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Spyderco Sharpmaker 204MF

Sypderco Sharpmaker

The Spyderco Triangle Sharpmaker is not a brand new product so why review it now?  In talking to friends who know a great deal more about edged tools and weapons than I do, I learned quite a few of them are not proficient when it comes to restoring an edge.  One of those friends clued me in about the Sharpmaker.  Although he had not used one, he had heard good reports on it.   Okay, how am I qualified to conduct this product evaluation?

Well, I have been trying to put an edge on knives since I was a teenager.  I can’t say I was ever successful.  I have owned a slew of sharpening products, all of which depend on the user being able to feel or estimate the blade angle when it is in contact with the abrasive sharpener surface.  I freely admit I just can’t get that right.  That is what makes me perfect to evaluate this system.  If I can put an edge on something with this system, anyone should be able to do the same.

Spyderco Sharpmaker Components

I learned that the Sharpmaker ships with an instructional DVD which, given my previously stated ineptitude, was a selling point

The Sharpmaker has a relative compact form factor for the entire kit.
The Sharpmaker has a relative compact form factor for the entire kit.

for me.  I was itching to give it a go.  So what is it?  The Sharpmaker is an oil free sharpening system that uses two sets of triangle shaped “stones” and brass safety guards, which fit into preset angle slots in a plastic base.  All parts fit into the plastic base and are covered by a lid to form a tight little package which measures 7.5” x 2.75”.  MSRP for this system is $84.95 (from Spyderco website).  I purchased mine for $49.95 plus shipping.  On opening my UPS box I found the system shipped with a nicely illustrated manual along with the CD, which I set aside with the foam peanuts, as any self-respecting he-man would do.  I had no problem brewing a pot and popping the DVD in for a look though.  Turns out, the video was fascinating!  To date, I have seen it four times and anticipate viewing it again and again.  The primary presenter in the video is founder and head of research and development for Spyderco, Sal Glesser.  The presentation was everything I hoped for as someone who needed to be taught as a newbie.  Sal started the video with the history of sharpening, talked about four knife grind types.  He reviewed the development of recent sharpening devices, which included the all-familiar ceramic “V” sharpener created in the 70s (I have one).

When assembled the Sharpmaker bears a slight resemblance to the old ceramic system, however, the Spyderco product is quite evolved when you compare the two.  Sal goes on to give detailed instructions on how to sharpen various types of knives including serrated, duckbill, flexible and electric. There is a long list of edges you can restore with this system.  I’ll spare you the whole list but these surprised me; Nail clippers, chisels, potato peelers, wire cutters, hatchets, scissors and thinning shears.  After watching the video, I gathered up every knife in the house.  Since I have ruined all of my edges dating back to 1980 I had a lot of material to test this system.  I began with the relative straight blades of my kitchen knives.  I quickly restored four Henckels knives to an impressive state of usefulness.  One of these was a serrated bread knife!  Big deal?  Yeah, to me it sure was!  Truly the first time in my 46 years that I had sharpened a knife and I did four in a row.

Using The System:

Start With the gray stones for profiling and aggressive sharpening.

The system has two stone grits; the gray stone cuts metal more aggressively than the white.  Each triangle stone has two usable surfaces, the flats and the corner or edge of the triangles.  If your knife has been sharpened many times or improperly, you will want to start with the gray stone set in the 30 degree back bevel slots.  Start with the corner or edge of the triangle facing inward.  The corners apply the most pressure to the blade and cut metal most aggressively.  Insert the brass hand guards.  Holding your knife blade straight up and down relative to the base, pull it from back to tip as you drag it down toward the base applying about 3 lbs of pressure.  Repeat this 20 times (20 left and 20 right).  Then you will turn the stones so the flat surface is facing the center of the “V” and perform 20 more repetitions.  The flat side of the stones provide more of a finishing touch at that grit level rather than the aggresive shaping and profiling task that the corners perform.  The flat sides help to straighten up the edge for a more uniform and clean finish.  Above all you have to make sure your blade is STRAIGHT UP AND DOWN for each and every stroke.  This is the key to cutting each side of the blade equally.  There will be a tendency to speed up and you may lose focus on this very important part of the process.  Once the back bevel is set, move the gray stones to the 40-degree slots in the base

When finished, everything fits nicely back inside the Sharpmaker's Base.
When finished, everything fits nicely back inside the Sharpmaker’s Base.

Once again, start with the edge of the triangle stone – 20 strokes.  If your knife is already fairly sharp, skip the back beveling.  After using the corners and flats of the gray stone in the 40-degree slots, your knife should be sharp enough to cut paper.  Sal Glesser refers to this edge as utility sharp.  You may then proceed to the white stones, which by the way are synthetic sapphires.  Again, use the corners first (are you starting to see the pattern here?) then the flats to achieve a scary sharp edge.  After practicing this step-by-step process over a number of exercises, you will soon find that it becomes a natural process for you, and you can develop your own techniques to achieve the restults that are most satisafactory for your needs.  After I tuned up my kitchen knives and a couple pocket knives from my toolbox, I decided I had the technique down well enough to work on my better pocket knives. I started with a brand new Benchmade Rift, which had the virgin factory edge on it.

Sharp yes, but a quick treatment using only the white stones created a CRAZY sharp edge.  Testing it on copy paper, it sliced through the edge with little detectable resistance.  It was definitely improved over the factory edge.

Summary – I love the Sharpmaker.  I don’t have a dull edge in my house.  This is a clean system because it does not use oils.  The stones can easily be cleaned/revitalized using a scouring pad and powdered cleanser.  You can also put them in a dishwasher. The price is right and the system seems to be durable enough.  I highly recommend the Triangle Sharpmaker and DVD system.