A short while ago I finally bought something I’ve been eyeing for a long time: A Spyderco Tri-angle Sharpmaker sharpening system.
It was inevitable
Now I’m a bit of a sharpening nut, and I’ve owned just about every gadget imaginable for putting an edge on something. I’m also a sucker for just about anything that promises to make it easier to do so. So it was inevitable that I would end up with a Sharpmaker in my shop eventually.
The sharpmaker consists of four stones, really ceramic sticks of triangular cross-section, and a plastic base to hold them at a few angles along with two brass safety rods to keep you from flaying your own hands in the process. Everything packs into a fairly small box – about the size of a large water stone.
The sticks are triangular and the base has star-shaped holes – the result is that the sticks can be oriented so that either the face or the edge of the triangle is the sharpening surface. The edges are faster, the faces leave a smoother finish. Each stone has a slot in one face, to facilitate sharpening awls and fishhooks and the like.
I’m not going to go into the specifics of how to use the system because it comes with both a good manual and a video to boot.
Glad I bought it
Overall, I’m glad I bought it. It will probably become my favored way of keeping an edge on just about any knife or pair of scissors I have. That said, there are a few things I don’t like.
But it’s not perfect
First, the base is flexible enough to move when you use the system, which allows the angles to change a bit. I’m not sure what effect this has on creating a sharp edge, but it certainly feels mushy and distracting. The base has counter-sunk holes for screwing it to a base or table, but that of course hampers portability.
Second, the holes for the sticks are loose enough that they wiggle a bit. This combined with the flexing really encourages a light touch and slow going. Maybe they designed it this way on purpose.
Third, the course sticks are coarse, but not really edge-repair coarse. If you have something that is dull enough to almost be childproof, you’re going to be at it a looong time with this system.
Fourth, while the system can be used (sort of) on chisels, plane irons and the like, it’s not really suited to that. In that case, you can get decent-sized ceramic bench stones.
Fifth, the stones load quickly and have to be scrubbed clean with kitchen cleanser (I use Barkeeper’s Friend). Just kind of a pain, but not as difficult as keeping oil or water on sticks held at a 60-degree angle 😎
Still, it’s good system, and a few strokes will keep any knife sharp.
What surprised me was how sharp. Normally, for any knife I would consider whittling with if it won’t shave the hair off my arm pretty effortlessly it’s not sharp enough. So any sharpening method had better be capable of creating such an edge. The Sharpmaker is. It did it in just a few minutes on my Victorinox Executive, which is my normal pocket knife, and was less than sharp from cutting boxes. I was impressed.