Off topic. Knife sharpener primer and reviews


#1

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.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/FlyingMonkeyFab?ref=hdr_shop_menu

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.


#2

Nice thread. I do a lot of sharpening of my work tools and knives. Never used any of these techniques though.
Depending on the job, I either use Japanese water stones or my Tormek T7.
Like the look of that Lansky system.
I do know a guy who gets very good edges on his knives using Wet and Dry paper.


#3

Yeah, if you are using a Tormek T7, this was not really for you. I will assume that you fully know what you are doing.


#4

In the workshop…yes.
But you should see the state my kitchen knives get into.
It shames me:cry:


#5

Him indoors, on the other hand, is going to love this thread when I show it to him.
He loves a bit of cutlery porn.


#6

Yeah, I guess the Tormek is like the belt grinders. Will do a wonderful job but you have it at the “office” and the kitchen knives get ignored.


#7

Hit the nail on the head.
Although him indoors has become a bit of a Tormek junkie since we got it and sharpens just about everything in sight now. Including (thankfully) the kitchen knives.


#8

Sharpening my woodworking tools is still one of those new things for me. I have a Bench Grinder in the shop but it doesn’t have any guides and so I’ve messed up a few cheapo chisels as I’m learning how to use it. Two questions for you. How does a bench grinder compare against these? Would any of these options be a suitable or easier option for sharpening tools?


#9

Thank you so much for this review, it is very helpful. There is one thing I would love to see added though, and that is video demonstration. Especially for the Bee Sharp (I have one)–I’m such a neophyte in the knife sharpening area that it would be really helpful to be sure I’m doing it right.


#10

Have hope, There are some “corrected” men out.

I got this to do my wife’s cutlery:

About once a quarter, I break it out and she get sharp knives.


#11

I have had pretty good luck with the diamond whetstones from DMT (start with the blue/course, and work up to a green/fine). Not the little handheld 4" ones, but the larger ones. You have to keep it continuously wet with water, and yes, I do clean it per the instructions to prevent clogging. And super important to dry it afterwards or the steel dust will rust over time, and that can cause an irreversible clog. Over time you learn to get the angle to the stone just right and keep it over the curve of the blade. And my wife is super picky, and she does the carving (being the surgeon) on meats, as she is used to a scalpel. The problem is she is used to disposable scalpel blades, so doesn’t think twice about cutting into bones (since in the OR you just throw that blade away after hitting bone - heck the blade we use to cut the skin is a single use blade, as in we cut the skin and then it’s done!). Luckily she hasn’t been throwing the Whustofs away after each cut…

https://www.sharpeningsupplies.com/DMT-Three-Stone-6-Diamond-Whetstone-Set-in-Hardwood-Box-P439C112.aspx

Now I only sharpen knives in the kitchen and my Bucks, which I can get razor sharp, but I would love a really good description of how to sharpen tools (primarily chisels) as I don’t really know the technique (I have taken a ding out of a blade, but that was a fix, rather than primary flatten and sharpen)


#12

I would never use my bench grinder to sharpen anything because if whatever it gets too hot it is ruined. That is a danger even with a belt grinder but less so than a bench grinder.

Lots of different ways to sharpen tools but let me throw out two things. I am not as much of any expert on tool sharpening as some, I’ve become mostly knowledgeable on knives. Anyway, no matter what you are sharpening, the key is a consistent angle. So for lots of shop tools that means making a guide of some type to hold that angle, very much like sharpening knives. Some type of totally flat plate and sandpaper works great for all kinds of shop tools. I use a piece of glass as my plate but a stone counter top would work well as well.
Just glue the sandpaper on the plate and you have a sharpener.
Lots of videos on this on YouTube.


#13

There is a video, but it is so bad that I am reluctant t post the link but if I can’t laugh at myself by now…

You can go to about 14 min. to start actual instruction.


First sale from a Glowforge?
#14

I struggled with sharpening for a long time. I now use a guide bar system and get moderately satisfactory results. It’s still not easy to use and I haven’t figured out how to get the best out of it. Inevitably, if I move to the finest stones, I seem to make the edge worse, so I stop after the medium stone and call it good.

For my nicest knives, I won’t sharpen them myself at all. I take them to a local specialty knife shop.


#15

Well, I’ve been doing it wrong…but I still got some sharp knives out of the deal! Chuckle!

(Seriously, remind me to snag a few wooden ones and a couple of the babies later…) :smile:

Or better yet, when you’ve got a few really cool looking wooden ones set aside, shoot me a note and I’ll send you some bucks… and quit tempting me when I’m swamped!


#16

I love the work sharp, hate the lansky


#17

Yup. I was doing it wrong! Or at least, differently from the ways you showed. I still got the knives sharper but these methods look a lot easier. Thanks so much for showing us!


#18

@Jules @cynd11 like long division, if you are getting sharp knives I can’t say that you are doing it wrong. Maybe a non preferred method?


#19

Thank you! I don’t spend much time with tools, but I have a pocket knife I got a long time ago that I use nearly everyday. I’ve always thought about getting a sharpener for it, but never really looked into it much. The only times it ever gets sharpened are when I happen to be somewhere that I can pay a few bucks for someone to sharpen it for me, and that’s not nearly as often as it should be. This was very helpful and I’ll be making a new purchase soon! Thank you.


#20

I have also had a long standing fascination with knife sharpeners. My list doesn’t overlap with Mark Evans’, so I thought I’d share.

Spyderco Sharpmaker: very easy to use, just hold the knife vertically and stroke through. Has two different angles, two different grades of ceramic stones, and you can use the corners or the flats of the stones. Very gentle on knives, but then if they are very dull it will take forever.

https://www.amazon.com/Spyderco-Tri-Angle-Sharpmaker-Sharpener-204MF/dp/B000Q9C4AE

AccuSharp knife sharpener: tried it because it was recommended by Cook’s Illustrated. Extremely easy to use, just pull it over your blade. Very aggressive and not adjustable. You can see the metal shavings it leaves after use. Better than having a dull knife, but maybe keep it away from your nice ones.

https://www.amazon.com/AccuSharp-ACCU-001C-001-Knife-Sharpener/dp/B00004VWKQ

EdgePro: easier to use than jig systems that require you to clamp your blade. You can move the knife around as you sharpen so that it is easy to get to all of the edges on knives of all sizes. Fully adjustable for angle, and depending on the model, comes with a few, some, or a ton of grits. Very good, but also quite expensive.

https://www.amazon.com/Edge-Pro-Apex-Knife-Sharpener/dp/B00BH17XAG

Japanese waterstones: Old school. I have a set of 1000, 6000, and 8000 grit stones. Practice is required, unless you use a clamped angle guide, like the Razor Edge guide, which can be difficult to mount and adjust. There are also some slip-on ones that are very cheap, which I haven’t tried. Only recommended if you’re super into it. Youtube videos can help with technique, I prefer the ones with old Japanese chefs.

I have several other ones, but these are the ones I have kept and can recommend. AccuSharp for cheap knives where you just don’t care, EdgePro if you can justify the price and want to be able to deal with any knife, waterstones if you have an afternoon and can justify the hours of practice, and the SharpMaker for quick maintenance. The BeeSharp in the original post also looks good for that, in that the sloped shape will help you maintain an angle. Either one is far better than a sharpening steel of any sort, which a) does not sharpen knives, just straightens the edge, and b) only if you use it correctly, which is super difficult.

Just for completeness, I will note that Cook’s Illustrated recommends the Chef’s Choice Trizor for electric knife sharpeners. I’ve had a Chef’s Choice, but I prefer the manual sharpeners.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0018RSEMU