As I have written about in the past, I have a Ken Onion Worksharp (KOW) knife sharpener. Folks, I have used the heck out of that little thing and it is still cranking. For example, I used it one time to put the edges on five khukuris from scratch. They were antiques and I used my belt sander to remove the beat up edges and then the little KOW to profile and put the final edges on them. I can’t begin to guess how many khukuris, folders and fixed blade knives have been sharpened on this unit.
At any rate, the one thing about the KOW is the cost and selection of the little 3/4″ wide x 12″ belts that it uses. Worksharp does sell kits with belts in them but its pricey. Happily, as the popularity of the KOW has increased, a number of makers have appeared. I’ve had very good luck with Econaway Abrasives and Red Label Abrasives to name two of them.
What makes a belt good? I really look at two things – does the belt stay together and does the grit stay on or seem to flake off. I have no means of knowing whether a given declared grit is what I actually get – for example, the vendor says it’s 400 grit but is it really? All I can do is go by feel.
I added a new step in my sharpening – I added a leather belt this year so I could use rouge on the belt for a grit of close to 10,000 for the final edge. I opted for a belt from Pro Sharpening Supplies. It comes with a small packet of white rouge polishing compound.
Sharpening My Three Favorite Flippers
Okay, I needed to sharpen my three favorite assisted opening “flipper” pocket knives. My #1 favorite is my 3.5″ Hogue X5. The other two tie for second place at this point – my ZT 350 and my Kershaw Knock Out.
It had been ages since the ZT350 was properly sharpened, the Hogue needed a touchup and my new Kershaw Knockout did not have as fine of an edge on it as I wanted. The ZT was part of what motivated me to buy the KOW years ago – The ZT uses S30V steel which is very hard and takes forever to sharpen by hand. I had been using a Spyderco Sharpmaker to that point and decided it was time to buy a better sharpener. The KOW has a wider 3/4″ belt and a bigger motor than it’s predecessor, the basic Worksharp unit. I’ve never regretted the purchase.
The KOW is adjustable so I use this brass guage made by Richard Kell in England to determine what to set the KOW at. The blades were 15 degrees or less with the Hogue pretty much being right at 15. The other two, I’m not sure. They were more accute than the gauge supported.
I bet everyone has their secret formulas for sharpening blades and odds are they all work. Since these were all touchups, I started with a 320 grit belt. See, I don’t want to take off any more than I have to so I’d rather start with as fine of a grit as possible.
Comments on the Leather Belt
Okay, it through parts of loose leather everywhere when it first started just like when you start a new cloth wheel on a buffer. It did stop after a bit. By the way, safety note – you should always wear safety glasses and a dust mask regardless – this just reminds you of the need.
The second comment is that it did not stay centered on the wheels of the KOW and traveled to the left when looking down from the top towards the front edge. It did not seem to harm anything but the whole point is that it really should have stayed centered on the wheels. No harm done and since I will not use it a ton, I am not going to worry about it.
Lesson learned for me, dial back the speed on the KOW from the get go when doing the leather belt.
All three knives are wickedly sharp now. I’m very pleased with the results.
Cleaning and Lubrication Comment
Whenever I sharpen a flipper, I blow out the insides with compressed air and then lubricate them. My preferred lubricant is Teflon/PTFE. Because it dries after application, it does not attract and hold dirt. Thus, I applied it to all three knives like I normally do.
It’s common for things to feel gritty until the fluid evaporates but the Hogue didn’t get better, it got worse. I’m not sure what Hogue uses to lube their knives but the solvent in the Dupont spray must have cleaned it off and the dry Teflon wasn’t enough. Conversely, the ZT 350 and Kershaw Compound worked great. It’s not unusual to see something work with one mechanism but not another so it was time for plan B.
Okay, plan B. I started using Super Lube this year on firearms and really like it. Basically, Super Lube is a synthetic lubricant that includes tiny PTFE particles in it. So, I applied it with a pen dispenser and it works great. Way, way better.
The knives are all very sharp and they are flipping smoothly. Time to keep using them 🙂 I hope you found this helpful.
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