Some experience with SPYDERCO sharpeners

Nov 25, 1999
<center><font size=4>Some experience with SPYDERCO sharpeners.</font></center>

<a href="" target="_blank"><IMG align=right SRC="" border="2"></a>Continuing the topic I have started here this time I would like to present some SPYDERCO sharpeners I have had experience with. Well-known and highly respected knife manufacturer SPYDERCO have started in 1978 with sharpener production.

Basics. All SPYDERCO sharpeners are made of High Alumina Ceramics. This material contains abrasive particles of synthetic sapphires embedded into ceramic matrix. After shaping this mixture is kiln-fired at very high temperatures, 3000° F (about 1650° C) for up to three days. As result is obtained extremely hard material with hardness 9.22 in Mohs Hardness Scale which is able to cut any steel or alternative blade material.

Grits. SPYDERCO does not specify their sharpener stone grit in numbers remaining with descriptive specification. They are making their stones in three grits:
  • Medium grit (brown) - allows to sharpen dull blades removing the steel quite effectively, though not as effectively as coarse counterparts from another manufacturers. But at least SPYDERCO doesn't claim this stone as "coarse". It's possible to improve noticeably medium stone's cutting speed working on it's edges, this effect is utilized in Tri-Angle Sharpmaker working principle. Sharpening on medium stone creates working edge quite adequate for heavy cutting tasks, mostly slicing. Medium stones have "open-celled" structure where abrasive particles are placed not too densely, this is necessary to rice cutting speed. These stones display little wear over time.
  • Fine grit (white) - allows to finish the edge to decent shaving sharpness. The edge finished with fine stone works nicely in push cutting like wood whittling for ex.
  • Ultra Fine grit (also white) - allows to obtain highly polished edge. Both Fine and Ultra Fine stones have "closed-celled" structure where abrasive particles are placed very densely, this is the condition of smoothness. They display no wear over time.

Tri-Angle Sharpmaker 204MF is the improved version of previous model 203 with some useful sharpening options added. The package includes very nicely executed manual in printed form and on videotape, so I'll omit the description how to work with this device. I would like to share here my impressions and evaluations only.
First and foremost, the Sharpmaker is very versatile. Following the manual you can sharpen any edged tool starting from knives and chisels, through scissors up to wire cutters or advanced tools like router bits, wood gouges etc. No problems sharpening recurved edges! You can sharpen also pointed tools like darts, fishhooks or even dental or surgical tools. Here we are speaking mostly about the knives. Well, it is really very easy to sharpen a knife with the Tri-Angle Sharpmaker because it is...
<a href="" target="_blank"><IMG align=right SRC="" border="2"></a>Second, very easy to use. "If someone can't to sharpen his knife with Sharpmaker he probably should not have any knife at all" - I do not remember who of Forumites said this but this is truth! You can make your knife shaving sharp and create decent back bevel practically with minimum skills and effort. Have patience and follow the manual carefully - this is all you need.
Serration sharpening is closely as easy as working with plain edges.
Next, no limits in blade length. You can sharpen even swords if you need and have enough patience.
Quite important: the Sharpmaker is very safe to work with. This is no way to make any harm yourself if you will follow the manual.
<a href="" target="_blank"><IMG align=right SRC="" border="2"></a>One advantage more. If you need to sharpen your knife to the angle another than pre-set or if you simply want to sharpen your knife free hand - you can use the Sharpmaker in bench stone mode.
It is very easy to set up and also ease to take apart after you will finish your work. The only maintenance needed is to wash the rods from steel fouling. The simple abrasive kitchen cleaner can be used for this purpose. All parts can be packed into one compact plastic housing very easy to storage and requiring minimum place.
The Sharpmaker is durable. I was quite curious to check what means SPYDERCO claimed "wear only slightly over time"? Well, I have reprofiled the edges on at least dozen knives with ATS-34, D-2, M-2, 440C, CPM 440V and VG-10 blades. The 95% of entire work were done on the medium-grit rod edges. I also have sharpened about two dozens knives more, then I put the rod edges together and looked onto them against light. Only hardly visible gap between the edge middles appeared! No any gap appeared between medium-grit rod flat surfaces and between fine-grit rod edges and surfaces. If the rods will wear out this way farther - wow! - they will work quite decently even for my son. Especially taking into consideration that I do not reprofil the edges daily... Plastic base also looks very durable, so far it doesn't display any rod loosening.
The Sharpmaker is very cost efficient. For less than $50 it is possible to satisfy practically all sharpening needs around entire household.
Last but not least, you don't need any lubrication, oil or water. The same concerns all SPYDERCO ceramics. I can't say here the Sharpmaker is cleaner than another sharpening devices. Removed steel remains removed steel, here you have it in plain dust form.

Am I singing only "glories" here or Sharpmaker has drawbacks also? Yes, no one thing in this world does have one side only. So far I have found two main drawbacks of this design:
  • Some problems can occur with blade tip if sharpening without suitable care. Working on the rod edges you should not allow the tip to slide out of the rod edge onto slanted surface. If you will not care about this your tip shortly will be rounded. The simplest way to avoid this is to stop the blade way along the rod 2-3 millimeters before the tip and later to finish the tip using the Sharpmaker in bench stone mode. A bit more advanced way is to stop to apply side pressure when the tip will be directly on the rod edge. This requires some proficiency and I strongly advise to try on cheap kitchen knives first.
  • Medium grit rods cut steel somewhat slowly even working on the rod edges, it is especially noticeable when reprofiling thick edges. This work can to go on for 1-2 hours or even more, regarding on steel hardness, edge length and your physical condition. The diamond-coated rods could be a nice solution here, as alternative solution I can advise coarse or extra-coarse diamond whetstone from any manufacturer.
Conclusions: the Sharpmaker is very user friendly sharpening device greatly useful for both novices and advanced users. I have no problems with free hand sharpening but quite frequently I allow my laziness to win and then I'm reaching my Sharpmaker. With some experience I could even watch TV when sharpening if I would watch TV at all.
Especially pleasantly is to "steel up" the slightly blunted edges to shaving sharpness, literally some strokes on each blade side and your knife shaves again! I'm also using my Sharpmaker when I need to sharpen some knives with the same sharpening angle, for comparison test for example. Here no one factor (like blade wideness for ex.) can influence the sharpening angle consistency from one knife to another.
So SPYDERCO Tri-Angle Sharpmaker 204MF is definitely "must have" item for each knife nut and not only. Nothing wrong is to have this one even simply in kitchen, by the way the place where knives are used the most hard and frequently.

<a href="" target="_blank"><IMG align=right SRC="" border="2"></a>Well, if the Sharpmaker is the necessity the another SPYDERCO sharpening device I'm getting as some kind of refined delight. These are the Bench Stones 302. Working free hand nothing stands between my patience and sharpening skills from one side and blade hardness and profile from another. And I can do with the edge all what I want, 8x2-inch large sharpening surface allows doing all with each knife. To get your edge sharp, sharper, the sharpest, as sharp as it is possible and when even a bit sharper - this is the challenge for knife nut! The difference in satisfaction between this vs. working with accomplished (and expensive) mechanical devices I could compare with satisfaction being in the bed with beautiful and sensitive mistress vs. ..., think you understand what I have in my mind

No one mechanical device can replace good sharpening skills. Each device can break, wear out, it can be stolen etc. but your sharpening skills will be with you always!

By the way, SPYDERCO Ultra Fine ceramics is available in Bench Stone only. It really allows to get the finest edge I whenever could obtain! I'm not partial to stropping because it is hard for me to "catch" the moment when stropping stops to polish the edge and starts to blunt it. Having SPYDERCO Ultra Fine Bench Stone I can say certainly - no more stropping!

Maybe so smooth finishing is not necessary for working edges until you have no intentions to shave your face with your knife. But at least the knives are our hobby, right?

Sergiusz Mitin
Lodz, Poland

[This message has been edited by Sergiusz Mitin (edited 08-26-2000).]

[This message has been edited by Sergiusz Mitin (edited 08-26-2000).]
WOW! I would have never expected such a detailed review. I'm glad to see your testing showed no wear on the medium grit rods. I was little concerned when I read that their life expectancy was only a couple of years. Do you have any experience with the diamond sleeves that Spyderco was selling for their older sharpener?
My only complaint, and I should probably bug Sal about this, is that the cover doesn't lock into place. The Cutiecut system which uses the more common round ceramic rods has a cover that latches into place when the rods are stored. This isn't a big problem around the house for me, but I have had people over who say "What is this?" and pick it up by the cover before I can stop them. Result, rods and base go tumbling down. When traveling I but a big elastic around the whole thing to keep it together. It does a great job of sharpening, I am just waiting for some to drop it far enough onto a hard enough surface to shatter a rod.

It is not the fall that kills you. It is the realization that "yes, you did something that stupid."

Thanks for an excellent report on the Sharpmaker! I have just got one and found that I am actually using my knives more, now that I know I can return them quickly to very sharp edges. Have you reviewed any other sharpening stones, systems, etc.?
I can't say I didn't notice any wear on medium grit rods. When the rods are put together with their edges one against another the hardly noticeable gap between midpoints yet appears displaying some wear. Recalculating to the work which was done I can certainly consider this as really little wear. How many years will serve your Sharpmaker depends on how many knives you will sharpen yearly. I think it will last very many years if used for one family's sharpening needs only. Reprofiling the edges I support mine with coarse diamond whetstone to save my time and to extend Sharpmaker's life.
Important: the Sharpmaker is not a device for provision of professional sharpening services and is never claimed for this role. If someone wants to earn money transporting cargoes he needs to buy truck but not car
However SPYDERCO Bench Stones seem to be very decent tool for professionals.
No, I have no experience with additional diamond sleeves for previous model.

You are right at 100%! I simply didn't thought in this direction but this really can cause rod breaking dropping from enough height onto enough hard floor. Think we do not need to bug Sal, I'm sure he observes our discussion

Here you can find my review on DMT diamond sharpeners, here and here I have expressed my opinion on GATCO Edgemate Pro sharpening system.
I'm going to review some Eze-Lap and EdgeCraft sharpeners some time later.

[This message has been edited by Sergiusz Mitin (edited 08-28-2000).]
The rods on the new Spyderco Sharpmaker 204 can be set up to three different angles:
40° - for main edge, you should use the pair of holes marked with this angle;
30° - for back bevel, this pair of holes is marked also;
12,5° - for scissors sharpening, this single hole is placed at the end of base.
These pre-set angles are quite enough for dominating amount of sharpening tasks. If you would need another sharpening angle you should work free hand setting Sharpmaker in bench stone mode.
Originally posted by Sergiusz Mitin:
The rods on the new Spyderco Sharpmaker 204 can be set up to three different angles:
40° - for main edge, you should use the pair of holes marked with this angle;
30° - for back bevel, this pair of holes is marked also;
12,5° - for scissors sharpening, this single hole is placed at the end of base.
These pre-set angles are quite enough for dominating amount of sharpening tasks. If you would need another sharpening angle you should work free hand setting Sharpmaker in bench stone mode.

Excuse my ignorance but is that 40 degrees between the two sticks (i.e. the angle of the V) or is that the angle of each stick to the vertical ? Having looked at a variety of FAQs etc I have surmised that an angle of 20 degrees between blade and sharpener is the most widely recommended - hence my query of 40 degrees.

It's 20 degrees between blade and sharpening rod; 40 degrees total.


Let no one ever from henceforth say one word in any way countenancing war. It is dangerous even to speak of how here and there the individual may gain some hardship of soul by it. For war is hell, and those who institute it are criminals. Siegfried Loraine Sassoon
Good review! A few additional things come to mind:

When using the flats and you want a point on your blade, stop your stroke while the tip is still on the stone. If it comes off, you might round the tip.

Don't use a lot of pressure. I did when I first starting using my 203 and I did wear down the corners to the point that they were more like 1/8" flats. When I got my 204, I lightened up a lot and now these are not wearing noticeably. Heck, my knives are quite a bit sharper with the low (1-2 lbs) pressure. And I always finish with extremely light strokes, not even the weight of the knife.

Here's a great tip for when a blade needs re-profiling that someone on BladeForums told me about. Take a benchstone (I use the ones that came with my Razor Edge Kit) and place it on it's end between the two ceramic stones and let it rest on one. You will have to hold it, so be careful. If the stone is too wide, remove the other ceramic stone. Now the benchstone is at the same angle as the Sharpmaker and you can re-profile a lot faster than with just the Sharpmaker alone. The nice thing about this method is that it preserves the 15/20 angles of the Sharpmaker so that, once it's re-profiled, you can just use the Sharpmaker normally to keep the edge maintained. I wish I could remember who told me this because it has really helped.

Knowledge without understanding is knowledge wasted.
Understanding without knowledge is a rare gift - but not an impossibility.
For the impossible is always possible through faith. - Bathroom graffiti, gas station, Grey, TN, Dec, 1988

AKTI Member #A000831

[This message has been edited by Codeman (edited 09-14-2000).]