Knives need to be sharpened – period. You’ll find a bunch of sharpening systems that will set you back hundreds of dollars and they’ll put a razor edge on the hardest of steels. However, often all you need is something simple yet effective to bring life back into the majority of your knife collection. For that, look no further than the affordable Spyderco Sharpmaker.
Here at KnifeInformer.com we regularly discuss about the importance of having a sharp blade. There are some truly outstanding pocket knives on the market today and typically you find that most of them are extremely sharp right out of the box. I’m sure you all agree, there’s nothing like that factory ground razor edge you get from the first use of your brand new knife.
However, no matter what knife you have it will eventually start losing its edge and becoming dull. Of course, the rate of degradation will depend on the knife steel and how much abuse you’re subjecting it to but sure enough ALL knives will lose that sharp edge over time. This is why it’s important to sharpen your knives on a regular basis to maintain that super fine edge and to optimize your cutting ability.
In our article on how to sharpen a pocket knife we talked about the basics of the knife sharpening process and gave some examples of the best sharpening stones available. Still, rather than use a one-piece stone many of us prefer a simple to use sharpening system that requires little to no “technique” yet still get amazing results. In this regard, look no further than the excellent Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker. Yes, this is far from a new product but still today it’s one of the best sharpening systems you can buy so we thought we’d share our opinion on it.
The Colorado based knife company we know and love has proven here that they excel not only in knife production but the tools needed to keep us proud owners happy and our knives scary sharp. Once again Spyderco continues to impress me with their offerings.
As we know, some knife steel is easier to sharpen than others. Specifically, the harder (and generally more premium) steels like D2, 154CM, VG-10 and S30V are notably more difficult to sharpen. This is where the Sharpmaker really comes into its own.
The system is made up of two sets of ceramic stones, one brown colored rough set for the heavy work and one white colored fine set for the finishing job. The triangular shape of the stones allows you to sharpen both plain and serrated edges by using the flat sides and the corners.
It’s an oil-free system so forget about buying any honing oil as it’s simply not needed. The system also comes with brass rods which act as a safety barrier to ensure your delicate hands are well protected. In fact, it’s near-on impossible to cut yourself using this system.
Everything can be tucked away in the neat carrying case when not in use. It’s really a well designed little kit which overall measures around 7.5 by 3 inches. What’s also great about the Sharpmaker is that you can use it to sharpen most types of serrated blades. You don’t find that feature among many of the other sharpening systems.
In using the Spyderco Sharpmaker you’ll be astonished at how easy it is and how seriously sharp you can get your blades. I have used it for both gentle touch ups as well as full on re-grindings (using the diamond rod – see later) in some cases. What’s nice is that Spyderco bundles some really comprehensive instructions with this kit that include illustrations too.
You also get a fascinating DVD running you through the ins-and-outs in a handy video.
In the video we see Sypderco founder and R&D lead, Sal Glesser who runs you through everything you need to know as a sharpening noob. He begins discussing a bit of history about knife maintenance and goes on to describe the four main knife-grind types. He then details how knife sharpening devices have evolved over time which is rather interesting. You can really tell that Sypderco doesn’t just want to sell you something…they want to educate you on why their products are so effective.
There are a ton of Sharpmaker videos up on YouTube and here’s a decent one showing how to use the Sharpmaker:
In retrospect you really don’t need to study the material for days…believe me this system is super easy. I was able to bring my aging Benchmade Griptilian back to life and I was quickly turning paper into ribbons again in no time at all. After that I went through a bunch more in my collection – Tenacious, Flash II, Cryo, even my trusty ZT 0350. All came out with flying colors and with surgical sharpness. Next I’m moving onto my wife’s kitchen knives!
The basic process for sharpening involves 20 swipes along the corner of the medium sharpening rods, then another 20 on the flat side. After that you move on to the fine sharpening rods and do another 20 passes on the corner and another 20 on the flat. It’s important to ensure that your blade is vertical for each stroke which is the key to an evenly distributed edge. Overall I found the whole process takes about 10 minutes or so which is not too bad. I recommend sticking to the 40 degree setting in most cases. What I also found encouraging is that the Sharpmaker does not beat up your blades like some other competitors do…in fact it’s pretty gentle on the metal overall.
My tip is to be careful getting your blade too sharp. It can be tempting to put a crazy thin edge on your blade but what that does is make it more susceptible to chips and dings. Also, if you plan on doing some more serious re-profiling then you should consider the separate 220 grit diamond stones. These diamond stones are much more effective than the included ceramic ones at removing metal in a short time frame. On the other hand the kit excludes some super fine sharpening rods so the blades do lack a bit of ‘polish’ when you’re done. For this reason you may want to consider complimenting the system with a decent razor strop to really straighten and polish the edge of your blade into a showroom finish.
I would seriously consider paying up to $100 for this sharpening system and the best part is that you can typically grab it for around $50 these days! Also, don’t make the mistake of assuming this sharpening kit is only for your pocket knives. I noticed that most reviewers are in-fact using this for kitchen knives and with very positive results. All in all I do love the Sharpmaker and you will no longer find a dull blade in my house as a result!