June 29, 2024

Last Updated: July 6, 2024



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Rolling Knife Sharpeners: Do They Really Work?

By trk

Last Updated: July 6, 2024

best knife sharpener, HORL knife sharpener, knife sharpeners, rolling knife sharpener, Tumbler knife sharpener, Work Sharp

Rolling knife sharpeners are the latest trend in kitchen knife sharpening. They've been around for a while but are just now starting to catch on, probably because of social media (especially Tumbler). For cooks who don't want to invest in the learning curve of using a whetstone, a rolling knife sharpener might be just the thing to keep their knives sharp.

Here we take a look at rolling knife sharpeners and review our four favorite models. We discuss features, pros and cons, price, and other important considerations. Don't buy a rolling sharpener before doing your research! It might be the right choice for you, but it might not be--and there are important differences between brands. 

Our Favorite Rolling Knife Sharpeners at a Glance

Here are our four favorite rolling sharpeners, listed in alphabetical order. See the detailed reviews below for more info.

Sharpener:

Features:

Hone rolling knife sharpener

-Aluminum body

-#400/#1000 grit discs included, diamond plated

-Double-sided replaceable discs

-2 sharpening angles (15/20 degrees)

-Solid base, can use for different sized knives

-Strong magnets, sunken to not scratch blades

-Ball bearing rollers

-Small knife slot

-Other grits available (about $135)

-Other angles available (13/11/16/17/18/19/22/24; about $20)

-Engineered in Canada, about $100

-10 year warranty.

Horl Rolling Knife Sharpener

-Oak or walnut body

-#400/#1000 grit discs included

-2 sharpening angles (15/20 degrees)

-Strong magnets

-Ball bearing rollers

-Excellent German engineering

-Extra grits/strop available

-Basic model about $189

-Other models up to about $500

-Made in Germany

-1-2 year warranty (depending on model).

Tumbler Rolling knife sharpener

-Beech wood body and sharpening block

-D35 diamond grit size (#400-#500)

-Steel hone side

-2 sharpening angles (15/20 degrees)

-Additional sharpening angles available (about $40)

-Strong magnets

-30 day warranty

-Made in China, Taiwan, and/or the USA. 

-About $130 for base model. 

Work Sharp rolling sharpener featured image

-Molded plastic body and sharpening block

-#320, #600 grit discs, plus ceramic honing disc

-4 sharpening angles: 15/17/20/25 (no more available)

-Strong magnets

-Large disc can sharpen several sizes of knives

-Made in USA

-About $120

-3 year warranty.

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How We Tested

We looked at dozens of rolling knife sharpeners. We suspect many of the no-name, inexpensive brands on Amazon are OEM products that are all made in the same factory but branded with different names for different sellers (a common practice with many products today). We did test a couple of these, but none of them made the final cut because they felt cheap, didn't roll well, or sharpened poorly (sometimes all of the above), which you can see by reading the negative reviews. We selected the top four brands that had the best buying options and features, including add-ons like more angle guides and different grit sizes. 

After we narrowed the field, we tested our four picks by checking blades for sharpness before-and-after using the rolling sharpeners. While most of the sharpeners we tested were able to get blades sharp, these four had the best user experience, with strong magnets, smooth rolling, and excellent sharpening results. With rolling knife sharpeners, we really believe you get what you pay for--but this doesn't mean you need to buy the most expensive brand. We discuss this more in the detailed reviews below.

Bess Sharpness Tester

Bess C sharpness tester.

We used the Bess C sharpener tester to test blades before and after using the rolling sharpeners on dull knives. This is the sharpness scale, given in grams of pressure required to cut a thin filament:

Bess C knife sharpness scale

This tester is the most objective way to show how well a sharpener works (any type of sharpener). We started with blades that were dull from normal use, measuring 400g and above. 

We also looked at rolling smoothness, versatility (cutting angles, grits, and different types of knives), storage, and overall aesthetics and usability. These four brands did well enough in each category to earn a recommendation from us. However, they all have different features, so be sure to buy the one that fits your needs best.

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How to Use a Rolling Knife Sharpener

Work Sharp rolling sharpener featured image

These sharpeners are very easy to use:

  • Attach the blade cutting side up to the magnetic holder with the sharpening angle you want, making sure the blade is evenly aligned with the counter or table top. Angles are marked and easy to see.
  • Slowly roll the sharpener back and forth along the blade, using very little pressure. You should be able to make contact with the entire blade unless it has a full bolster. 
  • Repeat several times or until the edge feels sharp. It may take several minutes to get a good edge.
  • Flip the knife horizontally and repeat these steps on the other side of the blade.
  • When you get the edge you want, repeat the steps with the honing/ceramic disc to remove the burr and smooth the edge.

Tips:

  • Since sharpening is done edge up, use caution and keep your hands away from the exposed blade.
  • If a knife is extra long, you can sharpen in two stages to make sure you get the whole blade: just move the blade in the holder so it's behind the part of the blade you're sharpening.
  • If a knife is extra tall (like a cleaver), place the holder on an elevated surface like a cutting board and use the roller the same way.
  • If a blade is short (like a paring knife or pocket knife), some holders have ledges to keep the blade high enough to sharpen. If there isn't a ledge, you can attach the knife so the blade is above the holder, but it can be tricky to get an even edge on both sides of the blade, so you should use a ruler or other guide to make sure the knife is at the same height for both sides. You may also have trouble with the blade holding because it is only partially on the magnet.
  • For this reason, rolling knife sharpeners are best for taller blades such as chef's knives, santokus, nakiris, and cleavers. If you have a lot of smaller blades, be sure to buy a sharpener with a ledge (Hone or Work Sharp).

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Who Will Use a Rolling Knife Sharpener?

Tumbler rolling knife sharpener in use

These rolling sharpeners are extremely easy to use, with practically no learning curve at all. If you can stick a knife to a magnet and keep your hand away from the blade, you can use one of these sharpeners. This makes them great for cooks who want sharp knives but don't want to take the time to learn how to use a whetstone or invest in a guided rod sharpener. 

This means that these sharpeners are great for any cook! They're also small, easy to store, last a long time, and sharpen blades without removing too much metal, as pull-through sharpeners can do. 

Rolling sharpeners are even good for expensive knives, so whether you have high-end knives or cheap ones, these are a good choice. The only issue is if you have high-end Japanese blades with narrow cutting angles: you don't want to use a 15 degree sharpener on an expensive knife with a cutting angle of 9-12 degrees, which includes a number of brands, including Miyabi, Global SAI, Wusthof santokus and nakiris, Zwiling santokus and nakiris, and many more. If you use the wrong cutting angle to sharpen an expensive knife, you ruin what you paid the big bucks for, so be sure you know the cutting angles of your knives before using any sharpener. (We talk more about cutting angles below.) 

These sharpeners are best for taller/wider blades such as chef's knives, santokus, nakiris, and cleavers. If you have a lot of short and small blades such as paring knives or brands like Cutco (see our Cutco review), a rolling sharpener may not be a good choice. Both Hone and Work Sharp have "ledges" for small blades, but the angles also have to be correct--so check for both if you want to use a rolling sharpener with smaller knives.

Another concern is sharpness: if you are a stickler for sharpness and want your knives as sharp as they can possibly be, then you should get a guided rod system or learn how to use a whetstone. Rolling knife sharpeners get knives quite sharp, but not as sharp as a whetstone or guided rod system. 

A rolling sharpener is a good tool for any cook to have. They're easier on your knives than pull-through sharpeners, and even if you are a dedicated whetstone user, there may be times when you just want to put an edge on a knife quickly, which these can do, and better than most other easy methods.

The best users for rolling knife sharpeners are people who don't want to invest in the learning curve required to use a whetstone or guided rod system, and for people whose knives have the same cutting angles as the sharpening angles offered by the rolling sharpener they select.

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Rolling Knife Sharpeners Vs. Pull-Through Sharpeners (Manual and Electric)

Chef'sChoice 463 Pronto 15 degree knife sharpener

Manual pull-through sharpener.

Chef'sChoice Sharpener Review Featured Image

Electric pull-through sharpener.

Rolling knife sharpeners are not just a little better than pull-through sharpeners; they are way better.

The main reason people buy pull-through sharpeners is because they're easy to use. So easy, in fact, that people sacrifice a good, sharp edge to use them. 

Well, rolling sharpeners are also extremely easy to use, and they put a much better edge on a blade. They can't do a razor sharp edge like a whetstone, but they get a blade sharper than a pull-through sharpener can.

Plus, it's almost impossible to get the wrong cutting angle with a rolling sharpener because the holder keeps the knife at exactly the right angle. This is not the case with pull-through sharpeners because your hand has to be in the exact same position with every pass, which is almost impossible to do. 

Finally, rolling sharpeners are much better for your knives than electric sharpeners, which tend to remove too much metal, causing blades to wear down faster. 

Pull-through sharpeners have their place, especially for travel and other times you need something small and convenient (outdoor activities, for example). Before we knew about rolling knife sharpeners, they were our choice for the easiest way to sharpen a knife. Now we recommend rolling sharpeners because they're easy, won't harm a blade, and do a better job sharpening.

For more information about electric pull-through sharpeners, see our review of the ChefsChoice Trizor XV Electric Sharpener.

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What to Look for When Buying a Rolling Knife Sharpener

These are simple tools, but there are differences among the brands to take note of. Here are the features to consider when buying a rolling knife sharpener.

Discs

To sharpen a knife properly, you need a coarse grit--#200-#600--a fine grit--#1000-#3000--and a ceramic or steel honing edge to remove the burr and smooth out the blade. For an exceptionally fine polish, people will also use a leather strop, but this isn't necessary unless you want a fetish-level finish on your blades (and if this is the case, you should learn to use a whetstone).

Thus, a good rolling sharpener should come with three discs: coarse, fine, and honing. It's also possible to have an in-between coarseness, around #500-#600, plus a honing disc (this is what the Tumbler system has). This works for moderately dull knives but would take a long time to sharpen a knife if it's very dull or damaged. 

Some rolling sharpeners have double-sided (Hone) and replaceable discs (Hone, Horl, and Work Sharp), which are both great features because they provide more versatility, and you don't have to worry about the disc wearing out. 

Prices of replacement discs vary quite a bit. Some are quite affordable at around $20, while other cost as much or more than the original sharpener. 

Discs will last for a really long time, so having to replace them shouldn't be a big concern, as long as you're not wearing them out on extremely dull or chipped blades. However, the option of using coarser and finer grits really adds to how much you can accomplish.

Sharpening Angles

We talk more about this below, but in general, sharpening angles should match the angles of your knives. Most rolling sharpeners come with two sharpening angles, 15- and 20-degrees. These are common angles, and will work for many knives, especially if the knives aren't super high end or Japanese (the average kitchen knife has a 15 degree cutting angle). But even Wusthof and Zwilling make some knives with very narrow cutting angles. When you buy a rolling sharpener, make sure you can use it with all of your knives, or at least most of them.

We get into more detail about sharpening angles (aka cutting angles or bevels) in the next section.

Build Quality

Build quality includes:

  • How smooth the sharpener rolls (often a problem with very cheap rolling sharpener brands)
  • How durable the discs are
  • How durable the magnetic holder is
  • How strong the magnets are
  • The material the sharpener is made from (e.g. wood, aluminum, plastic, steel).

All of our choices have excellent build quality, with smooth rollers and strong magnets (Tumbler would be at the bottom of the pack, but is still good quality with decent magnet strength.) We prefer the aluminum and heavy duty plastic bodies of the Hone and Work Sharp because they're waterproof and more durable than wood, but the wood Horl and Tumbler models are beautiful and should hold up almost as well (try not to get them wet). 

There are many less expensive brands to choose from, especially on Amazon. If you go with a less expensive brand, you are likely to have issues with the rollers not being smooth and the discs not holding up. So even if a rolling sharpener is a backup or quick fix for you, you should still choose a name brand and spend more than the minimum, which is about $40. 

Ease of Use

Hone sharpener ledge for small knives

Ledge on Hone for narrow blades.

All of these sharpeners are easy to use, but we found the Work Sharp the easiest because of the large disc, the handle (reducing the possibility of cutting yourself on the blade), the ledges for small (narrow) knives, and the ultra-smooth rollers that allow it to glide back and forth almost effortlessly.

The Hone was a close second, and offers an amazing eight sharpening angles for about $20 more.

Narrow knives present the biggest issue with rolling sharpeners because the blade has to sit above the magnetic holder, and some blades--paring knives, for example--are too narrow to do this. You can place the knife higher on the holder, but you have to place it at the same height on both sides or you'll get an uneven cutting edge (which you may or may not care about, depending on the value of the knife and how you use it). Rolling sharpeners with ledges for narrow knives help with this, IF they also have the right sharpening angle. 

Hone and Work Sharp have ledges for narrow knives, but only for two angles (15- and 20-degrees). If you have narrow knives with different cutting angles, a rolling sharpener may not by the right choice for you.

In general, rolling sharpeners are best for wider blades like chef's knives, santokus, and nakiris. They can also do very wide blades like cleavers by placing the holder on a raised surface like a cutting board. 

Accessories (Included or Extra)

Horl Extra Fine Accessory pack

Horl Extra Fine accessory pack.

If a rolling sharpener is going to be your primary sharpening system, then you should buy a brand that has all the accessories you want, such as extra discs in different grits, a strop, and a holder (a sharpener is easier to access with a holder vs. taking it out of the box). 

If you have knives with several different cutting angles, then you'll want to be sure to get a brand that offers all the sharpening angles you need. Tumbler has an additional holder with angles of 10/12/17/25, which is great, for about $40 more. Hone offers an additional holder with eight extra angles: 11/13/16/17/18/19/
22/24. It has four sides, plus strips you attach to get the additional angles--all for about $20. The Hone plus the extra angles comes to about $120, a great deal.

Work Sharp has the most inclusive buying options. It comes with a holder that has four sharpening angles and three sharpening grits (including the ceramic honing disc). At about $120, Work Sharp is a great buy, if you don't need narrower sharpening angles. 

Horl offers several discs with different grits, a holder, and a strop for finishing, as well as a few different sharpener models. Hone also offers several different grits and other accessories. Tumbler offers the least number of accessories, but it offers the narrowest sharpening angles (with Hone a close second).

Price

We've already talked about price, but we'll say again that we recommend investing in a good quality rolling sharpener rather than going with the cheapest one you can find. It's understandable that you may not want to spend more than $100 for a knife sharpener, but for one of these, it's worth it. Cheaper brands tend to not roll smoothly and wear out quickly, and often do not have an option to replace discs. 

Spend the money on the better quality product: you'll be glad you did.

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About Sharpening (Cutting) Angles

Cutting Angle Diagram 15 degrees

Diagram of a cutting angle on a kitchen knife.

The cutting angle, also called a bevel, of a knife is the angle to which the edge is sharpened. Note that when we say "15 degrees," for example, this is one side of the blade, so the total, or inclusive, angle is 30 degrees.

All sharpening angles on rolling sharpeners are given for one side of a blade, which makes sense because you can only sharpen one side at a time. 

It's frustrating to see so many products and websites stating that most Western/German knives have a cutting angle of 20 degrees and most Japanese knives have a cutting angle of 15 degrees. At one time this may have been true, but it is no longer the case. In fact, most Western/German knives have a cutting angle of 15-17 degrees, and Japanese knives have cutting angles that vary from 9-17 degrees.

Other than cleavers, very few kitchen knives today have a cutting angle of 20 degrees or wider. Thus, a  20 degree sharpening angle is not very useful for most of today's kitchen knives, although many pocket knives and outdoor knives have angles of 20-30 degrees.

So if you've invested in high-end kitchen knives, don't assume that a 15-degree or 20-degree fixed angle sharpener is all you need just because they're the most popular. Even if you have only Western style knives, cutting angles can vary. And if you also have Japanese knives, you almost certainly need more than a 15-/20-degree sharpener.

There may be some situations where 15 degrees is close enough, such as Wusthof chef's knives, which have 14 degree cutting angles. But Wusthof santoku knives have a cutting angle of just 10 degrees--do you really want to use a 15 degree sharpener on this knife? 

Some people do deliberately choose to sharpen all their knives to 15 degrees, or 17 degrees, or whatever they prefer. But you should only do so if you have a good reason, and not because you didn't know any better when you bought the knife (or the sharpener). Don't sharpen all your knives to 15 degree just because that's the only sharpener you have.

For reference, here's a table of several popular knife brands and their cutting angles:

Knife Brand/Type 

Cutting Angle

Wusthof Western blades

14 degree double bevel

Wusthof, Zwilling, Henckels santoku/nakiri

10 degree double bevel

Zwilling/Henckels Western blades

15 degree double bevel

Chicago Cutlery (most are carbon steel)

13 degree double bevel

Victorinox

15-20 degree double bevel

Global Classic and UKON

15 degree double bevel

Global SAI

12.5 degree double bevel

Shun (sold in Western market)

16 degree double bevel

Miyabi

9-12 degree double bevel

Dalstrong

8-12, 10-13, 12-14, 13-15, or 16-18 double bevel, depending on the series.

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Sharpening Angles and Grits of Our Picks

We list this info in the table at the beginning of the review and again in the detailed reviews below, but here's a table so you can compare the sharpening angles and grits of each brand side-by-side. 

Sharpener Brand

Comes with:

Extra Angles Available:

Extra Grits Available

Hone

-15/20 degree angles

-#400/#1000 grit discs

11/13/16/17/18/19/
22/24
(about $20)

-#200/700/3000 (about $30 each)

Horl

-15/20 degree angles

-#400/#1000 grit discs

None

-#220-600 ($80)

-#3000/6000/strop ($35)

Tumbler

15/20 degree angles

10/12/17/25 (about $40)

None

Work Sharp

-15/17/20/25

-#320/600/ceramic

None

-#320/600/ceramic (about $15 each)

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Pros and Cons of Rolling Knife Sharpeners

Pros
  • Easy to use with no learning curve
  • Most sharpening discs will last forever
  • Better for knives than pull-through sharpeners
  • Sharpens better than pull-through sharpeners
  • Best for taller blades like chef's knives, santokus, nakiris, and cleavers.
Cons
  • Hard to use on small/narrow blades
  • Limited sharpening angles
  • Fairly expensive
  • Can't do serrated blades.


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Review: Hone

Hone Knife Sharpener on Stand
  • Aluminum body
  • #400/#1000 diamond-plated grit discs included
  • Double-sided replaceable discs
  • 2 sharpening angles, 15- and 20-degrees
  • Solid rubber base you can use for different knives and for storing the sharpener
  • Strong magnets, sunken so as to not scratch blades
  • Ball bearing rollers
  • Slot/ledge to sharpen small knives easily
  • Other grits available (kit about $135; includes #200, #400, #700, #1000, plus a #3000 honing disc)
  • Eight other sharpening angles available (11/13/16/17/18/19/22/24; about $20)
  • Engineered in Canada
  • 10 year warranty.

What we like: The Hone is engineered in Canada (not certain if it's manufactured there), with high quality parts such as a ball bearing roller, aluminum body (won't swell or shrink like wood can), and a super durable rubber holder that's got the best design and build quality of all the rolling sharpeners we tested. The magnets are recessed, so no worries about scratching your blades. The feet are formed as part of the block, so they will never detach and get lost. The block also functions as a holder for the roller when not in use, making the footprint of the Hone small. The 10 year warranty is the best we've found.

Using the Hone was also impressive. It sharpened well, taking a 475g dull knife down to 260g. No, this isn't razor sharpness, like you can get on a whetstone or guided rod system, but it's an impressive number for a sharpener that's so easy to use. The "ledge" for smaller knives is thoughtful design, because small knives are tricky or even impossible to use many rolling sharpeners on (they blade has to sit above the magnetic holder or the sharpener can't do it's job). The #400 and #1000 grits are good for most knives that are dull, but still in working order. (You'll need coarser grit for extremely dull or damaged knives.)

If your knives just need touchups, then the Hone is fast to use, taking less than five minutes. If your knives are extremely dull or damaged, the #400 grit will take a long time to get them sharp. Dull or damaged knives sharpen faster with a lower grit, which is available in the grit accessory kit. However, at about $135, the grit accessory kit costs more than the sharpener itself.

The Hone also has good-sized sharpening discs, which makes sharpening easier than with smaller discs, and the double-sided sharpeners should last a lifetime. 

The overall quality of the Hone is great: it feels good in your hand and does a good job sharpening blades. And as with all of these rolling sharpeners, it got blades surprisingly sharp. It won't get a knife whetstone sharp, but it gets knives surprisingly sharp.

Hone sharpener ledge for small knives

The ledge makes it easy to sharpen small blades.

What we don't like:  The Hone (and all of these rolling sharpeners except the Work Sharp) should come with a wider variety of sharpening angles. Almost no knives have a 20 degree edge anymore, so you'll be using the 15 degree side almost exclusively. And if you own any thinner Japanese knives (most are thinner than 15 degrees, contrary to the marketing of most knife sharpeners), you'll need the extra holder. For example, you can't sharpen a Global SAI, a Miyabi, or a Wusthof or Zwilling santoku, all of which have cutting angles around 10 degrees. The good news is that the extra holder is only about $20, so you'll pay less for the sharpener and the extra holder combined than you will for some of the other sharpeners.

The extra grit kit costs more than the sharpener itself, which seems like a big miss, and it includes a #400 and #1000 grit discs, which come with the original--so it would be better if it had four different grits rather than just two different ones and two that come with the sharpener. It's good to have extra grits, but it more than doubles your investment. However, this kit does include the extra sharpening block, too, so you don't have to spend more on extra sharpening angles. 

The Hone accessory kits don't seem to be available on Amazon, but if you can find them, the prices might be lower than on the Hone website. 

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Durable magnetic holder with recessed magnets and molded feet (won't fall off)
  • Great build quality
  • Ledge for smaller knives
  • Ball bearing rollers
  • 10 year warranty
  • Eight more cutting angles available for about $20
  • At about $100, it's our cheapest choice.

Cons:

  • Expensive compared to some other sharpening tools (but our cheapest choice for rolling sharpeners).

Recommendation

The Hone rolling knife sharpener has a lot of great features, and you can expand to more grits and eight more cutting angles--the most offered by any rolling sharpener.

The "ledge" for small knives is a great feature because many rolling sharpeners are hard (or impossible) to use with small knives. The magnet is strong, the aluminum body is durable and easy to use, and it has ball bearing rollers for smooth, easy sharpening. 

Overall, the Hone is our number one recommendation for its build quality, ease of use, and the best versatility of all the rolling sharpeners we tested.

Rolling Knife Sharpener Hone

buy the hone rolling sharpener:

Amazon buy button

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Review: Horl

Horl Rolling Knife Sharpener
  • Oak or walnut body
  • #400/#1000 grit discs included
  • 2 sharpening angles (15/20 degrees)
  • Strong magnets
  • Ball bearing rollers
  • Excellent German engineering
  • Extra grits/strop available (see Horl website for more)
  • Made in Germany
  • 1-2 year warranty depending on model
  • Several models available, from about $130-$430.

What we like: The Horl is a marvel of German engineering. The quality is apparent in its solid feel, ultra-smooth rolling, and excellent sharpening capability. Using this tool was like driving a Mercedes: it just feels better, even if you can't quite explain why.

Sharpening was excellent, turning a dull chef's knife from 520g on the Bess C scale (see above) to 245g, which is "like new" sharpness. This took about 15 minutes of sharpening. 

The magnet is strong and firmly holds the knife in place, and we were able to sharpen several different sizes and blade shapes without a problem. However, smaller, narrower knives, such as paring knives, didn't work very well. Horl says you simply place the blade high enough on the magnet so that the blade is above the holder, but there are two problems with this. The first is that to get even sharpening, you have to make sure you get both sides at the exact same height to get even sharpening, which is difficult with no guide or ledge to help you. Second, with the smaller blade not fully on the magnet, you have to be very careful to not use too much pressure so as not to push the blade off the holder.

(Again, this is a problem with many rolling knife sharpeners.)

The ceramic honing disc did a good job of removing the burr after sharpening. 

What we don't like: Some user reviews stated that the diamond discs don't last very long. We used the Horl on more than a dozen knives over two months, and the grit held up well. Horl states that the discs should never need replacing "when used properly," which means only on moderately dull knives; if you try to use the disc to sharpen a severely dull or damaged knife, it will wear out the disc, take a very long time, and not do a great job. So this tool is really best for keeping your knives in good shape, not for fixing old, damaged, or extremely dull blades. However, this is true for all of these rolling sharpeners (although being able to accessorize with coarser grits is a big help). 

We also don't like that you can only sharpen to 15- or 20-degree angles. Even though Horl sells a number of accessories, none of them include more sharpening angles. With thin-angled Japanese blades being popular now, this is a huge miss. It's simply no longer true that knives are either 15- or 20-degrees. Even most German knives are 14-17 degrees now, and many Japanese brands are as narrow as 9-12 degrees. Very few kitchen knives have 20-degree blades today (despite the marketing campaigns of many knife sharpener brands claiming otherwise). 

Finally, the Horl is pricy. It's a beautiful tool, but other rolling sharpeners cost less and do an equal or even better job. The cheapest Horl, at about $130, sharpens only 20 degree blades, so for today's knives, this isn't a very useful tool. The standard Horl is about $190 and sharpens to two angles. And it only goes up from there--as high as $500 for a sharpener that does basically the same thing (same two angles) but does so with "planetary gearing," which increases rolling speed, shortening sharpening time. Not sure if this upgrade would be worth it to anyone unless it also included different sharpening angles (it doesn't).

We had to include the Horl because it's a beautiful, well made tool, and we love well made tools. But unless you have an unlimited budget and don't mind the sharpening angle limitations, it's probably not the right choice.

Buying Options

Horl makes several models. Our main link above goes to the standard model, about $189. They also sell a cheaper model, the Horl 2 Cruise that has just one sharpening angle of 20 degrees, and a Horl 2 Pro that has special bearings ("planetary gearing") that allow you to sharpen up to three times faster than with other rolling sharpeners. Here are Horl buying options:

Horl 2 Pro (about $430, which includes extra grits--all finer than #1000--for up to $560)

Horl 2 (standard model with 2 sharpening angles and extra grits/strop, about $330)

Horl 2 Cruise (about $140, with one 20 degree sharpening angle and aluminum body).

You can also buy extra grits, strops, a stand, and other accessories. See the Horl website for a complete list of sharpeners and accessories. Some of these may not be available for purchase yet in the US.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Stunning build quality and beauty
  • Easy to use
  • Ball bearing rollers
  • Several grits to accessorize with.

Cons:

  • 15- and 20-degrees are the only sharpening angle options (or just 20 degrees on the Horl Cruise)
  • Stand/holder is extra 
  • Short warranty (for such an expensive product) 
  • Expensive.

Recommendation

If you have a big budget and want a beautiful product that's great for 15- and 20-degree angled knives and easy to use, Horl is the way to go. But it offers no other sharpening angles, and it's expensive. We prefer the Hone for its greater versatility and lower price.

Horl Sharpener with Knife

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Review: Tumbler

Tumbler Rolling knife sharpener

See the Tumbler on Amazon (about $130)

Additional sharpening angles (about $40)

Leather strop, great for removing burrs (about $30)

Stand (about $30)

Features

  • Beech wood body and magnetic block
  • D35 diamond grit size (#400-#500)
  • Steel honing side
  • 2 sharpening angles (15/20 degrees)
  • Additional sharpening angles available (10/12/17/25)about $40
  • Strong magnets
  • 30 day money back guarantee
  • Made in China, Taiwan, and/or the USA. 

The Tumbler is a Horl knockoff, but it has a large social media presence and has become one of the most popular rolling knife sharpeners on the market. 

What we like: The Tumbler is attractive, with a beech wood body and attractive logo. The magnets are strong, and the D35 diamond grit did a good job taking a knife from a sharpness of 460g down to 255g, as measured on the Bess C sharpness tester (see above). This is not razor sharpness, but it's sharp enough for most cooks. It took about 5 minutes of rolling to achieve this sharpness.

We love that Tumbler offers more sharpening angles thin enough for Japanese knives at 10/12/17/25. The extra sharpening block is about $40, or twice that of the Hone, which ha eight additional sharpening angles.

Tumbler Sharpener Accessory Block

What we don't like: The Tumbler doesn't provide a way to do narrow blades like paring knives and pocket knives, so it's best for chef's knives, santokus, nakiris, and other wide blades.

The D35 grit is a good coarseness for sharpening, but we wish it had another, finer disc for finer work, either blades that just need a touch-up or to further refine a blade after using the D35 disc. The honing side is steel rather than ceramic, and it doesn't remove the burr as well as a ceramic disc. To remedy this, Tumbler sells a leather strop that will remove all burrs. 

Speaking of discs, Tumbler does not offer a way to replace discs, so if the disc wears out, it looks like you have to buy a new Tumbler. We're not sure of this, but we couldn't find any replacement discs on Amazon or the Tumbler site, and the discs don't seem to be removable.

There were some reviewer complaints about the rollers not working, but in our two months of testing, we didn't have any issues. We also read a review that said the magnets were weak, but we found the magnets to be quite strong: they weren't as strong as the Horl magnets, but they were strong enough to hold most blades well enough to get them sharp.

It comes in a nice box, but if you want a stand to store it on, you have to buy it separately. We think the box provides good storage and the stand is unnecessary unless you want it displayed on your counter.

The warranty information is sketchy. The website says you can return a Tumbler for any reason and get a full refund, but they don't list a time period.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Well made
  • Easy to use
  • With extra block, has six sharpening angles (thin enough for Japanese knives).

Cons:

  • Should have more grits
  • Discs are not replaceable
  • Steel honing disc doesn't remove the burr as well as ceramic discs.

Recommendation

The build quality of the Tumbler is good, though not quite as good as our other three picks. You can't remove Tumbler discs, so there aren't options for coarser or finer or even replacements. This is a miss, but even so, the Tumbler disc should last several years (we think you'll get your money's worth out of it). The extra sharpening block offers four more angles, three of them thin enough for Japanese blades.

Tumbler Rolling knife sharpener

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Review: Work Sharp

Work Sharp rolling sharpener featured image
  • Molded plastic body and sharpening block
  • #320, #600 grit discs, plus ceramic honing disc
  • 4 sharpening angles (15/17/20/25)
  • 20 and 25 degree sides have ledges for smaller knives
  • Strong magnets, covered with rubber to protect blades
  • Roller has "handles" which make it safe and easy to grip
  • Large disc can sharpen several sizes of knives
  • Made in USA.

What we like: The Work Sharp rolling sharpener would be our favorite if it had thinner angles for Japanese blades. It has a slightly larger rolling surface than most, making it good for more sizes and shapes. It has a handle on the body, making it safer to use. It has four sharpening angles that come with the basic kit (not extra!), and it has three discs also included. The magnets are strong, and the 20- and 25-degree sides have ledges for smaller knives, which is logical because pocket knives tend to have thicker angles than kitchen knives. The magnetic base is durable, with recessed magnets and molded feet that won't fall off.

The grit discs are also magnetic, so they attach easily, and they're easy to remove and switch out.

It rolls incredibly smoothly, with two small rollers that appear to be replaceable, and it sharpens quite well. It took a chef's knife that was 550g (very dull) to 240g in about 10 minutes, using the coarse grit, fine grit, and ceramic honing disc. 

We also like that the Work Sharp magnetic holder doubles as a holder for the extra discs.

Overall, the Work Sharp rolling sharpener has an excellent, durable design that works for many different knives and should last a long time. And at about $120, the price is pretty good: more than you'd pay for a manual pull-through sharpener, but less than an electric sharpener--and better for your knives than either of these.

What we don't like: Once again, why no angles lower than 15 degrees? This leaves out a whole category of thin Japanese blades (Miyabi, Global SAI, Wusthof santoku, Zwilling santoku, etc.). And if you invest in blades like this, you really don't want to sharpen to a "close enough" angle because that defeats the purpose of these high-end blades.

And though it's great that Work Sharp includes ledges for smaller knives for 20- and 25-degrees, we'd like to see a way to sharpen a smaller knife of any of the angles. 

Work Sharp rolling sharpener with small blade

You can sharpen smaller blades with the ledges on the 20- and 25-degree sharpeners.

You can buy extra discs, and they're cheap at about $15 each, but the only options are the grits that come with the original kit: #320, #600, and the fine ceramic honing disc. #600 is a little on the coarse side for finishing a knife, so we'd prefer if there was a smoother grit available--and a coarser one for extremely dull or damaged knives.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Excellent design and quality
  • Strong magnets
  • Good sharpening ability
  • 4 sharpening angles (15/17/20/25)
  • 3 grits included
  • Ledge for smaller knives (20/25 degrees only)
  • Magnetic holder doubles as disc holder when not in use
  • Made in USA.

Cons:

  • Lowest sharpening angle is 15 degrees
  • Would like to see a ledge for all sharpening angles

Recommendation

The Work Sharp rolling sharpener is an excellent tool and our favorite of all the rolling sharpeners we tested. It still can't do thin-angled Japanese knives, but it can do nearly all German/Western style knives as well as folding knives and smaller blades because of the ledge on the 20- and 25-degree sharpening angles.

It's easy to use, durable, rolls smoothly, and has a handle that makes it very safe to use.

Work Sharp Rolling Sharpener with extra wide blade

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Rolling Knife Sharpener FAQs

Here are some commonly asked questions about rolling knife sharpeners.

Are Rolling Knife Sharpeners Easy to Use?

Yes, they are one of the easiest ways to sharpen a knife, requiring almost no learning curve at all.

Are Rolling Knife Sharpeners Safe for Knives?

Yes, rolling sharpeners are safe for knives. They don't scratch blades or remove too much metal.

How Long Does it Take to Sharpen a Knife?

This depends on the condition of the blade, but for knives that are used and steeled regularly and just require basic sharpening, it takes less than five minutes to sharpen. Extremely dull or damaged knives require a coarser grit than most rolling sharpeners have (though you can purchase them for some brands), and will take longer to sharpen.

How Long Does a Rolling Sharpener Disc Last?

Most brands claim that their discs will last "forever," but many offer replacement discs. If you're using the discs for basic sharpening--not severely dull or damaged blades--they should last many years. 

Can You Sharpen Any Blade on a Rolling Sharpener?

You can sharpen any smooth blade, but not serrated blades (true for most knife sharpeners). Also, rolling sharpeners are best for chef's knives and other large cooking knives. The blade has to be tall enough that the edge sits above the magnet or a rolling sharpener won't work. Some brands, such as Hone and Work Sharp, have a "ledge" to hold narrow blades. If a rolling sharpener doesn't have a ledge, the workaround is to place a narrow blade high enough on the magnet so the blade is above it. This is less than ideal though, because without a ledge to keep it in place, you can get uneven results.

Can You Sharpen a Blade with a Full Bolster?

Yes, you can sharpen a blade with a full bolster, although the bolster may get in the way so that you can't quite get the entire blade (true for all types of sharpeners).

Can You Change Grits on a Rolling Knife Sharpener?

Some brands allow you to change grits, including Hone, Horl, and Work Sharp, although Work Sharp only offers the grits it comes with. Other brands, such as Tumbler, do not allow you to change grits. 

Does a Rolling Sharpener Work as Well as a Whetstone?

No, a rolling sharpener won't get a knife as sharp as a whetstone can. However, they are much easier to use, with almost no learning curve, while a whetstone can take a long time and a lot of practice to learn. A rolling sharpener can get a knife sharper then most pull-through sharpeners, but it will never get it as sharp as a whetstone can. 

How Important Is the Right Cutting Angle when Sharpening a Knife?

It depends on the knife and your personal preferences. If you own mostly average, inexpensive knives, then they'll probably have a 15- or 20-degree cutting angle, which is what most sharpeners have. Even if they have a different angle, it may not matter to you because you haven't invested a lot in the knives. But some knives have much thinner cutting angles of 9-12 degrees, and these are usually more expensive knives, so if you have knives in this category, you should try to sharpen to the original cutting angle since that's a big part of what you paid for.

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Final Thoughts

Tumbler rolling knife sharpener in use

Rolling knife sharpeners are easier than whetstones or guided rod systems, and better for your knives than pull-through sharpeners because they remove less metal. They're easy to use, with practically no learning curve. As long as you place your knife on the holder correctly, you will always get the perfect angle.

That said, they won't get your knives razor sharp, but they do a remarkably good job for how easy they are to use. And, they're best for knives with taller blades--for example, chef's knives and santokus rather than paring knives--because the blade has to be above the holder in order to sharpen. Some models--the Hone and the Work Sharp--have ledges for shorter blades, but even so, you may not be able to sharpen all your knives with a rolling sharpener. 

All four of our choices are good, depending on what you're looking for. Hone has (we think) the best design features, including double-sided discs that will last twice as long, a 10 year warranty (nothing else comes close), and eight sharpening angles with the additional block (about $20). For build quality, price, and ease of use, we like the Work Sharp.  Horl is beautifully designed but expensive, and only does 15- and 20-degree angles. The Tumbler is in fourth place, with a good build quality and good magnets but not quite as good as the others--but Tumbler's additional block ($40) has the narrowest sharpening angle of 10 degrees, with Hone a close second at 11 degrees: both of these will work for many Japanese blades.

Overall, we like and recommend all of these easy-to-use sharpeners.

Thanks for reading!

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About the Author

The Rational Kitchen (TRK) is a collaborative effort, but the founder, editor, and writer of most of our articles is Melanie Johnson, an avid cook, kitchenware expert, and technical communications specialist for more than 20 years. Her love of cooking and the frustrating lack of good information about kitchen products led her to create The Rational Kitchen. TRK's mission is to help people make the best decisions they can when buying kitchen gear. 

When not working on product reviews, Melanie enjoys reading, playing with her dog Ruby, vintage video games, and spending time outdoors and with her family.

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