HORL 2 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 approximately 90 seconds. This article explains how and why it achieves this feat. 

Let’s Review the Basics

Our favourite analogy is to think of the edge of your knife’s blade as a row of teeth. The more you use the blade, the more those teeth break off and misalign. The goal of sharpening is to get those teeth back into a neat row, so they can chop onions, dice chicken, and chiffonade herbs quickly and neatly, reducing any chance of slippage (and a visit to A&E).

There are two steps to the knife sharpening process: Sharpening, which fixes those broken teeth, and honing, which sets them back in a neat row. If you sharpen a knife, you have to hone it too, otherwise, your knife will not perform well. However, you can hone a knife without sharpening it. This is often the case for chefs who regularly keep their blades shipshape. On the HORL 2, the sharpener has a coarse sharpening stone on one end and a finer honing stone on the other.

So: how do you know when you need to sharpen versus hone? Test your blade by slicing a tomato. If it cuts through easily and neatly, your blade is sharp. If it slices, but there’s some resistance, then it’s worth honing your blade. If the tomato bends and squishes under your blade, then it’s time to sharpen.

How Do You Use a HORL 2 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 sharpener. Set a knife’s blade, upturned, against the side of the angle support. Sharpening happens in three steps:

  1. Attach the blade to the side of the angle support suitable for your blade. It will stay in place because of strong, anti-slip magnets.
  2. With one hand holding down the angle support, roll the rolling sharpener against the other side of the blade. If your knife is dull, sharpen with the coarse disc first, then flip the sharpener and hone with the fine disc. If you are just maintaining an already sharp edge, use the honing disc only.
  3. Now flip the blade to the other side and repeat the process.
Note that before you regularly sharpen your blades in this way, your knives have to adapt to the HORL 2 sharpener first (more on that below).

What Do the Angles Mean?

HORL 2 sharpeners have angle supports that provide two grinding angles: 20° and 15°. (The HORL 2 Cruise only has a 20° angle.) The standard sharpening angle for Western kitchen knives is 20°, and knives that are finer and more delicate, like Japanese knives, have a standard of 15°. While the original angle of individual knives varies, when sharpening, they can be ground to these standard, powerful angles for optimal performance.

In contrast, when you use a whetstone, you have to press the blade against the stone to determine the angle yourself, and then grind accordingly. The HORL 2 angle support does that for you, so there is less margin of error.

Teaching Your Knives the HORL 2

The first time you sharpen a knife using a HORL 2, you have to ‘teach’ your knife that ultra-precise 20° or 15° angle using the coarse diamond stone, so it can adapt to these standardised angles to cut effectively.* This can take anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes; in subsequent sharpenings, it will take significantly less time.

The best way to teach your knife these angles is to do the following test: Colour the uppermost part of the edge with a marker pen, then sharpen using the coarse diamond stone until the mark left by the marker pen is gone. Repeat for the other side of the blade. Now hone the blade on both sides; there’s no need to do the marker test for honing—just repeat the process with the honing stone for the same amount of time or strokes as you did with the initial sharpening stone.

*The first time you use any knife on a HORL 2 sharpener, not the first time you use the sharpener.

It’s Easy to Go Coarser or Finer

If you look at a whetstone, you’ll see it usually has two numbers denoting each side. These numbers refer to grits—a coarser grit (smaller number) means it is more suited to sharpening, and a finer grit (larger number) means it is more suited to honing and refining. Stones less than 1000 in grit are used for repairing blades with nicks and chips, while 1000–3000 is used to sharpen dull knives and anything above 3000 is for refining an edge.

With HORL 2 and HORL 2 Pro sharpeners, you can reduce or increase your stone’s grit by simply replacing the ends of the sharpener—unlike a whetstone, pull-through or steel, you do not need to buy a separate sharpener.

While whetstones require water, HORL 2 stones do not because no significant heat is generated due to the smooth-rolling movements. This makes it difficult to make analogies to whetstone grits; however, here are the approximates:

  • Standard Diamond Stone for all models: #420
  • Ceramic Honing Stone (for HORL 2 and HORL 2 Pro): #1000
  • Stainless Steel Honing Stone (for HORL 2 Cruise): N/A
  • Coarse Diamond Stone Attachment: #200
  • Corundum Stone Attachments: #3000 (Fine) and #6000 (Extra Fine)
Based on this scale, you can sharpen your knives using HORL 2 sharpeners accordingly. For example, if your knife is very dull but not chipped, up to a minute of sharpening with the standard diamond stone should be enough to sharpen a knife on the HORL 2 or HORL 2 Cruise; it will take a third of that time with the HORL 2 Pro. Keep count of your movements so you can replicate them on the other side of the blade. You can then hone the blade on both sides as many times or more.

Take It To the Next Level

We believe HORL’s Premium Sharpening Set is the best and easiest way to get professional results. Available as a separate add-on to the HORL 2 and HORL 2 Pro sharpeners, it includes two high-grit corundum polishing stones at #3000 (Fine) and #6000 (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 a leather strop, which removes any imperfections 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.

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 and corundum stones average 3-6 years. The higher the grit, the sooner the stone will wear down. Replacement parts are available here.