I am looking at a couple of knife sharpeners; the Work Sharp GUIDED SHARPENING SYSTEM (plus the upgrade kit), or the similar but more basic Work Sharp BENCHSTONE KNIFE SHARPENER.
Anyone have opinions on either, or if you have tried both, even better.
The GUIDED SHARPENING SYSTEM + the upgrade kit makes for a very complete system; you can pretty much handle any sharpening needed. While the BENCHSTONE KNIFE SHARPENER, lacks some components of the other (I have a leather strop, so no biggy), nothing very coarse or extra fine. I read a couple of reviews stating that the ceramic plate on the Bench system makes a big difference for them versus the ceramic rod on the Guided system.
For those of you that are big on knives and sharpening is important to you; do you find the ceramic plate over the small rod a big difference?
other than that, yes, the Benchstone System costs less, but the Guided System + upgrade kit has everything, starting with a 220 coarse, to extra fine 800.
I haven’t used either system, but for what it’s worth: Rods can handle both plain and serrated edges. But on some very hard steels, they can create microscopic chips in the edge that create the impression of roughness or dullness. They also don’t flatten out small defects like nicks. Instead they wlll create a new profile that, while sharp, will follow the new edge, nicks and all. So the sweeping, smooth curve on the edge will develop very small waves. Probably not an issue unless you use artificial tests of sharpness like slicing a piece of paper from the edge.
So for my money, I personally would go with the plates rather than the rods. If I had any serrated blades (like a bread knife), I might get a simple crock stick setup.
during a quarter of century of carpentry, not necessarily knives, but chisel sharpenning has been my “pet hate”, so much so, I used all sorts from at the time ~ $150 (£110) worth DMT diamond coated stones each, to bench grinders and angle grinders with predictable burning of edges etc etc
Few years ago, bought 400 and 1000 Faithfull ~X3" by x8" (70mm x 200mm) stone for about $80 (£50 + postage)
and it is not a problem anymore, unless I wack it in to painted screw (small nails isn’t big deal), literally takes 3mins of intense resharpening by eye-hand and once every few months an evening with a cheap chinese guide to get angles correct the lot.
Needles to say, all knives in my house are razor sharp, as it takes 5 mins at most from a damaged blade to get it in to shape.
All of my sharpening problems solved
Diamond stones have a number of advantages, like being fast and not needing to be reflattened periodically. But until recently, they weren’t available in very fine grits. That set that Alvy mentions only goes to 1000, which is fine for utility work, but for plane blades, I like to go to 3000 or 6000. If you care about that, you can buy a separate fine or ultra-fine waterstone or ceramic stone down the line.
Another thing to know about diamond stones is when you start using them the first time, they can behave like much coarser stones than their rating. The reason is that when the stone is being manufactured, the diamond dust can clump up on the surface, making a bumpy surface that is coarser than the dust itself. (So-called “monocrystal” stones are supposedly less prone to this problem than “polycrystal.”) To remedy this, people sometimes rub the stone with a flat tool, like the back of an old chisel, to knock down the high spots.
Another alterative to both diamond stones and the more usual waterstones is to use wet/dry sandpaper on a flat surface like a piece of plate glass. The system is sometimes called “scary-sharp”. Sandpaper is available in incredibly fine grits, where it’s used for polishing car paint and the like. You can stick it to the plate glass with spray adhesive, or just wet the back and let capillary action hold it down. The system is relatively cheap, and like diamond stones, it never needs reflattening. Some places sell complete scary-sharp sets, with glass. Taylor Toolworks is one.
You should be aware that there are several different systems of measuring grits, including just stating the grit size in microns. There are different systems for Japanese waterstones, sandpaper, diamond dust, American sharpening stones, European, etc. But as long as you stay within a system (like waterstones, say), you should be fine. And good retailers will tell you what you need in their product descriptions.
Here’s a nice rundown from Fine Woodworking of several sharpening methods for woodworkers, including the scary-sharp method. (FW has many videos and articles on sharpening, but I believe they’re subscriber-only.)
I hadn’t commented yet as I haven’t used any of the Work Sharp products but I will now as the topic has gotten more general. Koko raised a lot of good points.
I didn’t know it by the “scary sharp” name, but I like the method of using wet&dry sandpaper stuck to a glass plate or some other flat surface with a little water. I own various sharpening tools but I still use that method often in the workshop because it’s so quick and easy. Good quality sandpaper cuts aggressively too so this method is faster than many stones.
My personal preference is to use diamond stones for rough work like removing nicks or more major tasks like re-profiling an edge. I prefer to use waterstones for sharpening. I think a major reason for that is that a good waterstone, natural or synthetic, cuts quickly because of the “mud” slurry and the wear on the stone is constantly exposing new sharp edges of the grit particles. I’ve owned a lot of sharpening gizmos over the years, and used many more back when I was in Scouts. In the end I’ve settled on:
8" DMT extra-coarse diamond plate for rough work and flattening waterstones
Naniwa Chosera synthetic waterstones in 400, 1000, and 5000 grit. I rarely use the 400, it’s only necessary if the blade is extremely dull.
DMT extra-fine diamond rod for kitchen knives
I was fully prepared to purchase the expensive and very well regarded 10k Chosera stone but I was so impressed with the job done by the 5k alone that I didn’t bother.
I think the Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker is worth mentioning. It’s very easy to use so I recommend it to friends and family who want a knife sharpener but aren’t enthusiasts. It can also be set up to use either the corners or the flats of the stones so it can mimic flat stones or rods making it effective on both serrated and straight edged knives. You can use it in either its “V” configuration or set up like a flat bench stone.
I have seen some YT videos on the Spyderco, and from my perspective, I could have problems keeping the angle. Of course, this could be said of other sharpening systems, including stones.
I am not a fan of stones because sharpening is something I do out of necessity, no fascination or love of doing it. Having to soak the stones, building up the slurry, a lot of cleaning. Am I looking for a magic bullet? Kind of.
The Workshop Benchstone and also their Guided System, represent a take it out of the drawer and use it. No water or oil to add. Use it, a quick brushing and put it back in the drawer.
Holding the correct angle on these 2 systems is important, I just feel that it would be easier because of the way it lies flat on a bench/table, versus the Spyderco…at least for me.
I finally looked at the systems you mentioned, and given that you’re interested just in sharpening knives, that Work Sharp Guided Sharpening system with upgrade does look like it could work well for you. The built-in angle guides don’t hold the blade rigidly at the correct angles, but they still are better than no guidance at all, like you’d have with ordinary waterstones.
It’s true that you can learn to find and maintain the correct angles without guidance, but that takes a little time. But separate angle guides also exist. You can also make one easily from plywood, plastic, etc.
Re soaking waterstones and making slurry, I never bothered with either. I take the stone out, squirt with water and keep the top wet while I’m working. Seems to work fine. So maybe that isn’t a big issue.
The reasons I like waterstones are that they are fast, versatile and capable of incredible edges. They cut rapidly, with the downside of wearing faster than oilstones, ceramic, diamonds, etc. They can handle plane blades, chisels, etc. (and so can you Workshop systems, though their angle guides won’t be useful there.) And two combination waterstones can give you a range from 120 to 3000 grit, which will produce a mirror finish on an edge.
But that Work Sharp system goes up to 600 grit, and the upgrade goes to 800, plus it has a stropping plate plus stropping compound. I would call that more than enough to put a really nice edge on a knife.
So for you, that Work Sharp system looks like a good choice. My only qualm would be cost. The WS Guided system with upgrade is about $100. Right now Rockler is offering a scary-sharp system with glass and sandpaper for $36, down from $48. That system does need water, but it doesn’t need soaking. It has no angle guides, but as I said, you can easily make one. Just a thought!
Your points are well taken. Yes, I am looking mainly for knives.
I do have many planes and chisels, but hardly use them at the moment, and do have some water stones to sharpen them when the time comes and get more time for woodworking.
After watching videos and reading reviews, I decided to go with the WS Benchstone system. The guided system has been around for 7-8 years, and with the upgrade kit covers many sharpening needs.
The one thing the guided does not have is the ceramic stone, only has a ceramic mini rod. The Benchstone just came out in the last year or 2, and seems to be made just for what I want. It has a 320, a 600, and the ceramic (plate) on the 3rd side, which I don’t recall, is either 1200 or 2000 grit.
So I went with that and should be getting it this week. It should be an easy plop it on my bench, do a quick sharpen, brush it off and put it back in the drawer. To be used mainly with pocket knives and the occasional kitchen knife.