I very seldom travel farther than the end of my driveway without some kind of knife sharpener in my kit. All knives get dull, and you can generally count on that happening at the moment when you most need a razor sharp one. Add to that the eternal truth that whoever you work with can be guaranteed to have a far duller knife than you carry and consider it some kind of magically art to hone a blade. It naturally follows they would be very happy if you would sharpen theirs for them. Any kind of stone is better than none, but, in general, I feel diamond surfaced hones are the most versatile under a wide variety of field conditions. Diamond abrasives will handle the hardest steel alloy in the shortest amount of time of any type of sharpener currently available.
Work Sharp recently sent their latest model that takes the diamond surfaced field sharpener to an entirely new level. Called the “Guided Field Sharpener 2.2.1,” the tool offers both coarse and fine grit diamond pads, a three-position ceramic rod arrangement with coarse and fine grit surfaces, a smaller diameter rod for serrated edges, plus a fish hook hone. If that isn’t enough, there is also a small leather pad for stropping any remaining burr off the finished edge.
The 2.2.1’s clam pack stated the diamond pad angle guides were set at 20 and 25 degrees. Frankly, 25 degrees seemed a little steep to me for most outdoor knives and something around 20 to 22 is usually recommended by most knife manufacturers. The steeper angle would be okay for machetes, axes, and heavy-duty survival type chopping blades. An interesting feature of the Work Sharp tool is that the diamond pads are held on by strong magnets and can be easily removed. This both exposes a small storage area under the pads and allows the diamond hones to be used as stand-alone sharpeners at whatever angle the user prefers.
Not everyone likes the toothy edges a diamond hone produces, and I will agree there are some materials, such as fish flesh or wood, that are better handled by a smoother, more polished cutting surface. This is where the ceramic rod option on the 2.2.1 comes in handy. Use the coarse diamond on a really dull or damaged knife and then hone it to a good working edge on the fine hone. From there you can finish and polish the knife on the ceramic rod and if you really need a shaving sharp cutter, strop it a few times on the leather pad.
One of the quirks of diamond abrasives that some first time users seem to never get past is that newly manufactured sharpeners normally require a certain amount of breaking in before they smooth out and do their best work. The first few passes give the user the impression the diamonds are a lot coarser grit than they actually are. Give the Work Sharp pads a chance if you don’t like the feel at first, things will get much better with use.
Right after effectiveness, the next most important qualities of a true field sharpener is probably weight and durability. Benchstones tend to be just that in your pack, “stones,” and the bulk is often what you would expect for any given size. Diamond abrasives are normally mounted on a thin metal plate of both higher strength and lighter weight. Work Sharp’s 2.2.1 tips the scales at around 4.5 ounces, which might seem a little heavy before you remember you are actually carrying two diamond pads, a multi-surfaced ceramic rod and a smaller serrated edge sharpener. It would be hard to find another sharpener with all those features in the same weight category. It is probably also worth adding that diamond pads are much less likely to break if dropped, a common problem with traditional benchstones.
Some of the best news about the 2.2.1 is the suggested retail price, $34.95. For more information, visit worksharptools.com or call 800-597-6170.
I very seldom travel farther than the end of my driveway without some kind…
by Frank Trzaska / Jan 29, 2013