This sharpener includes five different sharpening stones along with a knife clamp that holds the knife during sharpening, and a guide that allows you to select the proper blade angle. Honing oil is also included. The stones have finger grips for a secure hold and are color coded so you know which are coarser and which are finer. Unlike traditional whetstones, with this system the knife remains still while you move the stones along the blade. This manual system allows you to sharpen knives at four different angles, but requires some practice to become comfortable with the technique.
We tested eight other honing rods alongside our pick. Three were ceramic: The Cooks Standard 12″, the Mac black ceramic 10.5″, and the Messermeister 12″. Five were traditional steel hones: Three by Messermeister (regular, fine, and Avanta), a dual-textured fine-and-smooth “combination cut” Victorinox, and a Winware, all 12 inches in length. With one exception, we set a top price of about $40, which eliminated the professional-grade steels made by Friedrich Dick; these are standard in the butchering trade, but few home cooks need their extreme durability and specialization. During testing, we found all the traditional steel honing rods to be too rough on hard Japanese-style blades, causing them to chip, and their slick surfaces made blades of all types slip and skip. The three ceramic rods, like our top pick, offered a slightly grippy surface that made it easy to slide the knife blades smoothly along their length, which is key to good honing. But all were somewhat coarser than the Idahone, so the Idahone was less abrasive to the blades. As well, the Idahone’s generously sized steel hanging ring is superior: The Cooks Standard has a tiny, flimsy ring; the Messermeister has none, just a small hole in the handle; and the Mac’s ring is made of flimsy-feeling plastic. The Mac, which the manufacturer touts as specially suited to its knives, including our pick for chef’s knives, also costs a lot more than the Idahone, at about $55. And its shorter length made honing an 8-inch knife difficult.
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I have this one and the axe/machete version as well. These are great sharpeners that make very short work of getting blades sharp. They take off quite a lot of material and are quite different than most other stone sharpeners I have used in the past, so I try to be conservative with my pressure as you see the chips fall when you pull the knife through. But, they absolutely work, and work very well. If you have a high use knife, this is a great way to keep it sharp and in service all the time. I use my large bushcraft knife a lot more now that I have this since I can sharpen it much faster and easier. I would not use this sharpener on precision instruments just because I prefer more control and try to preserve material on those types on knives. But, bottom line, I get more work done and much faster now that I have this.
Cerax and Suehiro stones from Suehiro are a little harder, and as such do not wear down as quickly as the classic Japanese water stones. The 8000 grit stone will perhaps give you the best cutting edge with a mirror polish on chisels and similar blades. Suehiro also makes a small combination stone for those who do not sharpen tools all that often and are reluctant to spend extra for a Cerax stone.
Steeling helps maintain sharpness. This process realigns the edge, correcting for dulling causes such as a rolled edge. A sharpening steel is a type of hardened cylindrical rod used similarly to honing stones. For example, a butcher steel is a round file with the teeth running the long way, while a packer steel (used in the meat packer's industry) is a smooth, polished steel rod designed for straightening the turned edge of a knife, and is also useful for burnishing a newly finished edge. Because steels have a small diameter they exert high local pressure, and therefore affect the knife metal when used with very little force. They are intended for mild steel knives that are steeled several times a day, but are not well suited for today's tougher and harder blade steels. Diamond steels are now available that have an industrial diamond coating and can remove blade metal as well as straighten, therefore used correctly they can re-profile a knife instead of just honing.
The Arkansas Novaculite stone has earned the reputation of the most sought-after natural abrasive worldwide and is a premiere sharpening product used not just as a knife sharpeners, but as woodworkers, jewelers, surgeons, dentists, veterinarians, die makers, gunsmiths, and goldsmiths. Other applications: calibration of x-ray crystallography machines and maintenance of ice skate and snow ski’s.
This set of two Norton combination waterstones provides four grits and also includes a flattening stone as an added value. The 220, 1000, 4000 and 8000 grit sides will handle everything from aggressive shaping to final polishing. They are 8" long by 3" wide, big enough to handle most knives and tools easily. Our most popular waterstone kit, this has everything you need to both sharpen with waterstones and maintain the stones themselves. A great starter set.