HORL knife sharpeners eliminate the trickiest – and most time-consuming – aspects of using a whetstone: 1) getting the angle right, and 2) the 15-minute soak. That means your Western or Japanese knives will have an ultra-precise, noticeably effective sharpness in a quarter of the time. Unlike pull-through sharpeners, it does not shed too much metal, which extends the durability of a knife.

In this article, we go into the basics of knife sharpening, instructions on how to use Horl 2 knife sharpeners (including the HORL 2 Cruise and HORL 2 Pro), HORL's range of accessories, and why other rolling knife sharpeners do not compare. 

The Difference Between Sharpening and Honing a Knife

First things first: The term 'knife sharpening' is a bit confusing. It actually involves two steps: sharpening and honing. You can hone a knife without sharpening it (as many chefs do for regular maintenance), but you cannot sharpen a knife without following it up with honing. 

Why? Think of your blade's edge as a row of straight teeth. As you use the blade, the teeth become blunter and misalign. Sharpening sharpens the teeth, while honing sets them back in a straight, neat row. If you sharpen without honing, your blade will not cut ingredients neatly – because its 'teeth' are in all different directions. 

On the roller of any HORL 2 sharpener, you will see two discs on either side: A coarse disc for sharpening, and a finer disc for honing. 

How Can You Tell When a Knife Needs Sharpening?

Do the tomato test: Grab a tomato and cut out a slice. If it cuts through easily and neatly, without any residual water, your blade is sharp. If the tomato slices but there’s some resistance and only a little water, then just honing your blade will suffice. If the tomato bends and squishes under your blade, then it’s time to sharpen and hone. 

Instructions on How To Use the HORL 2 Knife Sharpener

There are two parts to every HORL sharpener: a bar that sets the angle, called the angle support, and a roller with a coarse sharpening disc on one end and a finer honing disc on the other, called the rolling sharpener. To sharpen and hone:

  1. On a flat surface, with your knife's blade facing up, attach the blade to the side of the magnetic angle support. (Use the 15° side for Japanese knives or the 20° side for Western knives on the HORL 2 and HORL 2 Pro; the HORL 2 Cruise's angle support only has one side, set to 20°).
  2. With one hand holding down the angle support, roll the coarse disc of the rolling sharpener against the entire blade. Keep note of the number of times you stroke the blade – you will need to repeat this exact number when you sharpen the other side, and when you hone the blade.
  3. Sharpen the other side of your knife blade with the coarse disc, using the same number of strokes you counted.
  4. Now it's time to hone the knife: Using the finer ceramic honing stone (or the stainless steel honing stone on the HORL 2 Cruise), repeat steps 2 and 3, using the same number of strokes you noted when sharpening. You can skip sharpening and just hone the knife if you just want to touch up your blade. 

HORL 2 vs Whetstone

A whetstone is the gentlest way to sharpen a knife, and very effective. It will respect the original sharpening angle of your knife's blade, as opposed to setting it to 15° or 20° as a HORL 2 sharpener does (just 20° for the HORL 2 Cruise).

The downside? In addition to the 15-minute soak required before using a whetstone, it takes a good amount of practice to use correctly, since it requires the user to determine the exact angle of the blade. This leaves a lot of room for mistakes, such as uneven sharpening. A HORL 2 sharpener, by contrast, does not need the 15-minute soak because no significant heat is generated from the sharpening process. Moreover, a HORL 2 sharpener sets the angle for you with its magnetic angle support. By doing so, it vastly shrinks any margin of error. 

If using a HORL 2 or HORL 2 Pro, there's another upside: efficient storage. While using higher grit whetstones means buying additional whetstones, with the HORL 2 or HORL 2 Pro, all that's needed is additional discs. (To read more on why you'd want to use higher-grit stones when sharpening a knife, see our 'HORL Accessories' section below.) 

Our verdict is that if you really want to respect the original angle of your knife's blade, are willing to put in the effort, and like the romance of doing things the traditional way, use a whetstone. But if you're looking for a more efficient and foolproof way to sharpen a knife – without shedding too much metal (as a pull-through sharpener makes knives do) – go for the more versatile HORL 2 or HORL 2 Pro sharpener. 

Teaching Your Knives the HORL 2

The first time you sharpen a knife using a HORL 2 knife sharpener, we strongly recommend 'teaching' your knife the HORL sharpening angles (20° for Western knives or 15° for Japanese knives). While this will happen naturally with time and use, introducing a knife to these angles will give you the best, most noticeable results from the get-go. This process, which we call the marker test, is simple, and takes less than 10 minutes:

  1. Colour in the edge of the blade, on both sides, with a marker pen. 
  2. Using the coarse sharpening stone, sharpen one side of the blade until the mark left by the pen is gone. Keep note of the amount of strokes.
  3. Repeat for the other side of the blade, using the same amount of strokes. The mark left by the pen should disappear. 
  4. Now hone the blade on both sides, using the same number of strokes you used for sharpening. There’s no need to do the marker test for honing.

The market test should be done every time you introduce the HORL 2 sharpener to a particular knife – not just once the first time you a HORL 2 sharpener. For more tips on best practices when using a HORL 2 sharpener, see our blog post here.

HORL Accessories

HORL's range of accessories include clever solutions for storage, as well as higher-grit stones that are interchangeable with the existing stones on the HORL 2 or HORL 2 Pro sharpeners. These higher-grit honing discs – especially the Ultra Fine Kagami – will give your knives the kind of ultra-refined edge you'd find in a Michelin-starred chef's kitchen. (Higher-grit honing discs must be used in ascending order, without skipping a number.) 

Our favourite? The HORL Premium Sharpening Set. Available as a separate add-on to the HORL 2 and HORL 2 Pro sharpeners, it includes two higher-grit discs at #3000 (HORL Whetstone / Fine) and #6000 (HORL Whetstone / Extra Fine). These are easily interchangeable with the existing diamond and ceramic honing discs – just sharpen and/or hone with the standard stones, then twist off and replace them with the corundum stones. The set includes the HORL Finishing Leather (also known as a leather strop), which removes any inconsistencies and metal residue from a sharpened edge. This makes the blade achieve its pinnacle sharpness, while giving it a shine so bright it looks brand new. The strop works best when used at the very end, after using the #6000 stone.

HORL vs Other Rolling Knife Sharpeners

The rolling knife sharpener was invented by Otmar Horl in 1993, and brought to kitchens around the world by his son Timo Horl since 2016. (Read our interview with Timo here.) Since then, similar types of knife sharpeners have cropped up in the market – but HORL exceeds all of them in terms of quality. 

Key differences include the strength of HORL's magnets – they are much stronger than competitors. HORL's magnetic angle support is also larger than copycat versions, which allows for more leverage when sharpening. Many competing brands' rolling sharpeners do not include interchangeable discs, as the HORL 2 and HORL 2 Pro sharpeners do.

Every HORL product is manufactured in Germany's Black Forest, using suppliers and partners located within a three-hour distance from HORL headquarters. This allows HORL to maintain extremely high standards in quality, trusting the knowledge of partners who are experts in working with their respective materials. 

How Long Do They Last?

The HORL 2 sharpener and angle supports will last a lifetime. The diamond disc will never need to be replaced, as diamonds are harder than any knife steel, while the honing stones average 3-6 years. The higher the grit, the sooner the stone will wear down. Replacement parts are available here.