Have you ever sharpened a serrated knife? How long do you think can a quality serrated knife go without sharpening? When correctly used, they rarely need any sharpening because of their construction, and they surely don’t require the regular maintenance that the non-serrated blade of your chef’s knife calls for.
A quality serrated knife will keep performing after many years of use — but have you noticed lately you are not able to get those wonderfully symmetrical bread slices? And yes, if there are more crumbs and food morsels left on the cutting board than there used to be, that is a clear sign that it’s time to sharpen this fundamental kitchen knife so that it will do a better job.
Serrated knives have a distinctive design that helps them do the only duty of cutting through crusty bread without crushing the soft inside. Of course, this blessed knife can also be used for other tasks, but we mainly know it as the bread knife we all love. Its blade edge works as a hand saw (which was initially intended when inventing this knife).
The teeth catch and then rip through hard exteriors to reach and slide smoothly through softer interiors. If you’ve owned a serrated knife for more than a couple years, it may not have a very sharp edge anymore. It’s just deceptively efficient. Thus it needs sharpening.
There are quite a lot of people out there who are unfamiliar with how to sharpen a serrated knife you really would be surprised. And when it’s finally time — are mostly guided by the misconception that you are better off buying a cheap and low-quality serrated knife, and just throw it in the garbage when it clearly isn’t doing the job anymore.
In this simple guide, I will take you through every step on how to sharpen your serrated knife in the correct way and with ease! I know, you probably are thinking it is obvious why – on a serrated knife, each serration has to be manually sharpened separately.
But no worries. Sharpening your bread knife does not have to be as time-consuming as sharpening a regular chef knife. There are 5 methods you can go about sharpening a serrated knife depending on the equipment that you wish to use.
If you are interested in checking out the best knives, you can find them here.
How to sharpen serrated knife the correct way.
Sharpening a serrated knife might not as simple as returning the razor-sharp edge to your kitchen knife. Many of us prefer to have serrated knife sharpening done by a professional, or simply to throw it away. Did you know what the number one reason is why people prefer to have someone else sharpen a serrated knife? It is because the best method requires each serration to be sharpened separately, and to many, this is something they rather avoid doing because it would take a long time (or so they believe). As mentioned previously, the best option out there is hands down the ceramic sharpening rod. It is the easiest to use, the best suited, and finally, its the cheapest option. But if in case you do not own one, the other 5 methods will do just fine.
Just to avoid any confusion, I am not talking about the steel honing rod, the ceramic rod is harder and will remove some of the material from the blade’s edge, which is the sharpening effect we are looking for.
Maintaining your knife should always be your first priority
Before we start, I would like to mention that honing your knives and maintaining them will always be much more advantageous in the long run. In this article, I explain how long a kitchen knife should last you. But coming back to our serrated knife, honing it on a steel rod, is entirely possible! But it’s slightly different from honing a regular kitchen knife.
Method 1: Ceramic rod sharpener (recommended).
Sharpening a Serrated Knife – Recommended Tools:
- Ceramic sharpening rod (Rod’s diameter must be equal to the serration of your knives)
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Scrubbing pad
- Dish soap
Step 1: Wash Your Knife.
Wash the knife with a quality scrubbing pad, use dish soap if you like, and then wash it under clean running water. This removes any bits, food pieces, oils, greases that might still stick on the knife. Also, it gives you a better sense of the knife for any changes. You should make sure the knife is entirely dry before starting sharpening.
Step 2: Clean the Sharpening Rod.
Next, you want to wipe the ceramic sharpening rod to remove bits. Small metal filings, oils, dirt, dust, and other debris will concentrate on the rod, and this will influence its performance. All you need to do is to wash it with dish soap, run it under water and let it dry.
Step 3: Locate the side with the beveled edge
Most bread knives are normally will have a one-sided bevel edge. You should only ever apply the sharpening tool to the beveled edge of your serrated knife. If you sharpen on the wrong side, you will yield no results but instead will damage the knife. Typically, the section to be sharpened is found on the right side. The bevel-edged face of the blade will angle slightly on the inside of each serration
Finding the right angle
If you are planning on sharpening your bread knife using a ceramic rod manually, you would need to know what angle to use. Finding the right angle on a serrated knife is easier than you think, as the serration gives you a very clear defined bevel. You only need to place the sharpening rod flush within the bevel, and this way, you will automatically have your correct angle. Still, a common problem is actually maintaining that angle during the sharpening process. Serration bevels, although defined, can be quite superficial (sometimes as low as 13°-17°).
This signifies that you regularly need to keep a close eye on the angle as you sharpen manually.
Step 4: Using the sharpening rod.
Now, you need to put the sharpening rod into one of the serrated grooves. (also known as the “gullet”)
The rod requires to be kept a very shallow angle in line with the beveled edge. Getting this angle isn’t really that hard because the gullets of a serrated knife make the bevel easier to see. If you are working with a tapered sharpening rod, you’ll be able to align the rod at a position where it is the same width as the gullet, therefore filling the groove entirely.
Step 5: Sharpen with the Ceramic Sharpening Rod.
Put the knife flat on a horizontal surface such as a table or counter-top with the right side facing up.
Then using smooth and short strokes, move the rod through each groove of the knife. To avoid potential harm to yourself, you should always stroke away from the blade. Each groove really requires just a few passes. Keep rotating the rod as you are pushing it for a more even grind. Make sure that you are pushing the rod only to the point with the same diameter as the scallop so that you avoid enlarging the scallop
Once sharpened, check the other side of the blade for any metal shavings, (also known as ‘burr’). The ideal way to check this is to run your finger alongside the edge. The second you feel a burr means that you have sufficiently sharpened the groove.
Continue to sharpen each groove on the blade, ensuring to adjust the rod to fill the diameter of any varying gullets.
Step 6: Rinse the Knife.
Burrs can easily be removed after sharpening by moving the knife carefully over the edge of the sharpening rod. But, alternatively, you can rub the back of your knife against a sheet of fine-grit sandpaper. If that does not work, you should use the sharpening rod to remove tough burrs.
Once done, you should rewash it and dry it and store it properly. Always make sure to wash any knife after having sharpened it.
And that’s it. It’s easy and fast and straightforward.
Method 2: Guided Sharpeners
There are also guided sharpeners that are very convenient to have but might cost a little more. These guided knife sharpening systems all have specialized hones for sharpening serrated knives with their guides. Usable as an assistant for all of these systems, serrated blade hones are included in some of their packages as well.
The Lansky Universal Sharpening System includes a serrated hone.
- Perfect for keeping all kinds sharp of blades
- The entire sharpening system from Lansky includes all of the accessories you need for frequent sharpening maintenance of your straight edge, serrated, and scalloped edge blades.
- This set includes four types of hones: medium serrated edge, coarse, medium, and fine; a multi-angle knife clamp; specially formulated honing oil, and a molded storage/carrying case; and complete instructions.
- Use this kit on your kitchen, utility, hunting, or fishing knives to maintain their sharp edges and maximum cutting ability.
- Made in the USA
- Has a 1-year manufacturer warranty
The DMT Aligner comes also with a serrated hone.
- Crafted from the best quality metals
- Created for performance and endurance
- Made in the United States
- Unique easy to store and transport container holds all the Aligner parts
- 3 diamond stones in Extra-Fine, Fine, and Coarse plus a fine serrated sharpener accessory
- With the DMT you can sharpen much faster than the conventional rocks thanks to its monocrystalline diamond surfaces
- You can simply sharpen dry or with water, no oil needed
- Long-lasting construction will provide years of steady performance and dependable service.
Finally, we have the Gatco Edgemate Professional, which includes a specialty hone for serrated edges.
- Comes with angle clamp
- Includes honing oil
- Also has a custom caring case with instructions
- Extra Coarse Hone
- Coarse Hone
- Medium Hone
- Fine Hone
- Serrated Hone
- Knife Clamp/Angle Guide
- Honing Oil
- Carrying Case
Method 2: Spyderco Sharpmaker
Achieve a razor finish to both straight edges, and a serrated blade is also possible with the Spyderco Sharpmaker and is, in fact, very easy to use.
Essentially, the tool uses a set of ceramic stone bars that are placed into a base in a V shape that measures 40 degrees. The only thing you have to do is keep the knife even as you move it up and down the rod to sharpen it. This way, you remove the major hurdle of selecting the correct angle from manual knife sharpening.
Although it may look that this method is very similar to that of the ceramic sharpening rod above, it still has differences. It uses a specific tool for sharpening all sorts of knives. This tool is slightly more expensive than just a ceramic rod (which is why I have put this as the second method), the Spyderco Sharpmaker is nevertheless budget-friendly for many. It can also support you with sharping all kinds of knives in your kitchen and or workshop.
Below a video where they show how to do it.
Method 3: The Electric Knife Sharpener.
If you are someone who works with a serrated knife frequently, you can also consider spending on an electric knife sharpener. It is difficult to criticize the Chef’s Choice 15 Trizor XV EdgeSelect. It is one of the most versatile and best electric sharpeners out there and at a very reasonable price! This handy machine is all about speed, comfort, and ease of use.
Equipped with one of these, you will be able to sharpen any style of knives, including straightedge and, of course, you’re beloved serrated. This sharpener features three grades, including diamond sharpeners and flexible, abrasive stropping disks
The superiority of the Trizor is the fact the stages contain adjustable spring patterns that automatically adjust for the precise angle as you run the knife through any pass.
This unique electric sharpener that comes highly recommended. Your serrated knife will be razor sharp in no time.
Below you can find a review video where it’s also shown how you use it properly.
Knife Sharpening Without Tools.
Method 4: Make your own tool from emery cloth and dowels.
If you would instead not buy a sharpening tool, you can buy a few inexpensive dowels from a hardware store alternatively. Find a dowel that meets the knife’s first scallop without moving, then wrap a piece of sandpaper cloth most of the way around the dowel. Hold the cloth in place with your finger and sharpen it carefully and slowly. You can switch dowels to suit the size of the scallops as you move the knife simultaneously.
A quick tip: for a knife with round scallops, use a round dowel, or for V-shaped scallops a square dowel.
Method 5: Sharpen with a square stone.
This is a complicated and tricky last resort, but it is possible. Hold the knife spine securely against a solid surface and tilt the edge, so the beveled side is on top. Lead the corner of the sharpening stone to the scalloped side and use it to sharpen the edge, moving it back and forth to reach the full area of each scallop. I would not really recommend this, but if you have no other choice and or there is no possibility at all to spend a little money on a ceramic sharpening rod, then I’de give it a try.
Method 6: Alternative sharpening method.
You probably had people tell how they use their favorite coffee mugs to sharpen their knives and, if you are questioning whether this is also possible for serrated knives, then the answer is yes, you can sharpen them! This is even better because you may not have a sharpening rod at your disposal, either. It is certainly not easy, but it is workable.
Start by checking your mugs to locate the space around the bottom. Pick one that has sufficient rough space around its base. You probably would want to use some of the older cups because you may end up making lines as you go. Also, try using coffee mugs as teacups are usually too fragile for this type of work.
Now turn your cup bottom-up and find a flat place to put the cup. Be careful if the cup slides, you may end up hurting yourself. To counter this, just place a damp cloth underneath, as you would do under a cutting board to prevent it from slipping.
Secure the bottom with your free hand to maintain it tightly in place and put the serrated edges facing the rough bottom. Now move and down along the serrations, the same way you would do with a ceramic sharpening rod.
Use the edges of the mug to guarantee that the serrations on the knife do not expand. Cover the full range of the scallop as you go by moving it back and forth. Repeat about five times with the same strength for the best results.
Remember to remove the burr, if any, with a fine-grit sandpaper.