Knife sharpening is often an obstacle for many people, or at least it is a practice that sometimes can be boring and expensive (especially in terms of time), and is often accompanied by the fear of ruining the blades.
The sharpening solutions on the market are among the most disparate and obtain varying results depending on the system adopted: ranging from manual systems (with or without guides) to the electrical ones (more or less professional).
Among the leaders in the field of sharpening, the American Company Work Sharp (part of DAREX LLC) presented their new manual sharpening system this year, the Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System (WSGSS), with the innovative basculating system, developed by the engineer Dan Dovel and designed to follow the curvature of the blade during sharpening.
The tool is designed for all those who have always wanted to manually sharpen with stone, but have never been able to get satisfactory results (given the difficulty of such a method that requires patience and experience), and is therefore ideal for the less experienced, who will be able to work with confidence and develop the proper mechanics for sharpening manually, and also for those who are already skilled in this practice.
The product is ready to use when taken out of the box, without the need to mount bases, guides, clamps, and various accessories. The sharpening is performed on diamond plates (320 and 600 grit), housed on the support and retained by a magnet that allows rapid and easy replacement. At the two extremes are the guides which have interchangeable inclinations of 17 ° and 20 °, these are also held in position magnetically, on which the blade is slid in the direction of the sharpening plate.
Depending on the blade type you can decide whether to use the plate in a fixed position, or activate the Pivot-Response system. For blades with a straight edge on the whole length of the blade (such as in the American tanto, sheepsfoot, Wharncliffe, etc.)it is recommended to use the fixed plate, whilst with blades that have a curved fitting of the edge towards the tip, it is necessary to activate the tilting system that allows you to conveniently sharpen the entire length of the cutting edge without changing any other settings.
With the WSGSS it is also possible to sharpen knives with a recurved blade ( those in which the curvature of the cutting edge is located almost near the middle),which are impossible to sharpen with flat stones.
In this case it is used by replacing, in a simple and rapid way, the support block of the diamond plates with the one on which is placed the ceramic rod, also equipped with an inclined chute to keep the angle during sharpening.
The ceramic rod rotates in various positions, each of which has a different function. In the first two positions are the knurled surface (coarse) and smooth (fine); turning further you reach the area consisting of deep grooves, useful for sharpening hooks or serrated knives. For the latter, the support is further equipped with two shorter rods placed on the diagonals of the support itself: a small and a medium diameter rod, positioned in such a way as to allow the sharpening of various types of serrations.
Finally it is possible to sharpen work tools, such as axes for example, simply by pulling out the diamond plate holder from the base (in this case it is evidently not possible to use the guides); instead, using only the diamond plate, it is possible to sharpen the tools which are generally more difficult to reach the edge, such as the shears.
For those who are most demanding and who love to achieve the ultimate edge, there is available the Upgrade Kit WSGSS, sold separately, which includes a 6” Leather Strop with 25° Angle Guides (in addition to the 22 ° of which the base is already equipped), a 0.5 micron chromium oxide honing compound and two additional Diamond Plates: Extra-Coarse 220 grit for edge repair and tool sharpening and Extra-Fine 800 grit for fine-tuning sharp edges.
Once you determine the best sharpening angle (from those available, hence 17° and 20°) and have assessed the type of system to be adopted according to the blade shape (there are very helpful and precise instructions given by Work Sharp) the technique of sharpening is really very simple: just slide the blade along the guide, keeping the knife perpendicular to the plate and applying gentle pressure.
Starting from the coarser and coming to the finer diamond abrasives, by carrying out the same number of strokes on both sides of the cutting edge, excellent sharpening results are obtained, in very little time and with good precision. Clearly it is still a manual system where the guides are constituted by slides that help early on to set the correct position, thus human error is not deleted but is much more limited than when manually sharpening with stone.
To finalize the sharpening, replace the support of the diamond plates with the ceramic rod, and sharpen employing the same movements and the same technique.
The stropping kit, sold separately, is what a lover of razor-sharp blades and mirror polished edges will really appreciate. After finishing the sharpening with the finer diamond plate and making some strokes on ceramic, you can use the leather strop (with honing compound supplied), proceeding in the reverse way to sharpening, selecting the desired guides (25° or 22°).
In all honesty I must admit that after seeing the product at the IWA exhibition in Nuremberg, even though it was demonstrated before my eyes , I had some doubts about the ease of keeping the knife at the right angle after passing the inclination of the guide. Only after trying it could I see how pretty natural and instinctive it is to sharpen along the plate, keeping the angle initially set by the guide (clearly the accuracy of the final result will be influenced in part on the ability of the person doing the sharpening).
Overall, the Work Sharp Guided Sharpening System has proven very effective, versatile and ready to use (you can sharpen all types of knives and tools) so it is a great way to make the manual sharpening easier, faster and within everyone's reach.
Producer: Work Sharp Tools - www.worksharptools.com
Indicative price: USA $60 , Europe 65,00 / 80,00 €
The Guided Sharpening System features:
6” coarse (320 grit) and fine (600 grit) Diamond Sharpening Plates
17° and 20° Angle Guides
Coarse and Fine Ceramic Hone with built-in Angle Guides
3 sizes of ceramic rods to sharpen serrations
Removable diamond plate holder for sharpening tools
Upgrade Kit (sold separately)
Indicative price: USA $35 , Europe 43,00 / 50,00 €
Extra-Coarse 220 Grit diamond plate
Extra-Fine 800 Grit diamond plate
Leather Stopping plate with 0.5 micron honing compound
25° Stropping Angle Guide
This article has been published on the magazine "Armi&Balistica" n.47