If I notice my knife getting dull, should I sharpen it or hone it? What is the most economical method of doing it? Whetstone? Oilstone? Waterstone? Honing steel? Electric knife sharpening tools? Handheld sharpening devices? I want to spend as little as possible
If you're going to steel your knives then the type of hone matters more than the price.
Depending on the type of knife you have, a plain steel rod will either burnish the edge of your knife or cause it to chip. A ceramic or diamond rod is abrasive and will actually remove small amounts of metal to form a fresh edge.
Learning to use a bench stone is the best option but is harder for most people than having the knife sharpened at a shop and then steeling regularly to maintain a moderately sharp edge.
It depends on the design. Pull through sharpeners with 2 carbide bits in a V shape are the worst. They tear up the edge and leave it ragged so it'll cut ok for a little while and then be dull again.
An electric sharpener with either a belt or grinding wheel and angle guides will can do a respectable job for most knives. Neither will be as good as hand sharpening on bench stones, but it won't matter for most knives.
If you have a knife with edge damage like chips or rolls you'd need to grind them out with a low grit stone before refining the edge on higher grit stones. This removes a lot of metal and is what most people call sharpening.
Something like the 5000 or 8000 grit stones in this picture can be used for honing to remove microscopic edge damage to maintain a sharp edge.
Unless you're doing a lot of damage repair you don't need a low grit stone. You'd be fine with a 1000/6000 grit double sided stone.
Usually, grits < 800 are reserved for removing large amounts of metal like you'd have to do to grind out a chip, fix a broken tip, or reprofile a knife.
A 1000-2000 grit stone is fine for regular sharpening.
A 5000+ grit stone can be used as a hone.
Stones can go up to 20,000 or 30,000 grit, but aren't really all that useful.
My kitchen knives are dangerously sharp.
I've got a few whetstones from when I thought it was hip to shave with a straight razor, but that's a PITA.
I was looking at the Chef's Choice electric razors, but then went to Youtube and stumbled across people using bench grinders and sanders - apparantly that's similar to that of what commercial shops use.
Chef's choice sharpeners are highly reviewed and are fine for most knives. It has fixed angle guides though, so you won't have as much flexibility as freehand sharpening. You also won't be able to refine the edge as much as you can with a series of whetstones.
Belts and wheels are also fine for most knives, but you risk overheating the blade and ruining the heat treat if you grind too hard or have the belt/wheel running too fast. You also won't reach the same level of edge refinement as a series of whetstones unless you have a bunch of belts/wheels of different grits.
Really though, with the exception of pull through sharpeners, just about anything can be used to put an acceptable edge on a knife. You can even freehand sharpen a knife on a brick if you practice enough.
I love my pull sharpener. Been using it for years on all my home kitchen knives. I worked as a diner cooke, short order cook and Dennys cook for most of my teens and 20s and it worked for me then too.
Have a nice steel and a file, but really, the pull sharpener gets everything damn sharp and its usually right there on the counter. Its made by Smiths, has ceramic rods and separate places for regular knives, Jap knives and scissors. In my old knife bag I had a small Smiths one that had a carbide side and a ceramic side.
Had a nice wooden Wusthof pull sharpener with 2 ceramic wheels in there. Went mssing from my knife bag years ago, I think one of the other cooks on the shift after me took it.
Ruined a knife once with a file. My father taught me how to sharpen properly with the file and when I started cooking at the diner they showed me how to use a steel. Still used my pull sharpener cuz Im lazy and probably have a complex.