Sharpening is not a natural act for mankind. When Homo sapiens began using cutting tools, which were flint or obsidian, we never sharpened the dull ones. We threw them away, thus delighting paleontologists yet unborn, and whacked off a new piece of flint from a pre-shaped lump that we carried with us at all times, although God knows where we put it.
So it was that when I began sharpening knives, my efforts were a death sentence for any decent blade. I wrecked Randalls, ruined Ruanas, mangled Morseths, and butchered Bergs (Frik Anton Berg, a very good Scandinavian cutler, one of those knives had the bad luck to fall into my hands).
The problem was not being able to keep a consistent 20-degree angle between the cutting edge and the stone, especially when following the curve of the blade to the point. There are all sorts of systems for overcoming this; most of them involve jigs, which are a pain in the ass, or machines, which tear metal from the edge, overheat the blade if you misuse them, and generally do what I did in my formative years, but faster and with electricity.
Some years ago, a company called Work Sharp came out with an electric device called the Original Knife and Tool Sharpener, which overcame all these problems. It had variable speeds, a series of guides for different tools and bevels, and employed abrasive belts that ranged from very coarse to ultra fine. If you followed the directions, which were in actual English, you could get any knife very sharp, very fast, and it was nearly impossible to screw one up.
The Original KTS created a sensation among the sharpening-impaired, and for some months you couldn’t find one to buy. This was followed by the Ken Onion Edition KTS, which was a more elaborate version, and the Original KTS Field Kit, which is a small, non-electric sharpener that drops easily in a pocket if you have big pockets.
This last is what I use more than anything else, but it’s a tad small for larger knives, and so I rejoiced when Work Sharp sent me its newest tool, the Guided Sharpening System, which is still compact, but much better with bigger knives, dead simple, and able to sharpen anything.
The GSS costs $59.95 and employs a system of interchangeable diamond plates and ceramic rods. It guides your erring hands, and the diamond plate pivots to follow the curve of the blade. To sharpen serrated edge knives, or recurved-edge blades, you pop out the diamond plate and pop in a ceramic stick. To see all this in action, see the video below.
Good as the Work Sharp electric tools are, I like the GSS better. Somehow, it makes me think that my Randalls and Ruanas and Morseths did not die in vain. Cabela’s has the GSS, I am told. Rush to the nearest store and buy one; remember what happened last time.