Think first about whether you really need a serrated knife sharpener. You may not
If you’re looking for a serrated knife sharpener there is a few things to think about before you pull out your wallet. Whilst it’s perfectly possible to get a good serrated knife sharpener, that doesn’t mean you need one.
The first point to make is that as a general rule you can buy effective serrated knives which are not particularly expensive. We have a range of good serrated knives, none of which cost all that much. And so if you’re serrated knife needs sharpening it can often be easier and cheaper simply to replace the knife.
Of course that’s not to say that you can’t buy very expensive serrated knives, however as a general rule the cheapies will work effectively.
The second point to make is that it can be more work to sharpen a serrated knife than it is to sharpen a non-serrated knife. Because of the nature of the serrations it’s impossible to sharpen the knife without dealing with each individual tooth, one by one. This can be a little tedious and time consuming, and can leave you wondering if it is better just to buy a new knife.
And finally, just about anyone who has a serrated knife also has non-serrated knives, so if you’re looking to sharpen knives generally, then buy a knife sharpener that will sharpen both serrated and non-serrated knives, then you’ve got your serrated knives covered, so you don’t need to buy a dedicated serrated knife sharpener.
And some serrated knives can’t be sharpened as the serrations are so close that no tool would do the job. We have a knife like that, effective but not expensive. After a couple of years it still works fine, when it doesn’t then it’s into the bin and a new one coming.
Serrated knife sharpening myths
There is also some myths to sharpening serrated knives. For instance many people recommend that you sharpen the dip, or what are technically called the gullets, between the teeth. In fact it is primarily the teeth themselves which do the cutting, the scallops between do not necessarily need to be supersharp, it’s only necessary to sharpen the teeth themselves.
In fact a serrated knife works a little bit like a saw. It’s only the tips of the teeth which really do much work. It doesn’t harm the knife sharpening the gullets, but isn’t really essential.
Serrated knives also maintain their sharpness for some time. There’s a number of reasons for this. Firstly it’s unlikely that you will be cutting anything really tough. Serrated knives are used for softer things like bread, and cutting anything soft does not particularly blunten a serrated knife.
Note however that it is often the surface that you are cutting onto that blunts a knife more than cutting the food itself, so if you’re cutting bread onto a glass chopping board that’s different. But that’s the same for all knives, you must use a suitable cutting surface or you run the risk of dulling your knives very quickly. And again, if you’re cutting onto a hard board it’s the tips of the teeth that get blunt, not the whole serration.
On to serrated knife sharpeners. If you need one what do you get?
Of course it’s perfectly possible to get a dedicated serrated knife sharpener, however some general knife sharpeners will also sharpen serrated knives. For instance we’ve recently looked at an electric serrated knife sharpener. (A general knife sharpener, not specifically for serrated knives).
It’s the Presto 08800 EverSharp Electric Knife Sharpener, which will sharpen serrated knives which are serrated on one side. At a relatively good price this is a good option, because just about everyone who uses a serrated knife will also use normal knives, so this electric sharpener will do both, avoiding the necessity to buy a general knife sharpener as well as a serrated knife sharpener.
And even the accusharp knife sharpener will sharpen a serrated knife, (depending on how close together the teeth are).
Some general knife sharpeners like those will sharpen the teeth, which is fine, but gradually over time the teeth will wear down. If you keep it up for long enough you’ll turn your serrated knife into a non serrated knife!
Which is the best serrated knife sharpener?
However many people will choose a dedicated serrated knife sharpener, namely one which is specifically designed to sharpen a serrated knife. These are rod type sharpeners, in other words a sharpening rod, which can be tapered to allow for differences in the widths between the teeth.
Ceramic rods work well, however one important point is to choose a ceramic rod that will fit the shape of the scallops, or gullets, in your knife. There’s no value in buying a serrated knife sharpener that won’t fit the size or shape of the gullets. You’ve just wasted your money.
Some of the best serrated knife sharpeners are tapered rods, because there should be a part of the taper that fits your knife. Particularly useful if you have 2 or more serrated knives with different serrations.
It’s possible to get quite small effective hand-held sharpeners which will work on serrated knives at a very low price. For instance around $10 will get you the Lansky PS-MED01 BladeMedic which, considering the price, is a great deal when compared to the cost of the knife.
To sharpen your knife you place the portion of the rod that corresponds with the width of the gullet onto the gullet, at a slight angle to the horizontal, and sharpen whilst maintaining the correct part of the rod on the gullet.
Note that some serrated knives have different width serrations, say on every second tooth. It is often not necessary to sharpen the narrow in between serrations.
Once you’ve finished you may well find a slight burr on the flat side of the knife, in other words the non-serrated side. It’s necessary to remove that burr. Some light work on a fine stone will do that, or if you don’t have a stone try some fine sandpaper. Alternatively you could use the sharpening rod, though carefully.
As you can see there’s quite a bit of work involved in sharpening a serrated knife, particularly along one, because there are a reasonably large number of serrations and you must sharpen each one, one by one. That’s why we suggest, if it’s not a particularly expensive knife, you might be better just buying a new one.
And here’s a short video showing you the basics of serrated knife sharpening with a ceramic rod. Enjoy.
It’s also quite possible to sharpen your knife with an inexpensive do it yourself method. Buy some dowelling that fits the profile of your serrations, and some fine glass paper or emery cloth. Wrap the paper around the knife and use that as your rod. That will work if you get it right. Here’s how with clear step by step instructions. http://www.knifeforums.com/forums/showtopic.php?tid/760830/