The manual Spyderco 204MF Tri-Angle Sharpmaker System receives high marks for performance in expert reviews, especially for being gentle on blades. Spyderco’s triangular sharpening rods are fitted into a plastic holder at preset angles; users hold the knife and pull in cutting strokes against one rod and then the other. Experts say keeping the angle consistent is easier than it looks. In addition to being gentle and offering tremendous control, the Spyderco can handle serrated and straight-edged knives — a rare feature in manual sharpeners. And it can also sharpen very small blades like petite pocket knives. While slot-style sharpeners such as the Furi Ozitech Diamond Fingers Knife Sharpener (*Est. $20) are also easy to use, they don’t offer nearly as much control.
One drawback to the Spyderco is the brittleness of its sharpening stones; if dropped, the rods are likely to shatter. Experts say users who don’t take care to sharpen the edge and the tip separately may wind up rounding off the knife tip. While editors at one foodie magazine say the Spyderco Sharpmaker did a good job, there’s a steep learning curve (and a 28-page manual plus an instructional DVD) and the system is slower than electric knife sharpeners. Still, reviewers say the Spyderco knife sharpener is fun and rewarding to use once you get the hang of it.