This has come up in a couple of different threads so I guess it is time for me to type out my knife sharping primer and reviews.
First off, I make knife sharpers so don’t accuse me of being partial, of course, I am. I’ll try to avoid that but you can count on it creeping in.
I have tried about every major type of sharpener as a) I can use all the help I can get as I am not a natural at sharpening, and b) well, it is market research for me so I know what I am up against.
I’ll break this into two parts. Home and shop units that will get the most abused blade back to cutting and the field and kitchen units that can do quick touch ups.
First off, if you own knives you do need something to sharpen them, that is just a given and for your first sharpener one that will bring a knife back from that ill-fated attempt to cut a cinder block is in order.
If you are a natural, just pick up a few stones and we are done for the rest of us, and that will be the majority of us these days. Anyone can get a sharp knife with a little patience and the right tools.
Home and shop units fall into two groups, the guide bar systems, and belt grinders. Guide bar systems were first made famous by Lansky and the one I have on the other side of the room I’ve had for over 35 years.Guide bar systems can get your cutlery surgical sharp from dead dull. That is the good news, the bad news is they are SLOW, plan on 10 min. for a knife that needs a tune up and 20-30 for a blade that is in bad shape. Another caveat, for very small, very large, and full grind blades the guide bar can be quite hard to get mounted corectly. I even know a guy that through a perfectly good Lansky set in the garbage after getting mega frustrated trying to get it properly mounted on his full grind pocket knife.
The other major type for doing it all is the belt grinder.
There pluses and minus is the same thing, a two edged sword so to speak. They are powered. This means that in the right hands they can completely reshape a chipped or broken blade. In the wrong hands, you can completely ruin a good blade in no time with one. There are two ways to ruin a blade with one. Letting it get too hot and simply grinding away what you don’t want to.
The belt grinder can take two destint forms, the general puruse belt grinder and the dedicated knife sharpener. The general purpus can do fine if you get a feel for angles and get the right belts for it.
I have a dedicated one from Work Sharp and I love it. Not cheap but well worth it.
Add this and there is not much you can’t do to a knife.
The biggest problem with belt grinders, if you know how to use them, is simply that they live in your garage or shop and as such, they don’t get used. It is out there in the garage and all the knives in the kitchen are dull!
Now on to smaller knife sharpeners.
Carbide V slots. They are everywhere and they are horrid. I won’t say throw them away but if you have one put it out in the truck or something for dire emergencies.
One sharpener worth mentioning that has a carbide V-slot is the Lansky medic. It has a diamond file that is great for weird serrations and belt cutting and gutting V notches.
The Work Sharp Field sharpener is new to me. Someone here introduced it to me and I had to have one for “research”. Well, I have to say, there is very little to not like about this in its intended use.
I’m not a fan of diamond plates as they clog and over time lose their effectiveness. Any flat plate, stone or diamond is not intuitive to use. The thing is, this is a field sharpener, if the plates wear out, replace them. There are guides built into this thing so my objections to flat plates is somewhat invalidated. As much as I like my own sharpeners I have to say, this is what I’d want in a day pack if I was being dropped off on a tropical island to fend for myself. With two grades of diamond and three types of ceramic plus a leather strop, this is just the thing for hunting or survival conditions.
Finally, the Bee Sharp, this is what I make. The good: it has soul, it is made in my shop and if you get a nice wood one it is something that is not too ugly if you leave it sitting out.
It won’t bring a blade back from armageddon like a belt grinder or a Lansky but it will very quickly take a knife that is just dull and give it a good to very good working edge. A little stropping and you have a shaving edge.
So, my final recommendations.
For bringing a knife back from the dead: the Work Sharp Ken Onion with the open grinder attachment.
For survival or hunting: The Work Sharp Field sharpener, I’d also have one of my minis around my neck as a last ditch.
For weekly and as needed touch ups: The Bee sharp. A couple of strokes on each side before things get too dull and you are back in the cutting business.