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What do you call a knife that doesn't cut? Trick question — it doesn't really matter what you call it, because you'll be too busy cursing under your breath to think of a name. Anyone who has ever tried to use a dull knife understands this frustration, and therefore knows the merits of sharpening blades regularly. But much like cleaning your guns, sharpening isn't something you should only be able to do at home or in a well-lit and organized workshop. It's the kind of maintenance you should always be prepared to do. This is especially true for those of us who take long trips away from home or into the remote wilderness — if your knife gets dull out there and you don't have the correct tools, you may end up in serious trouble.
The solution to this is simple: make a small knife sharpener part of your every day carry kit, whether it's in your pocket or your pack. There are many options on the market, such as the ever-popular Lansky Blademedic. In Issue 30 of the RECOIL OFFGRID print magazine, we review 7 pocket sharpeners from CRKT, DMT, Lansky, Mora, Spyderco, Victorinox, and Work Sharp. Keep an eye out for that issue on shelves in February 2019.
In the mean time, we received 3 additional sharpeners that didn't make it into our print guide, so today we'll compare and review each of them. These include the DMT Slydr-Sharp, Spyderco Double-Stuff 2, and Work Sharp Pocket Knife Sharpener. Read on for our thoughts on these knife sharpeners.
600-grit fine diamond abrasive plate and rod, polymer case with rubberized grip inserts
5.5″ by 1.5″ by 1.1″
Sharpeners made in USA, other components made in China
The Slydr-Sharp is a new product for 2018, and debuted earlier this year at SHOT Show. As the name implies, it features a sliding mechanism that's similar to that of a box cutter. There's one slider on each side of the tool; each features a series of notches that can hold the sharpeners in various positions throughout their range of travel.
One of the sliders extends and retracts a flat diamond abrasive surface, which includes a pattern of recessed holes that form DMT's signature “polka dot” pattern. These dots serve to trap microscopic metal shavings known as swarf, thereby preventing the abrasive surface from getting clogged and losing its effectiveness.
The second slider on the opposite side of the handle is attached to a tapered diamond abrasive rod. This can be used to sharpen serrations, or used on curved blades that would be difficult to sharpen on the flat surface. Both the flat plate and tapered rod are made from the same 600-grit abrasive material — a good all-purpose abrasive that's not too aggressive for frequent use.
These sharpeners are contained in a hard plastic case with textured rubber inserts on all four sides for added grip.
Cubic Boron Nitride (CBN) abrasive, fine ceramic, suede leather
5″ by 1.2″ by 0.3″ (6″ by 2.1″ by 0.4″ including pouch)
4.7 ounces (5.4 ounces including pouch)
Ceramic made in USA, CBN abrasive made in China
Although the Double Stuff 2 sounds like some extravagant new type of Oreo cookie, it's actually a two-piece pocket stone made by the knife experts at Spyderco. Technically we'd call it a three-part system, but more on that later.
The first side of the Double Stuff 2 is a metal plate made from Cubic Boron Nitride (CBN), which Spyderco calls “a superabrasive that is second in hardness only to diamond.” This is a coarse abrasive designed for more aggressive sharpening, and one that the company also offers as an upgrade for its popular Sharpmaker system. We'd estimate it's about 400 grit, although an exact rating isn't specified.
Opposite the CBN plate, there's a flat ceramic surface that serves as a fine abrasive for lighter sharpening. It includes a small groove for sharpening fish hooks and other pointed tools. Each layer of the Double Stuff 2 is shaped like a parallelogram, with acute and obtuse corners that can be used to sharpen serrations.
The CBN and ceramic layers are glued together, but whoever applied the glue to our Double Stuff didn't do a very good job. Immediately after opening the package, the layers fell apart. We were able to fix this by scraping off the glue and replacing it with a generous amount of strong epoxy. Still, this shouldn't have been an issue — especially not on a $75 sharpener from a respectable company like Spyderco.
The third piece of this system is a suede leather pouch. It protects the stone and acts as an anti-slip base for use on a table top. It also works great as a strop to polish away burrs, producing a razor-sharp finished edge.
320-grit diamond abrasive, fine ceramic rod, polymer body with rubberized end caps
6″ by 1.7″ by 0.5″
Made in China
The Pocket Knife Sharpener is a new model from Work Sharp, taking its place as the entry-level model in the company's lineup. It's one step below the Guided Field Sharpener, one of seven sharpeners we reviewed in our upcoming Pocket Preps: Knife Sharpeners article in Issue 30 (available in February 2019). While the Guided Field Sharpener has five stages as well as provisions for dealing with fish hooks and serrations, the Pocket Knife Sharpener is a simple two-stage system.
Along the bottom edge of the tool, there's a flat diamond abrasive surface rated at 320 grit. This is coarse enough to quickly grind away substantial chips and imperfections — it's actually a little too coarse for our liking. Still, it's good to have for dealing with heavily-worn or dull blades. Work Sharp recommends 10 alternating strokes to fully sharpen an edge.
On the top edge, there's a fine ceramic rod that can be used for cleaning up the edge after the coarse sharpener or honing an edge that's only slightly dull. We see ourselves using this material about 90% of the time, since it's much gentler on a blade and doesn't remove as much steel.
Both the diamond and ceramic surfaces include integrated angle guides at each end. Leaning the blade against these guides can help you maintain a 20-degree angle as you sharpen. Also, take note of the angled rubber feet on each end of the tool. These allow it to be held vertically against a flat surface so you can sharpen with a downward motion.
Each of these pocket knife sharpeners has its advantages and disadvantages. The DMT has full-size functionality in a pocket-sized package, but its single grit level limits its versatility. The Spyderco offers the ability to develop an extremely sharp edge that's free of imperfections, but it's best-used on a bench, and we found a disappointing quality-control flaw in our sample. The Work Sharp gives you great bang for the buck, but can't sharpen serrated blades.
No matter which sharpener you choose as part of your EDC, you'll be glad you have one handy when the time comes. Whether it's the folding knife in your pocket, the bushcraft fixed blade on your hip, or the carving knife at a family get-together, being able to restore a blade to shaving-sharp condition is always valuable.
For more pocket-sized sharpeners to consider, keep an eye out for Pocket Preps: Knife Sharpeners in Issue 30 of RECOIL OFFGRID magazine, on sale in February 2019.