Thursday, December 14, 2023

Prepper Christmas: the Worksharp

I've mentioned before that in my life I've owned ton of flashlights, but I've owned even more knives than that, and along with those blades I've owned approximately 13.2 million knife sharpeners. My grandfather taught me to sharpen knifes on traditional whetstones 30 years ago, and I own a set to this day. I also love both the Smith and Lansky quick sharpeners, I've spent a huge amount of time on an old Spyderco Tri-sharp, and various others that I can't recall. To put it mildly, I've got a pretty broad experience putting edges on blades.

In the way back early days of this blog, I admonished all of you never to use a grinder to sharpen a knife, and I hold to that admonition. Grinders remove material very rapidly, and can easily destroy an edge if you're not very careful. However, there is one tool I've found that eliminates virtually all of that risk: the Worksharp knife and tool sharpener

There are a few versions available, but my personal unit is the Mk 2. It has a two-position angle guide, using 25 degree angles for pocket and working knives and 20 degree angles for kitchen knives and other blades that need a finer edge. That blade guide, as well as speed settings designed to control the amount of material removed as well as the amount of heat imparted to the blade, protect against all of the major damage risks presented by freehand use of a grinder. 

The reason folks want to use grinders to sharpen knives is because they think the grinder will be fast, and they're right, in theory; the problem is that the speed of a grinder leaves zero room for error. It also imparts heat to the blade, which can destroy the temper (the heat treatment that gives a blade its hardness). The Worksharp is definitely faster than you can run a knife on a stone by hand, but moves much slower than a standard belt sander or grinding wheel. This limits the amount of heat that builds up in the blade, and gives some forgiveness if the user gets a bit off kilter on the angle pulling the blade through.

The kit comes with 6 belts in 3 grits. These are an 80 grit for very coarse sharpening; what Worksharp says is a 220 grit, though it feels far finer to me; and a 6000 grit extra fine for finishing. These do an adequate job of putting an edge on a knife, but they really feel lacking when taking a blade from stone dull or if the edge geometry needs changed to meet the new angles. Luckily, the Worksharp takes 1/2"x 12" belts, and variety packs are readily available.

Leather strop belts are also available for putting that super-clean final edge on. With a bit of practice and good belts, I can easily take a blade from stone dull to a quality level of sharpness in about 15 minutes. What's better, the way the guides are set up makes it almost impossible to screw up your blade while you're getting that practice.

There's a whole lot of ways to sharpen a blade. If you have someone in your life who makes serious use of a knife, this will almost certainly become one of their favorites.


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