and toward the spine. Do spin the rod as you move it so that you get an even grind. Gently slide the rod away from you and stop when its diameter is identical to the gullet’s width. Otherwise, you will end up expanding the gullet.
- Look for burrs, also known as metal shavings. For this, pass your fingers over the length of the groove’s rear. If you feel them, it means that sharpening has occurred sufficiently after a few strokes.
- Repeat the steps for each indentation or gullet. For a groove of different size, change the tapered rod’s position such that it fills the gullet.
- Remove the burrs. To do so, rub the rear of the knife using a fine-grit sandpaper sheet.
- Sharpen a straight-edged area, if any, using a whetstone.
A few rods, especially the ones used in a kitchen, are big. They are not useful for handling small serrations. In this case, a small rod is required to fit inside the serration. Most such rods are tapered.
A triangular sharpener is a special sharpening tool featuring two triangular rods of ceramic, one designed for fine sharpening and the other for medium sharpening. There can be even other rods designed for honing or finer sharpening.
Such a sharpener is useful for sharpening a serrated edge, as the triangular rods work just like the normal ceramic rod. One such famous sharpener comes from Spyderco. Herein, the rods facilitate easy access to each groove while consistently retaining the desired edge angle.
They are positioned at an angle, forming a V shape at 40 degrees. Due to this position, the tapered rods are ideal for sharpening blades having V-shaped grooves. The sharpening process is almost like the ceramic rod one, except that you move the edge back and forth rather than spinning it. Just place the knife straight while moving it up and down the tool.
Thus, this procedure removes the tough job of selecting the right angle. On the flip side, these rods cannot precisely fit the groove’s width. Thus, it is essential to find the size of the grooves before investing in a triangular sharpener.
Another common type of sharpener used for serrated edges is an electric one. A couple of electric sharpeners can sharpen both serrated and straight edges. For buying a model that can handle a serrated edge, it is usually a matter of considering the sharpening slots or stages it has and the ability to accommodate a serrated edge.
Using this sharpener is all about ease of use and speed. For sharpening a serrated portion, all you have to do is just pass the blade through the dedicated stage; the rest is done by the device.
In the case of an electric model with a belt, you sharpen by passing the blade’s rear along the belt to polish the grooved edge for restoring it to the original grind. The best part of a belt sharpener is that even a naïve can get a razor-like sharp edge. As the belt turns, it grinds the edge incessantly to give an amazing sharpness in no time. A few of these belt models come with guides to set the right angles, keeping guesswork at bay.
Just keep in mind that not all electric sharpeners can sharpen a serrated edge. While serrated edge sharpening is easy once the right angle is known, selecting a reliable electric sharpener is a critical task.
If you choose an electric model that is not designed to sharpen serrations, you will end up damaging the edge as well as the sharpener, an awful outcome for anyone who invests in a costly device. Yes, electric sharpeners are costlier options than ceramic or triangular rods.
It is also not true that there are no reliable electric models that can sharpen serrated knives. What needs to be inferred is that one is required to remain careful while choosing and working with an electric sharpener.
The biggest benefit of electric sharpeners is that they consume less time to sharpen a serrated edge than any other traditional method. However, you cannot expect them to give you full control over its working. You cannot control the amount of material that is discarded from the edge.
If an electric sharpener removes much edge material, you will lose a gullet each time you sharpen the edge. Sharpening too often will simply convert the serrated edge into a plain one, which means you lose all grooves!
What About Using Stones for Sharpening Serrated Edges?
A traditional sharpening stone such as a whetstone or an oil stone is used to sharpen most knives. These stones usually come in a rectangle shape. While they are ideal for sharpening the smooth, even edges found on most kitchen knives, they end up making the serrations dull or remove them to give you a plain edge. Thus, stones are preferable for serrated knives. The only exception is a file or a round barreled oilstone that can reliably sharpen a serrated edge.
Just like any other knives, serrated knives become blunt over time. This can result in unlikable fraying at the cutting spot. It is possible to sharpen serrated knives, although it is different from sharpening straight edges. If done with normal sharpeners, it can result in misalignment of the gullet. Further, aggressive sharpeners can discard the metal fully.
Thus, there are serrated knife sharpeners for handling these edges safely. Although restoring serrated edges can be overwhelming, it can increase the lifespan of them even without maintenance. Only the right tool and proper care are required.
Hi, I am Jay. I am the creator of Knife Guides, your one-stop site for everything related to knives. I am a computer engineer by profession, knife aficionado by passion. Here I work with a group of people who’ve always had a passion for knives and blades. Over the years we’ve kind of become experts and decided to share our knowledge and ideas. I am also an avid hiker and enjoy offshore gamefishing.