Work Sharp's Ken Onion Edition Knife & Tool Sharpener

By Dr. Jim and Mary Clary

Work Sharp's Ken Onion Edition Knife & Tool Sharpener.
Illustration courtesy of Darex, Inc.

When it comes to knives, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who can sharpen a knife properly and those who can't. The majority of folks cannot properly sharpen a knife and we are in that category. Oh, we have tried. Over the years we have purchased just about every mechanical and hand sharpening system on the market. Some worked better than others, but none achieved the kind of hair shaving edge that we wanted. Believe us, we have butchered a lot of knives trying (no pun intended).

Due to our inability to get a really good edge on our knives, we usually farmed them out to other folks, such as Mary's father, to prepare them for our hunting trips. In email exchanges with Ken Onion, the well-known knife maker from Hawaii, Jim told him that he was glad that the Ken Onion skinner rarely needed sharpening, as we would not be able to return it to its original condition without paying someone else to do the job.

Ken must have taken pity on Jim, because within a month a box arrived from Darex. When we opened the box, there it was, Ken's ultimate knife sharpener. The tool was designed by Ken and engineered by Work Sharp. Having used the Work Sharp Drill Doctor in our work shop, we knew that they made quality equipment.

In a follow-up email, Ken told us that, because we liked his Skinner so well, he didn't want us to accidentally mess it up trying to re-sharpen it. Therefore, he was making us a present of the tool to use on his knife and any others we might have.

We set the tool up on our work bench and hauled out every hunting knife in the shop. The blade guide is adjustable in 1-degree increments from 15-degrees to 30-degrees, enabling one to sharpen any knife, regardless of the bevel. The variable speed control from 1200 SFM to 2800 SFM allows one to use the optimum belt speed for the blade being sharpened. The tool comes with a set of five abrasive belts: P120, P220, P1000, P3000 and P6000 grit. The standard machine, without the optional attachments, will sharpen all knives, including those with serrated edges and gut hooks, scissors and tools with exposed flat edges (like a hatchet).

To state that this tool works well is an understatement. We put a fine edge on knives in our shop that haven't been sharp in years. We polished and sharpened gut hooks that have been virtually useless and every pair of scissors in the house cut like new after a visit with Ken Onion's sharpener.

Our final test was the toughest. Carl had a folder that Ken had designed during his time with Kershaw. Somehow, he had managed to take a 1/8" chunk out of the blade while using it at work.

We wondered, if we used the P120 grit and worked it slowly in the machine, could we remove the notch and still retain the shape of the blade? After ten minutes of patiently working the knife through the blade guides, the notch slowly disappeared while still retaining the original contour of the blade. We finished up with the P220 belt to give it a razor sharp edge. Carl now has his favorite knife back, almost as good as new.

We don't believe that there is another tool on the market that is as efficient and foolproof as this one for sharpening knives. The MSRP of the Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener is $149.94. While that isn't cheap, given what it will do to return expensive knives to their original condition, it is a good investment. It can be ordered directly from Work Sharp at

There are optional attachments available for bigger blades such as mower blades, large axes and garden tools. However, we have not had a need or opportunity to try them.

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Copyright 2015 by Jim and Mary Clary and/or All rights reserved.