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Worksharp Ken Onion Edition Review

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by scottc3, Nov 25, 2020.

  1. scottc3

    scottc3 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 11, 2014
    Got a WSKO off exchange here, motivated by a sons glowing report after using one for almost 3 years running a ranch. I just ran through seven cheapo thrift store kitchen knives and three folders (Ganzo 440c, Boker+440c, and Buck s35vn) in two sessions. Woohoo, dang fast, really sharp (the OEM belts had already seen use from the previous owner). Threw away a bread knife when I realized the blade was twisted and it had shaved a small edge off the course 65µ (220 grit) belt. The other six "stainless steel" blades are sharper coming off the medium belt then with our Presto Pro Eversharp 08810 three stone electric sharpener, which we always left on the thin blade guide, for the ~28 to 30 degrees measured.

    With the WSKO set at 40 degrees and the lowest power, I went after the 7 kitchen knives thru the medium belt-1000 grit 22µ. Kitchen knives got seriously sharp quickly! Then I honed the 3 folders, being mindful of WS's 1 hour service limit, and not being in a hurry.

    The BUCK Marksman Inferno in s35vn was not dull, but not as screaming sharp as when I got it. Also Steve from skblades- a BF sponsor, (or Buck), put a perfect matched edge on the Inferno that I had maintained. So I sharpied the bevels and ran thru 4µ (3k grit) and 2µ (6k) belts. The WSKO honed both bevels exactly. With just my eyes, no magnification, the belts knocked off sharpie creating black lines, starting at the edge / apex and proceeding as straight lines up to the shoulder of both bevels. Each black line was separated by a field cleaned of sharpie. I'm guessing an artifact of the facory sharpening and consistancy of s35vn. Being careful, gentle and slow brought Bucks s35vn back to scary sharp.

    I was surprised by how small the unit was, and how dense it felt. With a 1.5 Amp motor and lots of well engineered plastics, it was heavier and smaller then pics and vids led me to believe. Because I have limited use of one hand, it took three belt changes before I could easily swap them out. Other manipulations like using the knife blade rest and guide fence consistently, rotating the fence out of the way, pressing the power lock out button with the trigger pulled, and adjusting the variable speed dial took a little practice and a few moments to use easily.

    Instructions are only for beginning knife sharpeners, some I imagine may be surprised by how quickly and how sharp they get their knives. Practice first on cheap knives because electric power is going to make your knives and tools sharp, but electric powered sharpeners also destroy things or damage knives really really fast. I mean in the moment your not paying attention, or just before you need stitches. It's sharp when you don't feel the slice... Use the cheat sheet on the box, and read the tiny manual and tell the family to be careful because the knives are sharp. If you've made it to this review you already know about BladeForums, which is a great place for motivated folks to learn more. Use the search feature and read through threads of interest in the various forums to learn more.

    OEM BELT KIT- Specs reported by WS.
    √ Extra Coarse Grit RED 120 GRIT - Norton SG
    √ Coarse Grit GREY X65 220 GRIT, 65 µ - Norax
    √ Medium GREY X22 1000 GRIT, 22µ - Norax
    √ Fine Grit WHITE X4 3000 GRIT, 4µ - Norax
    √ Extra Fine Grit PURPLE 6000 GRIT, 2µ - SIC

    WS also lists the following for their Ken Onion Edition Worksharp: red P80 grit, grey x45 400 grit, and 2 ceramic knife belts- one of which is a red p220 grit ceramic (equivalent to x65).
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2020
  2. Alberta Ed

    Alberta Ed

    Jun 29, 1999
    I've always been leery of powered sharpening systems, but it seems to work for you.:thumbsup: Nice review.
    skyhorse likes this.
  3. DMG

    DMG Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 30, 2005
    I have one and stopped using it because it put a slightly convex edge on my knives which made touching them up on my sharpmaker less effective. Was I doing it wrong?
  4. Sonnydaze

    Sonnydaze Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 6, 2009
    I've gone thru quite a few sharpening systems, and have been pretty satisfied with my EdgePro.
    But the Ken Onion really has made a nice difference for me, in terms of how rapidly I can achieve a sticky edge.
    I'm VERY happy with the Ken Onion...
  5. scottc3

    scottc3 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 11, 2014
    Alberta Ed, Yeah power changes things, Baryonyxknife used to have a sharpening wheel advertsed that was leg power (with arm option or the other way around) with a huge wheel stone! Just went over there and could not find it.

    DMG, hey was there a period in front of your BF name :rolleyes:? I once got a used Adamas that came with convex bevels for gifting, and turned that D2 into a V with KME diamonds. I was glad to have diamonds but it was still work. I was too high on the bevel radius, or the sharpie was "too low" on trying to match angles. So I just scrubbed bevels flat. Thinking my error was not chasing the very edge. Now I'm going to create some convex edges and try to see if I can get close enough to the apex to maintain a convex knife with a V bevel sharpener. The radius will vary with blade thickness so I'll try some 154CM from Buck n Benchmade... bout 0.12" stock first, then revisit D2 on a thinner D2, a BM710, then go at an Adamas made convex again for honing. Read alot about convex vs V, but I learn best by doing.

    Sonnydaze, I get that- I remember 6 different systems since I was a pup using one stone with one grit and leather at hand, not counting pull thrus n the [email protected]* on can openers, and using a few more various employers provided:confused:.
  6. scottc3

    scottc3 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 11, 2014
    Found it- Angelo B. Manual Grinding Wheel over at baryonyxknife. Hand powered but can be coverted to leg. Thinking son might want one for harvest festival:)
  7. colin.p


    Feb 4, 2017
    I have the original Work Sharp and bought it to only use it on my wife's (cheap) kitchen knives. I have stones and a Lansky Turnbox for my folders. I read through a couple of fairly extensive threads about the WSKTS when it first came out, and quickly left the guides off and sharpened by eye. The kitchen knives have never been sharper and yes, there were a couple of yelps from my family when they forgot my warning and nicked themselves.

    I have a Grohmann lockback that wasn't sharp (from the factory) and I always seemed to struggle to get it sharp and have it stay that way. I reprofiled it using the WS and after a couple of passes, it's sharp as all blazes and now sharpens easily when needed on my Turnbox. However, I admit I haven't used it on expensive folders yet, but I wouldn't be afraid to use it when I need to.
  8. Smaug

    Smaug Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 30, 2003

    To add to the review and possibly make it more useful:

    It's worth noting that the Ken Onion Work Sharp (KOWS) is variable speed with a (lockable) trigger. Like variable speed drills had in the 80s. It's also worth noting that it doesn't' remove material anywhere near as fast as a bench grinder, especially on a lower speed with a gentle touch and finer belt.

    I think a really good use for the WSKO would be to grind the main bevel with it, then hone the micro bevel with a Sharpmaker, Crock Sticks, etc.

    FWIW, I'm the one who sold this to Scott. I had just received a KME and I thought I was done with the WSKO. I have left my Spyderco Sharpmaker (w/ additional coarse diamond rods) and the KME deluxe set. (haven't gotten "The Beast" super coarse stone yet) They all have different uses; different strengths and weaknesses:

    You can see my sale photos of the KOWS here.

    KOWS: ($130 + $15 per belt set)
    + Fast
    + Blade length doesn't matter
    + Costs the same as a Sharpmaker, when the coarse diamond rods are purchased for the Sharpmaker!
    - Actual sharpening angle changes if the knife has a full flat grind
    - Needs belts regularly, but they're not too expensive
    - Can eat material quickly, if you're not careful
    Verdict - be gentle and precise and you'll be rewarded

    Spyderco Sharpmaker: ($74 + $57 for coarse diamond rods)
    + Easiest way to freehand sharpen a knife. ANYONE can use it; just keep the knife vertical
    + Elegant and highly-refined design, stores within itself (until you get the extra diamond rods...)
    + Easily fits in a kitchen drawer
    + Is rugged, once stored within itself
    + US-made
    + Sharpening angle never changes, even with full flat grind
    - Bad for fixing a bad factory bevel; takes forever, even with the (accessory) coarse diamond rods
    - I often wish for longer rods for sharpening longer blades
    - I often wish for super coarse rods for re-profiling
    +/- Expensive, for what it is, but very well executed, and US-made.
    Verdict: consider it a Sharpkeeper and you'll be satisfied, but do look into other sharpeners of this type, esp. A.G. Russell's offering. (which only has one angle)

    KME, Deluxe kit: ($220)
    + Precise angles are maintained automatically
    + Stones are very high quality; abrasive doesn't come off easily
    + Nice case included
    - Sharpening angle changes depending on how far back the blade is clamped and how far off center you take the stones
    - Foam in the case is not cut correctly from the factory. Easy to remedy, but for $200+, we shouldn't have to
    - "The Beast" super coarse stone is not included, even in the Deluxe Kit. I feel it should be, at that price. The super fine stone and stropping stuff, I'd have no problem paying extra for, as the desire for a mirror edge is not practical, but just fun.
    - Expensive, esp. now that the (Asian-made) KMT clone of it has come out for $50 and the KOWS costs half as much.
    - Not ideal for long blades, for which you'll need to re-position the blade throughout the job, which can result in the angle changing throughout the edge.
    Verdict: ^ It seems like a lot of negatives, but it's still about the best way to get a razor sharp edge on a < 4" blade just how you like it, without years of freehand practice.

    Bottom Line: I'll probably buy another KOWS one day; I'll look for a good used deal, like Scott got. ;-)
  9. coxhaus


    Nov 8, 2006
    I am a big fan of the KOWS for keeping kitchen knives sharp. I have a lot of Henckels 4- & 5-star knives with a few Wusthof knives. The KOWS is real quick to put a sharp edge my kitchen knives. I do not want to spend the time to manually sharpen 30 kitchen knives.
  10. scottc3

    scottc3 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 11, 2014
    Them there's some fightin words n some parts- ink spilt up to a horses @%*
    RE: "silt ink" Romans 12:18 ESV If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
    No Bevels were harmed in this silliness-
    I could go on ... but won't.
    Smaug likes this.
  11. Smaug

    Smaug Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 30, 2003
    You must do a LOT of cooking, or you let them get DULL before re-sharpening. I consider myself a pretty affluent cook. I've been cooking every day since COVID, but even so, my knives only need maybe 10 strokes on each side to bring back to razor sharp. 5 on each side, with the medium and fine Sharpmaker rods. A 10" Chef's knife, a 9" slicer and a couple of parers. I do it about every 3rd week and it's about a 10-15 minute job. The steak knives are serrated and don't generally need re-sharpening.

    Are you really having to sharpen 30 knives at a time?!
  12. soc_monki

    soc_monki Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 5, 2019
    I sharpened 4 knives (3 santokus, and a chef knife) in about 10 minutes thursday. One needed the coarse diamond! Kitchen knives are soft, and don't need much IMO. I usually check the edges before use and if I see reflected light I pull out my little 4 inch smiths fine diamond and give them a couple swipes. Works like a charm!

    I have been interested in the KOWS though, at least with the blade grinding attachment. Would be great for reprofiling quickly and then move to stones to finish out the edges. Especially for my fixed blades. 1095 isn't hard to sharpen or reprofile, but using a powered system would make convexing the edge and knocking the angle down a bit (and centering the apex) much quicker! Maybe one day...
  13. SS234


    Jul 18, 2020
    I have been told by two esteemed knife makers that this can burn the heat treat out. Truth? I do not know. Only what I was told by two unrelated reputable sources. I would use this on low end kitchen knives. I would not use it on high end custom folders. YMMV I guess.
  14. scottc3

    scottc3 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 11, 2014
    SS234, Before I bought into powered sharpeners, I did due diligence as a hobbyist. Of course I habitually lean heavily on expertise from folks who pay their mortgage/rent in most fields investigated, unless I smell a rat (I only possess work class expertise within four fields at my advanced age).
    I’m very comfortable using the WorkSharp Ken Onion Edition belt sharpener, and the Presto referenced for my use cases and tools. And of course I’m playing, observing, and learning.
    Below is an example where I do not think the apex or bevel near edge was overheated. The black sharpie can be seen as striations on a Buck Marksman Inferno with s35vn. The black that is still present from honing, shoulder to edge, disappearing at edge deferentially, gives an indication of the steels topography, the blades symmetrical grind and the careful force I used.
    Already mentioned in the review above: lowest speed and 40° inclusive, using 4 and 2µ belts, I carefully gently and slowly drew the blade along the guide fence. The blade was made impressively sharp quickly.

    I was going to quote both Larrin from knifesteelnerds and some of the makers here at BF, but that’s overkill. I will mention that Larrin, in his careful examination of the question “Does Sharpening with a Grinder Ruin Your Edge?”, chose to use a tap to graphically represent overheating, others reference steel color as a temperature guide does not generally apply with the apex overheating. Of course water cools, so misting or bathing are often mentioned.
    From experience, I have noticed some knives need to be sharpened several times before getting sharp and not exhibiting unreasonable edge failures when comparing apples to apples. I have an inkling that some folks complaining about chipping may be experiencing surface softening of the blades Rockwell. Softening that can be remedied with multiple sharpening.

    For those interested in reading more-

    A short 2 page BF thread over in Shop Talk
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2020
    000Robert and SS234 like this.
  15. SS234


    Jul 18, 2020
    It boils down to different opinions. I personally could not comment on the subject. I know nothing about that. I will tell you that I will never use any motorized knife sharpener on a good knife. I have no idea about heat treatment or anything else. In my experience with anything moving with torque it is simply too easy to have an accident/mishap and destroy a knife. This may not apply to you. You may be highly skilled and proficient with it. It absolutely applies to me. It is something best left untouched by myself. I am not saying that it is no good. It in fact may be very good. I don't know. What I do know, is it is something that I better leave alone! I am not kidding. I will turn the largest Machete into a Filet knife in a mere 10 seconds. I have no interest in learning it though. I am very content with manual guided systems and free hand. AFAIK it is in fact the nicest motorized sharpening system.
  16. scottc3

    scottc3 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 11, 2014
    SS234, You got me chuckling and smiling and I'm barely into my espresso bean coffee.
    "it is simply too easy to have an accident/mishap and destroy a knife."
    Still have all my fingers, but...
    "This may not apply to you. You may be highly skilled and proficient with it."
    Yeah no, on magnification, the Buck's s35vn belly is not amazingly consistent, heal and tip no where near so off the WSKO. That edge is an embarrassment compared to last nights edge, reprofiled, on a son's Benchmade Ruckus using a KME. Same driver different results, different tools different jobs.
    What stones and guided system are you using?
  17. SS234


    Jul 18, 2020
    Freehand I just use Diamond stones all the way from 50 to 12,000. The only guided system I can really use good is just the Sharpmaker. I just got a Wicked Edge and I am having a very hard time with it.
  18. scottc3

    scottc3 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 11, 2014
    :thumbsup: your set for life with the kits you have!
    SS234 likes this.
  19. stitchawl


    Jul 26, 2008
    I'm still surprised at how few people like the DMT Aligner. Sure, it's all plastic. Sure, it has only a few pre-planned settings. But sure, It only costs $12.95 for the Aligner! You can buy it with diamond stones or water stones. Or you can use it with ordinary wet-dry sandpaper, which makes it very convenient for a backpacking or hunting trip. I've used the same guide for the past 20+ years, and it looks as if it will be good for the next 20!
    It is extremely fast to set up, can handle all folders and smaller (under 8") fixed blades easily, and takes me less than 10 minutes to get a hair-whittling edge on my Benchmade 710. I have an EdgePro Apex, a Worksharp Ken Onion edition (which I use for Kitchen knives only,) a SharpMaker which I use only to touch up the kitchen knives, and a few odd clamp-on guides. I find that I use the DMT Aligner guide more than any of 'em, and it does as good as job as the best of 'em!

  20. scottc3

    scottc3 Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 11, 2014
    Your comments stitchawl remind me that folks with multiple sharpening systems populate BF:thumbsup:. Folks who sharpen professionally report lots of knives not well maintained. It would be interesting to build a report comparing their experiences with that of Blade Show's "birds of a feather."

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