How long does a knife sharpener last?


We all need to sharpen our knives. Depending on the type of knife we have and the frequency we use it, it may be possible it needs frequent sharpening. The sharpening tool we use may, in the long run, need to replace. But how long can you go without having to buy a new one?

Depending on the knife sharpener you use. Most of them do need to be replaced at some point. Sharpening stones (especially courser stones), for example, wear faster. Pull-through sharpeners also need to have their carbides be replaced eventually. But this is all depending on the frequency of use and the type of knife sharpener.

If knife wears out at some point, then would the knife sharpeners also wear out? But how long will it last before I need to buy a new one or maybe buy new parts for it? To be honest with you, I did not have to change mine up to now. This is probably because I try to maintain my knives as well as possible. So they won’t need a lot of sharpening in the first place. But this is for us the regular users and home cooks, of course. But what about professional cooks who continuously day in day out use their knives? Even with the best maintenance, they will need to sharpen it much more often.
So I wanted to know the answer to this, and here is what I came up with.

Whetstone sharpening

Sharpening stones can vary in prices and thus in quality. You can buy one for 0.50$ and one for 200$. Yes, the expensive one will last you probably much longer. But as previously mentioned, depending on the number of times you use your stones and how dull your knife is when you use it will make the difference. This is especially the case with courser stones as they are the ones used most often. If you are a professional cook and use your knife each day for long periods, you probably will need to use it much more often.
Here is a short-list of how long they more or less last, but bear in mind that there are variables that can drastically influence the lifespan of the wet stones while sharpening. How dull the knife is and what the knife is made of also makes a difference.

120 gritstone 30-40 knives
220 gritstone 150-200 knives
400 gritstone 200-300 knives
600 gritstone 350+ knives
1000 gritstone 400+ knives

As mentioned previously the coarser stones wear faster. There are a few reasons for this. First, the particles (grit) which coarser stones are made of are bigger. So with each stroke, each particle breaks away, and the bigger the particles are the more you lose when sharpening. The second reason is that if you’re trying to sharpen a really dull knife, you will probably do the majority of the work with the coarser stones. So you end up with much more “mileage” per knife on them. This is why some companies make the 120 and 220 grit stones slightly thicker than the other knife sharpener stones. 

Do honing and sharpening rods steels wear out?

Regular grooved metal steels rod doesn’t become unusable. The ridges do get damaged over time with abuse, particularly with inferior steels that are not of good quality; but, I’ve seen some seriously (ab)used steels, and they are still entirely usable even though looking worn down at the end. The worst that can happen is the steel will become smooth… which doesn’t hinder its ability to do its job and align the blade edge.
Smooth (ungrooved) metal steels cannot ever wear out since they’re just a smooth, to begin with. Ceramic sharpening rods will never wear out, but the surface can get jammed with removed metal bits. This can be wiped out with a scouring pad to make them look as good as new. If hit against things, the fragile ceramic can chip permanently, but that is not part of regular use. Diamond sharpening rods are the only ones that definitely will wear out over time; the abrasive is constructed of tiny diamonds embedded in the outside, which will be removed by regular use. Ultimately, enough diamonds will be scraped off that the tool ceases to sharpen.
Honing steel, on the other hand, may need to be replaced every 5 years or so as they are used more frequently. But, even though they are used regularly, you only require around 6 brushes of the knife per use for it to realign the blade. If you think you need more than that when you use your honing steel, this means your knife should probably be sharpened instead.
If the honing steel you are using is of good quality, then you should be able to use it for a very long time before changing it, and I am talking about years. It may be possible you never need to replace your steel at all.
However, if you choose to buy cheaper steel which does wear out quicker, or maybe you’ve decided to have a second hand one, just in case. To know if it’s less effective, run a fingernail along with the steel. If the grooves are still deep enough, then it’s still in good order, but if you can’t feel them, and the rod clearly feels smooth, then you’ll need to buy a new one.
The truth is that a honing steel will only wear out after many, many years of frequent use before itis going to meet its end.
So what is advised is to get yourself a good quality honing steel and hold onto that thing forever!

Pull-through sharpeners

Although I would not recommend using a pull-through, if you do have one at home, throw it away, and use a sharpening stone instead. But let’s get back the topic here, as with the stones, the same story for the pull-through sharpeners. The cheaper you buy, the faster you will need to change the bars. Again, depending on how dull your knife is and what material its made of plays a role in this. To give an estimate on how long one would last. Take the Brød & Taylor sharpeners, for example. They are expected to last you for more than 5 years. The sharpening bars can be replaced and are available for the Professional and Classic Models. So basically you only need to change the bars and it is good as new.

Electric sharpeners

Electric sharpeners are in the same boat as the pull-through sharpeners. The Chef’s Choice Electric Knife Sharpener will last you a lifetime, but you might need to change the abrasives like with the bars on pull-through. If, however, your abrasives ever need replacement, you may send the sharpener back to the manufacturer. Once changed, you are good to go again.

But the best advice I can always give is to try to maintain your knives so you will not have the sharpen them often, which of course, leads to you using much longer your sharpening tool.

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