Here at Pro Tool Reviews, we love knives. All of us carry one just about anywhere we go and feel somewhat naked if there’s not one attached to us. We can appreciate a quality knife, even in the kitchen. The fact of the matter is that sometimes they get so dull that you could almost let your kids have them as a toy. Okay, not really. Don’t give your kids a dull knife as a toy. I’ll get all kinds of nasty emails from people. Still, a dull knife sucks, even if it is on an excellent design. That’s where the Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener comes into play.
Editor’s Note: Check out our best knife sharpeners article to get our top picks.
When I was looking for a knife sharpening system, I had two requirements. First, I needed a system that can get my knives sharp. That’s kind of a no-brainer. I usually turn to a hand sharpening system or a wet stone system for the kind of results that I expect. These take time to learn how to use effectively. So my second requirement was a system that wouldn’t take a beginner hours of practice on the weekends to get an edge to be proud of. For many of us knife users, we just don’t have time to learn how to be master knife sharpeners. It kind of makes me wish they actually could just download that information in my head like they did to Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. But I digress…
When I told the good folks over at CRKT what I was up to, they immediately referred me over to Work Sharp. One glance at their product line and I saw a name that I recognized – Ken Onion. Since Ken Onion knows a thing or two more than I do about sharpening, I figured I’d be in good hands with this setup. I wasn’t disappointed. Let’s dig in to what you can expect from the Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener.
Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife & Tool Sharpener Specifications
- Motor: 1.5 amp, 120V AC
- Power Switch: Variable Speed with Lock On
- Included Abrasive Belts: P120, X65 (P220), X22 (P1000), X4 (P3000), 6000
- Sharpening Guide Range: 15 – 30 degrees
- Price: $129.95
- Warranty: 1 year
Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener First Impressions
The Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Sharpener is made up of two parts: the motor/housing and the belt drive attachment. The attachment is removable (other attachments are available) as well as adjustable for tool blade grinding. The mostly plastic outer construction is suitable for the intended use of this sharpener, though it could benefit from some additoinal rubber overmold in places and perhaps a metal angle dial. The only thing that I’d really like to see Work Sharp add is some markings to the speed dial to give users a better idea of how close to low or high they are on speed selection.
The system comes with 5 belts that can help you hone down to a very fine edge. Adjustments to the angle and speed are agreeably easy to make, though the angle dial is definitely short of smooth is in its operation. Belt changes are simple as well. Just pull the belt tension pulley towards you to release the tension and the belt will slip off easily. The two lower pulleys will automatically bring the belt into proper position once you’ve got it in place and running. Changing belts takes about 20 seconds if you’re taking your time.
Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener: Sharpening for Dummies?
If you’re a master knife maker, you already know what you need to about the different edges and how to grind them based on intended use. For most of us mortals, that’s not a given. The amount of information that Work Sharp provides to help you determine what kind of edge angle to use and how to achieve it is outstanding. They’ve even got a handy flow chart printed on the packaging to help you decide what process to use. Once you’ve got a handle on the recommended sharpening processes, you can play around to get the edge sharpness/toughness combination that you’re looking for.
The included instructional DVD will give you pretty reasonable overview of the sharpener’s capabilities as well as some visual examples of how to sharpen. Between the video, user guide, and even the packaging, I was able to confidently start using the system within minutes. Confidence is one thing, but what would the results look like?
Using the Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener
Being more familiar with hand sharpeners and wet stone sharpeners, I wasn’t sure what to expect from such a user friendly belt system. Typically, the easier a system is to use, the higher the trade-off in results or performance. That’s where the Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition sets itself apart.
You’ll notice as you go through the sharpening process that the belt flexes as even light pressure is applied. This creates a convex edge that is very sharp yet resists damage better than a straight edge grind. That flex also gives you the ability to sharpen gut hooks on hunting knives. That’s a pretty big win for this this system.
I brought a badly misshapen Kershaw Blur, a very dull CRKT Fossil, and a very dull kitchen knife to the party. What really surprised me was how easy it was to create a consistent and clean edge around the entire length of the blade – even the messed up one. For me, the learning curve was about 5 minutes. I went through the recommended number of passes at each belt grit to see what kind of results I would get.
I have to admit, the EDC’s weren’t as sharp as I would have made them without guidance. However, they were optimized for jobsite use. From what I could see with my naked eye, the edges were near perfect. You can certainly take a more aggressive angle to the blades and create a razor edge if you’d like to. The trade-off is that it won’t be as strong, so I was happy to leave the EDC’s as they came out.
By changing the angle on the system, I created a sharper edge on the kitchen knife. This made a huge difference in the kitchen when it came to meat slicing duties. Stir fry is a favorite of my bride and mine. I like to slice chicken breasts very thin for it. The Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Sharpener made my go to knife feel like it was brand new and professionally sharpened again.
One of the big advantages of hand sharpening and wet stone systems is the ability to control temperature. Too much heat on a blade will begin to make chemical changes to the steel that can’t be undone. Even if you want to create a sharper than recommended edge, be sure to stick with the low and medium speed settings. Quickly sharpening a blade on high is tempting, but you’ll generate too much heat.
The Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener gives even novices the ability to create a durable, sharp edge on all their knives. Master bladesmiths are still going to stick to their preferred methods (it really is an art to watch someone create a razor edge by hand). However, this is a great product for the knife user that needs to keep blades sharp without spending the time to become a master.