The curious case of the knife sharpener.

knife sharpeners

I realize this post will probably be of interest to, uh, no one, but I’m having a moment here. Humor me. (What category should this even go in? I guess it’s kitchen-related, so…“food” it is!)

Okay. So. Here’s what you’re looking at:

A. ASPEKT Knife Sharpener // $6.99, IKEA
B. Ceramic Kitchen Knife Sharpener // $29.95, Muji
C. Fiskars 7861 Axe and Knife Sharpener // $9.36, Amazon

They’re all the same. Identical. Okay, almost. The only discernible differences are in the color/opacity of the plastic guide slot, and the addition of a stamped logo on item C. All three sharpeners have “FISKARS” embossed underneath, and all are made in Finland.

I was at Muji about a month ago and picked up item B, noticed the Fiskars stamp, and then put it back after seeing how pricey it was. A week or so later, we were at IKEA, and I saw what looked the exact same sharpener, item A. Sure enough, it was also stamped Fiskars underneath (I think this marked the first time I’ve seen a non-food item at IKEA with another company’s branding on it). But the price was so much lower.

Yeah, I bought it. We needed a compact, manual sharpener to keep at the apartment, and this fit the bill perfectly. (It works really well, by the way!)

Just for fun, I checked Amazon tonight to see if the Fiskars sharpener is available elsewhere, and sure enough, item C popped up. The price there isn’t much higher than IKEA (though the list price is $11.99), so it appears Muji is the odd man out here. It’s not like Muji is some tiny store, either—it’s a massive company that specializes in well-designed, low-cost goods. I’m kind of confused.

Anyway, if you need a little knife sharpener that’s well designed and made in Finland, IKEA is your place. Buy with confidence!

UPDATE: The fabulous food writer and critic Ruth Reichl just added this knife sharpener to her holiday gift guide. This time, it’s masquerading as something called the SR-2 Rollsharp, $16.50. IKEA still wins!

39 comments
  1. me @{life or something...}Dec 15, 20108:22 pm

    this might be wierd, but i’ve never sharpened my knives before. How often does one sharpen thier knives? All knives? how do you know it’s time to sharpen? I’ve been using the same knifes for over 5 years and they are still sharp – i think? now i’m not sure? I thought only big knives (like chef knives) need sharpening? am i the only one?

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  2. me @{life or something...}Dec 15, 20108:22 pm

    PS: maybe it’s time i head over to ikea!

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  3. jeelagoDec 15, 20108:54 pm

    hmm, sounds about right?

    Finn-made product, well made and reasonably priced.

    Available worldwide for less, thanks to Swedish popularity.

    Costs three times more in/from Japan.

    ok maybe I’m reaching lol, but it’s a funny moment you’re having here, go Finland! :~j

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    Anna @ D16 /

    This makes me wonder if Moomin stuff from Japan is more expensive, too. ;)

  4. NicoleDec 15, 20108:57 pm

    I have the one from Ikea but I think I’m using it wrong since I don’t think it works very well. But I only spent a couple dollars on it so I didn’t have any expectations.

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  5. Kate {domestikatedlife}Dec 15, 20108:57 pm

    You read my mind… I was just thinking that I needed a knife sharpener the other day. Glad you shared!

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  6. LaywanDec 15, 20109:06 pm

    I wish this post had come a month ago! we were desperate for a knife sharpener… broke down, and bought one at crate and barrel for $20. =(

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  7. Heather JoDec 15, 20109:49 pm

    Ha! I am, too, in need of a knife sharpener and had my eye on this inexpensive one from IKEA. I just figured if it was so cheap and from IKEA then it wouldn’t be great quality. Thanks for doing the research for me!!

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    Anna @ D16 /

    You can read the reviews on Amazon (there are a bunch!) if you want a more comprehensive view of the pros and cons. :)

    Heather Jo /

    Thank you, thank you!

  8. jodieDec 15, 201010:19 pm

    We recently bought a new knife sharpener for around $30, same kind of style as these, with ‘diamond’ wheels. I would have loved to have bought a sharpening steel but I’m so clumsy, I would have inevitably severed my hand.

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  9. avaDec 15, 201011:28 pm

    I like how the Fiskars version throws the word “Axe” into the mix. It’s like they’re trying to make this boring (and clearly widely available) knife sharpener all badass.

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    Anna @ D16 /

    I know! I thought maybe it was a mistake until I read some of the reviews. Apparently it’s the perfect size for sharpening a Fiskars axe! Who knew!

  10. JulesDec 16, 201012:42 am

    I heard (okay, Alton Brown said it on TV) that you should sharpen your knives professionally and that tools like this only do something…remove burrs? I’m still buying it because you know what? I’ve never had my knives professionally sharpened and I don’t see it happening anytime soon. I guess it’s a dying trade because no one seems to do it, at least in my area. There is one guy that wanders from craft store to craft store, but heck if I can find him.

    This is a long, convoluted way of saying I’m going to pick one up when I’m next at IKEA. :)

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  11. thisismycatDec 16, 20102:22 am

    I would like a knife sharpener but my father won’t let me buy one (no, I’m still not a grown-up). However, in Gothenburg, there’s a _awesome_ knife/axe/ice skates sharperner shop that’s been around for like a hundred years. I left all my chef knives there and a week later got them back. Slicing a tomato is like cutting through butter.

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  12. GaliDec 16, 20104:06 am

    I’m a fan of the good old sharpening stones to sharpen knives, at least they never break down. (apparently sharpening knives with stones is a lost art, my older sister had no idea what that stone in her kitchen drawer was for…)

    But it’s good to see some Finnish stuff of quality for good prices!

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  13. melDec 16, 20104:18 am

    We have had this same sharpener for a year or so. It works great.

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  14. TuijaDec 16, 20105:48 am

    How odd. Ikea is too far from me but I’m willing to bet that the sharpener isn’t available here in Finland. Did some calculating and the retail price for the brand one is 16 dollars.

    I like mine, it does the job with Fiskars knives.

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  15. LisaDec 16, 20106:38 am

    Isn’t all Muji overpriced? But that is ridiculous.
    I have that sharpener, it’s great and I even sharpened my lawnmower knifes with it by lifting the clear (In pic A&B) plastic lid.

    And Jules, when I grew up in the Swedish countryside in the 80′s there used to be a travelling knife sharpening guy who came every summer. Like all (?) travelling door-to-door salesmen, he is now only a nostalgic memory.

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  16. SarahDec 16, 201010:15 am

    I actually need a knife sharpener, so I’m excited about your finding. I’m going to look for this the next time I’m in Ikea.

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  17. julia wheelerDec 16, 201010:22 am

    you are cracking me up with this post. super informative though! shame on muji… they’re supposed to supply, simple, quality, affordable products:(

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  18. Amanda- Hip House GirlDec 16, 201010:30 am

    First of all, I desperately need a knife sharpener so thanks for posting this. Second, has anyone read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest? Remember the two companies that sold the same toilet that was manufactured in Thailand, but one of them tried to say they were “Genuine Swedish” and charged way more? I’m a total conspiracy theorist after reading those books- and now the knife sharpeners!!

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  19. Pour PorterDec 16, 201010:59 am

    Ok, so I read this somewhere recently (can’t remember where cause I read so much!) but it was an article discussing how Japanese retailers or retailers with locations in Japan traditionally have much higher mark-ups than American or European retailers. This being due to the fact that during the heady days of the 80s, retailers in Japanese market could get away with much higher mark-ups because the average Japanese customer was willing to pay more for an item because buying a certain item with a big price tag = status. However, now with the Japanese economy being so shaky for nearly two decades, it has been much harder to get away with higher mark-ups because the new generation is so reluctant to spend money on things. Anyways, I suspect that higher price for the same item is due to the traditional higher mark-up. Thanks for the recommendation-our one knife is in desperate need of sharpening and all the sharpeners we’ve seen have just been too cost prohibitive!

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  20. KimDec 16, 201011:10 am

    I somehow just found out about your blog and it is fantastic! It has everything: book design, home design, musings… I love it!

    Regarding all of these knife sharpeners, I find this to be particularly crazy. I saw the Muji sharpener just yesterday and this is the first time that I too have ever known Ikea to carry anything other than Ikea brand in their stores (other than appliances and food items). Thanks for bringing this to light. I’m curious what else is to be found if one looks.

    Thanks for your great blog!

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  21. emily @ thirtyeight20Dec 16, 201012:16 pm

    When I was in college, during the summers I worked on the production floor at a factory that made notebooks, envelopes and other paper products. (They paid college students well, and I needed money for tuition!) We made both the well-known brand-name products and the store brand products on the same machines using the exact same materials.

    The brand name notebooks cost $1.20 each, and the store brand notebooks were 5 for $1 — same product, same store. Only the design of the cover changed.

    I’m not advocating buying the generic or knockoff version of every single item in your home — most of us are aware of the ethical (and quality) issues behind that. BUT certain generic products really are made by the same people who make the brand-name products. I know this isn’t news to everyone, but still. It’s the same exact product, and the workers get paid the same — it pays to comparison shop and save yourself some money!!!

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  22. read me...Dec 16, 20101:41 pm

    Brilliant post Anna… not surprised the Muji price is high with the Japanese importing then exporting a Finnish product.

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  23. alisDec 16, 20102:58 pm

    I like Muji but they carry a lot of ridiculously overpriced products. Like those tiny travel containers made of clear plastic. I can’t even imagine how low their per unit cost must be.

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  24. MerissaDec 16, 20105:52 pm

    Thank you!! I’ve been needing a knife sharpener for months, but I didn’t know where to buy one, what kind to buy, etc. It was easier to complain about it and risk chopping my fingers off. Not anymore!

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  25. darrelDec 17, 20101:48 am

    i use the ikea brand daily at work (chef), there is actually no working difference between the fiskars (my first one) and the ikea. for $6 you can’t beat it.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Actually, the one from IKEA is not IKEA-branded. It’s marked FIskars underneath, just like the other two. :)

    darrel /

    that’s weird, none of mine have been labeled with any branding. hmmm…

    Anna @ D16 /

    Look underneath. It’s blind-stamped (no color) into the plastic.

  26. Shelley ClarkeDec 17, 201010:23 am

    Love this sharpener. Use it all the time on my ikea knife (which is great) as well as all my other older knives.

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  27. solDec 17, 20101:21 pm

    I want an IKEA in Argentina!!! I´m so jelous of all the stuff you can get there. For sure I would be broke in a month with an IKEA nearby :p

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  28. jjaDec 17, 20104:21 pm

    I have that one from amazon and am happy with it, white would be nicer for my home, but it is not displayed so no problem.

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  29. JuliDec 17, 201010:47 pm

    Haha, this IS interesting! Fiskars is doing the rounds (makes me nervous actually, that a company can rebrand the same product for different segments of the market…at different price points!).

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  30. Claiborne @ Buttered BreadDec 18, 20106:01 pm

    Love this as a gift idea–and thanks for breaking it down! Will be heading to IKEA soon.

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  31. LiviDec 20, 20106:22 pm

    Have you tried the Ikea one? I am always afraid to sharpen my knives for fear of ruining them!

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    Anna @ D16 /

    That’s where I bought mine, Livi, and I love it!

    Just so it’s clear, ALL of these sharpeners are EXACTLY the same — they’re all made my Fiskars, even the one from IKEA. If you want to read reviews from other people, you can check the link to Amazon.

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