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Work Sharp (belt grinder) Knife Sharpener

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by UnknownVT, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
    One of the things I was most impressed with at the Blade Show 2011 was something that Ken Onion dragged me (kicking and screaming) to see.

    It was the Work Sharp (mini belt grinder) knife sharpener.

    First an open apology to Work Sharp - for the delay in this review -
    they very kindly sent me this review sample back in July
    and I had been waiting on a piece of equipment to photograph edges
    (I won't bore anyone about the trials and tribulation of getting hold of it).

    Presentation quality packaging -
    I've remove the insert and put it on top of the container box -
    just a little tricky until one realizes the tabs protruding on the sides of the insert go into the slots inside the sides of the box.....

    The Work Sharp sharpener
    the outdoor knife guide is installed

    Mini belt system with guide removed -
    when experienced/skilled enough one can just use it like this without any guides.

    Outdoor Guide in place -

    Guides - front -

    Guides - back -

    under the handle - both momentary/hold for on, and lock on......

    I'll now give the summary of this review -
    I am really upset and chagrined -
    what had taken me several hours with a diamond hone and years of experience doing freehand sharpening -
    was done by this thing in just a few minutes - that's how good fast and easy it was to get a beautiful convexed edge......
    BOY! have I been put in my place - and by a mere machine........

    Now the review -
    I think I am going to run out of picture allowance for this post
    so it probably has to continue in the next post -

    But let me set the scene -
    One of my biggest purchase disappointments was a
    Buck 119 special - bought in the 1990's -
    why was I devastatingly disappointed with this famous brand - well early versions of the Buck 119 Special had the famous Buck edge which was a kind of semi-convex - really sharp - my sample had a typical machine plain bevel no convexing - whatsoever.

    I tried to give it a reasonable working edge - but it was so difficult - took me hours - and eventually I just gave up - so I knew this knife was going to be my "acid test" for the Work Sharp.

    Detail of edge Before:

    After 3 passes of medium grit belt - then 3 passes of fine grit belt each side -
    this pic may not show how good the convexed edge is.......

    But nearer the tip does:
    Yes, I realize the very tip has not been ground - and still shows the original obtuse edge - but look at the rest - that is incredible for just a few minutes' worth of non-work.

    (to be continued in next post)


    Last edited: Aug 23, 2011
  2. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
    Part 2

    Now the Buck 119 Special was reasonably sharp -
    so it was easy to get a burr with just a few passes on the medium grit belt.

    So what about something that's just not supposed to be sharpened -
    I have a Swiss Bayonet - they are for sticking not really for cutting and the edge need not be sharp -
    but being obstinate, I want to see if it can be sharpened -


    Edge before:

    Swiss Bayonet edge after:
    Yes, it was "harder" I had to resort to using the coarse belt -
    but I had never been able to put anything like an edge of this thing - after only minutes - I won't quite claim it's sharp - but the progress is astounding....... I am just so impressed - this is not really a "fair" test" since bayonets are not supposed to be knife sharp - especially not this type.

    Sorry Buck -
    I had an old Buck Blackhawk(? I think that's what it was called)
    again one of those knives I have never managed to sharpen well - I did attempt at putting on a convexed edge - but the blade toward the edge was just too thick (my excuse) -

    hopefully one can see my attempt at sharpening....

    Few minutes later from the Work Sharp -

    again this may not show the convexing that well -
    but this one is easier to see:

    I think I have just been made totally redundant in sharpening -
    and that's a good thing - for me.

    Impressed - isn't really enough of praise for this thing....


  3. Gravelface

    Gravelface Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 8, 2005
    Thanks for reminding me about these......there was one posted in the Busse Forum and when thread sunk off the first page I had forgot about these
  4. AFAustin

    AFAustin Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 8, 2004
    Hi, Vincent. I always enjoyed your reviews on CPF, and this one is great too, and with excellent pics. Thanks.

    I have likewise been enjoying my new Work Sharp. I'm still mainly practicing on cheap knives, but did do a little polishing on one nice one. This is an impressive little machine, particularly for someone who doesn't really have a good place for a full size belt sander.

    One question: When I use the 40 degree "kitchen knife" guide, and place the blade in the left slot, flat against the left guide as advised, the guide tilts to the left several degrees (~ 3/16"). Is this normal? I can get the guide to remain in place by placing my thumb on it and applying pressure to keep it from moving left, but this is a bit awkward. Anyone else have this issue?

    Thanks, and thanks for the review.

  5. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
    Andrew - many thanks for the response and kind words.

    I really don't think a wobbly guide should be normal -
    the outdoor knife guide is a lot more stable and stays put.

    I noticed that too on the kitchen guide.

    Although holding/putting pressure on top will stop it from moving - this is awkward as most people do not have three hands. One also could "jerry-rig" something like taping the guide in place - but really one shouldn't have to do that.

    I managed a work-around - mostly it's because the belt runs upwards on that side and we put a bit more pressure on the blade to keep it in place - and with my early inexperience - that results in more pressure on the guide and pushing it out of place.

    Once I realized what I was doing - I simply put less side ways pressure and used/allowed the knife's own weight to apply the pressure.

    In other words a very light pressure on the side of the guide is enough - don't press hard because when the belt runs it will result in the guide tipping out of place.

    However this is something Work Sharp ought to look at as the kitchen knife guide ought to be as stable as the outdoor knife one.

    Thanks for the input.


  6. AFAustin

    AFAustin Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 8, 2004
    Vincent, thanks for your reply and info. Well, at least I know I'm not the only one with a "wobble" issue.

    Your suggestion of less sideways pressure, esp. on the left side, is a good one. Thanks for your insight.

    The "outdoors knife" guide is more stable, I believe, because of the way it fits snugly over the bolt in back. The kitchen knife guide is slimmer, and so there is a gap when it fits over that bolt.

    I sent an e-mail to the WSKTS folks, who have been very helpful so far, and I'll post what they say about it.


  7. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
  8. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
    In the kit Work Sharp supply 2 sets of 3 belts -

    The three grits are:
    P80 (coarse)
    P220 (medium)
    6000 (fine/polishing)

    Scan from the manual -

    They are standard 1/2" x12" belts -
    so ought to be commonly available -
    except for the 6000 fine polishing grit which are specially made for them.

    I am by no stretch of the imagination a grits expert
    (I thought it was some kind of cereal :p)
    but the Wikipedia has a very nice table of grits.

    P80 - is the finest grit of "Medium (sanding bare wood in preparation for finishing, for gentle removal of varnish, also used for skateboard grip tape)"
    the next finer grit listed in the Wikipedia table is P100 - "Fine (sanding bare wood in preparation for finishing, not suitable for removing varnish or paint from wood, use for cleaning plaster and water stain from wood)"

    So P80 seems very well chosen to be just coarse enough to "remove varnish from wood" - since it is a powered belt and on steel this seems to me (remember I am not an expert) just the right grit for removal of steel to re-profile.

    P220 - is again the finest grit in "Very Fine (sanding of bare wood)" - again to me well chosen for a powered belt - to sharpen steel.

    6000 is not even on the table (for wood) being an ultra fine grit - but it does polish well.


  9. Work Sharp

    Work Sharp

    Aug 26, 2009
    Thanks for this review Vincent! Your detailed report and pictures really tell the story about our tool.

    Your advice to AFAustin is spot on. Using less pressure on the guide is the best way to minimize its movement when sharpening.
    You can also tighten the fastener on the back if you wish a snugger fit. Light pressure in the guides always nets the best results.

    We have a new sharpening guide on the website! (see Sportsman's Sharpener --> Accessories)
    This new guide is a 20° angle like the Kitchen Knife guide, but designed in the style of the open frame Hunting Knife Guide.
    This has a snug fit and delivers the 20° bevel angle and an additional scissor sharpening guide.

    And you are absolutely right Vincent, myself and all of us here at Darex / Work Sharp always want to hear from you guys, our customers with both 'the good' and 'the bad'. We listen and make improvements based on the feedback we get. So please do not hesitate to contact us anytime.
  10. Mitchell Knives

    Mitchell Knives Knifemaker Moderator

    May 21, 2000
    Looks interesting.

    My only concern might be that it would damage the flats on thicker blades.

    I'd like to see how it performs on one of the custom knives I make that does not have an edge at all.
  11. AFAustin

    AFAustin Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 8, 2004
    Thanks for the post, Work Sharp. Let me please ask a couple of follow-up questions:

    1) What tool is used to tighten the bolt on the back?

    2) The new "open" 20 degree guide looks interesting. What are its advantages over the included "closed" 20 degree guide?

    The downside is the shipping is pretty high (min. $8.69). Any chance of a "limited time free ship" on that (USPS 1st Class is fine and is cheap), to motivate some of us fans to give it a try?

    3) Finally, any plans for a 15 degree guide?

    I'm enjoying my new WSKTS sharpener, and am glad these threads on it are getting some additional play. Let me also add some praise for Betsy and Harmony at your shop, who have been very kind and helpful as I've gotten going with my WSKTS, addl. belts, etc.

  12. Luis G.

    Luis G. Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 18, 2011
    My Work Sharp Knife And tool sharpener is coming in tomorrow. Northern Tools had great pricing on the shipping ($13 for 2nd day :eek: )
    I am personally skeptical that it will work to be honest, just need serviceable edges anything more is icing on the cake.

    I have a whole series of knives for sharpening.
    name/steel/edge geometry
    1. Buck Vantage Pro S30V -Hollow grind
    2. Bradley Alias II S30V - Flat grind
    3. Shobu Fighter (Shobu Tac. Tanto) from HSTS, T10 Steel- Apple seed (very convex)
    4. Trad. Tanto from HSTS, 1060- Apple seed (somewhat convex)
    5. Kris Cutlery Tanto HZ, 5160 slightly convex
    6. Couple of kitchen knives (couple JA Henkels), carbon stainless steel - flat grinds thin
  13. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
    I am not Work Sharp - but here's my 2 cents -

    the main difference between the outdoor and kitchen guides - is the outdoor guide allows sharpening right up to the choil - whereas most kitchen knives do not have a choil, so WS can have a more covered guide for kitchen knives - the more covered kitchen guide would stop any knife from being sharpened right up to the choil.

    However not to take anything away from the sales of the new 20deg outdoor guide -
    there is an extremely easy way to get a 20deg convex edge using the WS.

    Keep the outdoor guide in place - it helps -
    now instead of placing the opposite face against the guide -
    keep the blade vertical - the angle is now exactly 20degs as long as the WS is on a level/horizontal surface.

    15deg is very acute - I know there are many who say that modern steels can take that kind of edge -
    but mostly it is for razor blades - the argument about modern super steels is not that valid -
    because as most experienced blade owners will remind us that non-stainless carbon steel (alloys) can be superior as a blade to even the most exotic stainless steels, and for years/centuries on plain carbon steel the working edge has been 45-50deg (total inclusive) with the occasional 40deg for very sharp but light cutting knives.

    Putting that aside for the moment -
    the beauty of the WS is that it puts a convex edge on the blade -
    look at the lower diagram to see the profile - which aids in cutting through -
    so unless scoring paper (and 45-50deg inclusive is already plenty sharp enough for that) -
    the convex profile aids cutting through things as well as supporting the actual edge.

    When done right (and it's so easy with the WS) blades can and are "scary" sharp even with a mere 50deg inclusive angle, because it will just cut through things easier due to the convex profile.

    and it is very easy to get a 40deg inclusive angle by merely holding the blade vertical (spine on top edge down) to the WS


    Last edited: Aug 24, 2011
  14. Noctis3880

    Noctis3880 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 22, 2009
    I split hairs with mine(albeit with aftermarket belts), and I can sharpen S90V, CTS-20CP, S110V, and ZDP-189. Which reminds me, I think I should try get a tree-topping edge on my CTS-20CP Para2:thumbup:.
  15. Work Sharp

    Work Sharp

    Aug 26, 2009
    Yet again Vincent knows his stuff on our tool and provides great information! Thanks for that!

    As for tightening that fastener, use a 3/8" SAE wrench or your multi tool pliers.

    We are indeed listening to you guys and exploring other guide angles, belt options and more.
    Please keep the feedback and ideas flowing guys.
  16. AFAustin

    AFAustin Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 8, 2004
    Thanks for the posts, gents. Vincent, good idea on using the outdoor/50 degree guide as a, well, "guide" for a 40 degree angle. That might also be a good transitional stage between using any guide and going completely freehand.

    You don't have to sell me on convex edges, though---long time and loyal Bark River fan here. ;)

    Noctis, I appreciate your previous advice on the additional belts. Mine are on the way, combination of Micro-Mesh and WS "tweener"belts. I have a CPM 3V convex blade that has given me real problems hand sharpening. If I can lick it with the WS + additional belts, I'll be a happy camper.

    Kyle, so glad you're following this thread and tweaking your fine product. It really is an innovation and can only get better.

  17. skelt11


    Aug 21, 2011
    Hi guys,

    New to the forum and I'm looking for a sharpening system for my knives. I placed an order for a Wicked Edge at a price I couldn't pass up (224 for the sharpener and two sets of stones up to 1600 grit). I saw the work sharp here and I'm thinking about canceling my order.

    I have question though. I want to sharpen my folders but also my Strider BT. Its a thicker blade and I'm concerned about damaging the finish on the rest of the blade from it rubbing on the belts. Will that happen? I don't mind wear from the use, but don't want to add to the wear I guess.

    Also, how close to a mirror finish does the 6000 grit belts get? I love how the edges look with a Wicked edge. Are there after market belts that I can get that could help?

  18. UnknownVT


    Feb 15, 2003
    In the review I did a Buck Blackhawk which has a black finish -
    and the blade was pretty thick (one of my complaints) -
    there was no damage to the finish -
    which would really show in the photos

    I also did sharpening of a Swiss Bayonet which has a really thick blade -
    in fact as I mentioned it is not even really supposed to be sharpened.
    Although the before and after pics have different exposures
    (as I wanted to show the edge better in the after pic) -
    I can't see any marring of the surface.

    If you use the guide and go carefully at first there ought to be no danger of marring the surface -
    if in any doubt - I was advised - practice on something that's a beater -

    It really is not that hard -
    I jumped right into sharpening that Buck 119 Special -
    without any prior practice
    and within what seemed like moments I had a beautiful convex edge -
    as shown in the pics - I really do not have any special skills with this sharpener,
    and I was a rank novice with my first sharpening -
    for me it was effortless -
    I was just so p*ssed it was that simple -
    what would have taken me hours by hand
    (and I had actually given up on that Buck 119 Special years ago)
    was done in what almost seemed like matter of seconds -
    alright, alright, a few minutes at the most -
    can't see any marring in the pics.

    6000 grit is supposed to be a lot (4x?) finer than 1600 grit -
    and using a high speed belt/machine should give a much, much finer polished finish than any hand honing with 1600 grit........

    The low price for the Work Sharp is about $70.....


  19. Noctis3880

    Noctis3880 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 22, 2009
    Could happen depending on your skill. I made one hell of a wide bevel on the tip of my Strider WP-C because I failed to take into account that it would be thicker at the tip, and thus a more obtuse angle is needed for the tip than for the rest of the blade.

    The 6000 grit is too fine to put a mirror finish on the edge from the P220 belt. It might polish it slightly, but you need a lot more belts in between the two if you want a good mirror polish. I don't see the point though. Because it's a convex edge, you really don't appreciate the mirror polish as well because the curvature distorts the reflection and makes everything look "smaller" so to speak.
  20. haff202


    May 15, 2010
    A hunting show demo the work sharp showing sissors being sharpened but not how they cut or a before or after look. Then a knife was drawn thru the machine and oooooooh the edge, but the host held the knife at such a high angle on his arm that no hair was cut. No look at blade before or after.
    Then an axe was touched by the belt and ooooooooh "look at the polish" the host said. Again no look. All talk, no proof, and bad example......CHEESEY. 1 x 30 inch Harbor Freight belt sander is 40 bucks. BEAT THAT!!!!

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