Tag Archives: Ken Onion

Using my KO Worksharp With Third Party Belts to Sharpen My Three Favorite Flipper Knives – A Hogue X5, ZT 350 and Kershaw Knockout

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.

Leather Belt

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.

If I had thought about it, I would have put them in order of being my favorite. Purely by coincidence they are in order of age – the Knockout I bought near Christmas 2018, the Hogue was Father’s Day 2018 and the ZT 350 was purchased in 2015.
Guys, I love that Wharncliffe blade profile on the Hogue. You can use it to scrape stuff as you have a flat edge.

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.

A Richard Kell blade angle gauge.

Belt Details

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.

800Red Label31
5000Red Label31
10,000Pro Sharpening32

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.

Photo of the belt up on the left edge of the front lower wheel. Note all the junk on the mat. Good reminder to wear eye protection and a dust mask *always*.

Lesson learned for me, dial back the speed on the KOW from the get go when doing the leather belt.

Sharpening Results

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.

Final Result

The knives are all very sharp and they are flipping smoothly. Time to keep using them 🙂 I hope you found this helpful.

If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon. With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated. Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.

The Gerber Golok Machete is Pretty Wicked and Surprisingly Hefty!!

Ok, so I wind up clearing brush pretty regularly.  Usually its pine, vines, scrub oak and junk like that.  Back in June 2014, I bought a Ken Onion designed Half-A-Chance machete (CRKT K920KKP) from CRKT that has served me well (click here for my review).  On my last trip to clear brush this past fall, I accidentally left the Half-A-Chance at home and had to get a replacement machete.  Thankfully SMKW was on the way so I stopped in and tried out a bunch of different ones in terms of heft and balance.  When I got to the Gerber Golok, I was really surprised.  It’s surprisingly thick and that mass makes a big difference when taking out saplings so I bought it and used it to clear the small stuff.


It seems like an opportune time to compare the two and share my thoughts.  In the next photo, the top is the Half-A-Chance and the bottom is the Golok.

What really surprised me was that the thickness of the Golok’s blade.  Why Gerber doesn’t make a big deal about this, I don’t know because there are fans of knives with big blades.  The blade is 12″ long and made from MN65 steel, which is a spring steel that is roughly equivalent to 1065 steel, which is fairly common in machetes.  The blade comes in at 0.2566″ when I mike it and weighs 1 pound 10.8oz (26.8 oz). That is a lot of steel!  It’s like you are moving the design from being a classical machete more towards a chopper with that kind of width.  When I was hitting some dried oak and ash, the Half-A-Chance bit deeper than the Golok and I think it reflects the relatively thin blade of the Ken Onion design that mikes at 0.1147″ which is less than half the Golok.  The Half-A-Chance also weighs 20.3oz.

The blade on the left is Half-A-Chance and the right is the Golok on a piece of dried ash.

You can definitely see the the thicker Golok blade right away.  It’s the top blade on the left photo and the bottom blade on the right photo:

Just a closer view of the Half-A-Chance on top vs. the Golok on the bottom.  The Half-A-Chance’s handle is more ergonomic but the rubber coated Golok isn’t too bad.

The Half-A-Chance’s sheath is fancier while the Golok is simple and to the point.

Folks, in the end, the Golok is a chopper.  It’s heavy but too thick for the traditional fast slices you are doing with a machete.  I’d recommend the Half-a-Chance for thin stuff like vines and stuff under 3/8″ ballpark and the Golok for thicker vegetation where you need to chop but you are also starting to cross over into where a heavy khukuri or hatchet might serve you better.

While clearing the lot I did put a nick in the Golok and used my Work Sharp Ken Onion edition sharpener to take it right out when I got back to my shop. [Click here for my post on the KO sharpener.]

Bottom line, the Half-A-Chance machete is still my favorite and the first one I would grab to clear brush but the Golok is a keeper also because I like its mass and balance.  It’s a lot of blade for the money and I do like big blades.  You ought to take a look when you get some time or even pick one or both machetes up from Amazon.

If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.

Amazon product links are at the bottom of the post.

Review of the Excellent Ken Onion Edition Work Sharp

As many of you know, I like knives and do a great deal of custom work on khukuris.  My problem is that I also have what is known as a “hereditary” or “necessary” tremor, which means my hands shake.  I have to really focus when I do work that requires fine motor skills and sharpening with a belt sander and jig is a bear for me that I try to avoid.  A little over a year ago, I was visiting the Smoky Mountain Knifeworks store in Sevierville, TN, when I saw my first Work Sharp brand sharpener.  It looked somewhat like a gimmick to me and I didn’t bother spending much time at their demo table.  I thought to myself “who needs a little triangular belt sander to mess up a fine blade” and left it at that.

About six months later, I was getting more and more blades to sharpen and in researching methods I ran across the Work Sharp again but this time folks were talking about the heavier duty Ken Onion Edition Work Sharp.  Now this intrigued me because the reviewers mentioned how quick the set up was, that the unit was very portable, powerful motor, variable speed and that the angle could be adjusted with a dial.  What really wold me is that it could do a consistent convex edge (note, there are many types of convex edges and I’m not going to go into that now – but for me the idea of consistency was and still is a big deal).  The other big reason is that really hard metals take a long time to sharpen by hand, which is what I usually did when it came to doing tune ups & that took a lot of time.

I decided to take the plunge and ordered the Work Sharp Ken Onion edition plus some additional belts off Amazon.  Thanks to the Prime shipping program, the box arrived two days later like clock work and I started testing and using it in early February 2014.  I point this out so you know this was written after quite a bit of use.

I learned a looooong time ago, never start with any blade of value when you are learning and this is another example of that.  I have been using this sharpener for close to six months and really like it but you do need to practice and learn how to hold the blade and get used to the feel.  I need to insert a caution here – it is always easier to take more metal off than put it back on!!!  If you use a coarse belt then you can remove a lot of material fast.  That’s why I recommend practicing first on knives you don’t mind if they get scuffed up a bit.

The photos are of my six month old sharpener.  The belts actually last quite a while but I would still recommend you get an extra package or two of them just in case.



The unit has a 1/4″ thread on the bottom if you really want to secure it.  I find I can use it just fine without mounting it and this is great because I can move the unit to where the work is.  For example, I was outside on my work bench and brought the sharpener out there.  The red dial you see is the variable speed control.  I purposefully bought the Ken Onion edition as it has a bigger higher torque motor to avoid bogging down while sanding.  My experience is that it does a great job.  I can sand my big khukuris without a problem.


The yellow lever lets you rotate the sanding cartridge so you have a flat sanding surface if you want it.  I tend to use use one of my other sanders but this could be handy for folks who need an all in one unit.  By the way, the roller you see in the lower right corner of the catridge is spring loaded.  With the unit off, you press that in and slide the belt off the top.  To install a new belt, load the belt at the botton, push the pulley in and slip the belt over the top.  This makes belt changes very easy.  You can see the other belts in the background of the photo – I start with coarse and work my way up to the edge I want.  With the khukuris, they are sharp but I don’t put hair popping edges on them so they are stronger.  I figure a customer can always go sharper if they want.


Now, you really ought to buy an angle guide to set the angle of the sharpener.  There is a very easy to use guide that can let you find out what something is set at easily made by Richard Kell out of brass.  It takes away all the guess work.  You side the blade into the guide and if the edge goes into the little circle at the bottom and there isn’t any slop then you have found your angle.


Now the Work Sharp only adjusts 15-30 degrees.  For kitchen and field knives, this tends to be just fine.  It tends to be with tools that you get into tools that you go past 30 degrees.  I wish it could go wider but I can deal with those tools on one of my regular sanders as they are exception rather than the rule.  I knew I needed something to speed up my work and make a consistent edge of the right angle on knives so the angle range the tool can do works out pretty well for me.



The belts are color coded and have their ID inside each for easy identification.  Note, the Ken Onion edition uses wider belts than the normal edition but those will work as well I am told.  Also, the belts really hold up well.  As they wear, they just cut slower.  I’m actually very pleased that they used good abrasives and not the junk that just falls apart.


In the next photos, you see me using the X4 fine belt to put a very sharp edge on a Himalayan Imports khukuri that is hardened 5160 alloy steel plus you see a photo of my every day carry, a Kershaw Compound KS1940 that my daughter got me for my birthday a few years back.  I use this knife literally every day to open boxes, cut strap, cut open plastic containers, and so forth in the shop.  It is 8CR13MOV alloy and needs sharpening each week due to all of the use.  The Work Sharp does great in both cases.



In summary, this is a very useful tool for many reasons.  For novices, this is a great sharpener.  For more experienced folks, this is a handy tool that is very portable and can help save you time while producing a quality edge as sharp as you want!   So, I would highly recommend the sharpener, spare belts and the angle guide and Amazon makes it easy to one stop shop and get all three:

Update 7/23/2018:  The unit still works great.  Here’s a post I did about affordable belts.

If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.

Amazon product links are at the bottom of the post.

Official Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener - Ken Onion Edition

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