Category Archives: Care and Modification

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.

GritMakerPasses/SideSets
320Econaway32
600Econaway31
800Red Label31
1200Econaway31
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.


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Cost-Effective Sanding Belts for the Work Sharp Ken Onion Knife Sharpener

I’ve had a number of guys email me asking if there are affordable replacement sanding belts for the Work Sharp Ken Onion (KO) edition knife sharpener.  The short answer is yes.

The actual Work Sharp brand belts work very well but they are pricey.  A group called Econaway Abrasives is making affordable replacement belts that I’ve had very good luck with.  Note that the Ken Onion edition uses a 3/4″ wide belt whereas the traditional Work Sharp uses a 1/2″ belt.  That means the KO can use either but the traditional can’t use the KO belts.

6/1/19 Update:  I’ve also had good luck with belts from Red Label Adhesives.

There are other brands starting to show up as vendors realize there is a market opportunity for them.  Econaway and Red Label are just the two that I have first hand experience with and hope this helps you save some money!


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com.


Finding Parts and Accessories for Norinco Firearms

Because I make and sell a variety of AK furniture, I often get asked about where to find parts and accessories for a given type of firearm.   One brand that comes up quite a bit is Norinco.

Norinco, or China North Industries Group Corporation Limited (中国北方工业集团有限公司), is a huge defense conglomerate and makes everything from small arms to big weapons systems such as tanks and missle systems (click here if you want to visit their site).  They were established in 1980 and began selling small arms to the US domestic market not long after that.

Unfortunately, they ran into a number of legal problems.  In 1993, importation of most of their firearms and ammunition was blocked other than sporting shotguns and shotgun ammo.  In 1994 US Customrs conducted a sting on the importer and in August 2003, sanctions were imposted that effectively blocked their remaining lines of firearms and ammunition not already banned.  In short, Norinco is very much still in business in China and exporting to clients elsewhere – just not in the US.

This unfortunate series of events leaves US owners of Norinco firearms such as their Type 56 SKS carbine, Type 56 assault rifle (and specifically the civilian MAK-90 and NHM-90 rifles), the NDM-86 Dragunov clone DMR, their various other rifles, pistols and shotguns wondering where to find parts.  As for myself, I wish I could afford an NDM-86!

There are two reputable businesses I have dealt with who carry Chinese firearm parts – one is Numrich and the other is PolyTechParts.  Of course, there is Gunbroker and the many sellers who use it as well.

There is another surprising source – eBay.  Below is a live feed of Norinco parts for you to peruse plus they have much more:


Just to be clear, I am not a Chinese firearms expert.  I get asked questions and have done some searching to try and help clients but that’s it.  I created this blog post to have a quick link to email people when they have questions about where to find parts and I hope this helps you out.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com.


Photo of the Type 56 is by Dhalikar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25006497