Gear Review: Work Sharp Blade Grinding Attachment

What should I be calling this review? It is actually a review of the optional add-on Blade Grinding Attachment for the Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Sharpener, which is getting to be quite a mouthful! However although the Blade Grinding Attachment is an add-on accessory for the Ken Onion Edition Sharpener and can’t be used without it, I have titled the review as being a review of the “Work Sharp Blade Grinding Attachment” because for me it is what the attachment brings to the table that is the main feature.

I’ve had my eye on the Work Sharp Ken Onion edition for a long time. For me it wasn’t quite right (though I still think this is excellent as is) until I tried the optional Blade Grinding attachment.

For my needs it is the Blade Grinding Attachment that transforms the Ken Onion Edition Sharpener into a real workhorse sharpening system.

The Blade Grinding Attachment effectively adds a mini bench belt grinder to the Work Sharp, and this was the clincher for me. I’ve been using a 1″ belt grinder with an angle setting guide I made and added to it myself for 99% of my sharpening. Now, thanks to Work Sharp I’ve got a much more compact and specifically knife edge focused tool.

This fantastic sharpener is now being used to create the Tactical Reviews ‘WORK SHARP Sharp’ standard for all my knife testing.

Join me in this detailed look at the optional add-on Blade Grinding Attachment for the Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Sharpener.

Review Videos

Starting with a short format sixty second review:

Onto a full video review covering many more details:

A little more Background:
Before diving in to the image galleries, in effect there are two reviews combined here. The Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Sharpener, and the separate Blade Grinding Attachment for this sharpener. This combination is also sold as a kit version called the Work Sharp Elite Knife Sharpening Solution.

A few more details:

What’s in the box? – Ken Onion Edition Sharpener:
This is the foundation sharpener, which is complete in itself.

A good look round the Ken Onion Edition Sharpener – Things to look out for here are:
Using an in-line transformer makes for a very tidy setup, and of course it will have the mains plug suitable for your country. Though it looks like a single machine, the sharpener is a motor/control unit, and a belt sharpening head that fits onto the motor assembly (this is important later when it comes to the blade grinding attachment).
The Ken Onion Edition Sharpener head has a pair of angle guides plus an edge guide to support the blade. To control the speed of the belt, the motor unit has a trigger with rotating maximum speed dial. The trigger also has a locking button so you can set it running and not need to hold the trigger switch, leaving you both hands free.
Sharpening angle is set using a dial adjuster with clearly marked angles from 15 to 30 degrees. The last image in the gallery with the spring showing is the belt tensioning roller.

What’s in the box? – Blade Grinding Attachment:
As well as the main sharpener, the Blade Grinding Attachment also has an unsupported, or ‘slack’ belt, so will create a convex edge. In the box are the attachment and a set of belts for it, as these are a different size/length compared to the main sharpener’s belts.

A good look round the Blade Grinding Attachment – Things to look out for here are:
One of the belt rollers is the motor spindle itself, so on its own it might appear that one belt roller is missing (but isn’t). The Blade Grinding Attachment has three rollers; one tensioning roller, and an angle adjustable set of twin rollers that give you the edge angle you want. A shelf at the front of the Blade Grinding Attachment gives you the zeroing position of the blade angle relative to the adjustable angle section of the belt. The set of twin rollers is moved to the desired angle and the locking screw on the back tightened to maintain this setting. There are two positions for one of the twin rollers that allow you to effectively change how ‘slack’ the belt is. The knob on the tensioner provides tracking adjustments for the different belts. There is even a small support shelf at the rear of the Blade Grinding Attachment for using as a mini belt grinder. Fitting to the motor is via a bayonet style of locking ring.

What it is like to use?
In this gallery, the first thing I am doing is taking off and discarding the sharpening head for the Ken Onion Edition Sharpener to leave just the motor assembly (no offense to the Ken Onion Edition). Then on goes the Blade Grinding Attachment. Now you can see how the motor spindle (which has a left-hand screw belt retainer fitted into it) then completes the belt roller path.
The tensioning roller has a finger tab for you to push on and it rotates and locks into a retracted position. Like this the belt pops on and off easily, and with the new belt in place, a quarter turn on the finger tab and the tensioner unlocks and grabs the belt.

Although the Blade Grinding Attachment has clamping points, I’ve been using the sharpener sitting under its own weight, and it hasn’t moved or needed to be secured.

The process of using the angled section of the belt, is to first lay the blade on the reference surface at zero degrees, then move up and to the belt. This sequence is showing the process on one side, then the other, and then going to a finer belt and repeating. The last photos in the gallery has an orange item on the right, which is an LED light used to help show the burr that has been raised on the edge.
In this gallery the two rollers that set the angle for the belt are shown in their widest spacing, however, since these images were taken I have changed to the narrower spacing as I prefer the slightly firmer belt tension this creates between the rollers.

Powered sharpeners give you such a massive time saving over manual sharpeners, but it is also possible to make mistakes faster too.

Here I have take on an edge bevel re-profile from a 70 degree inclusive angle to 35 degrees inclusive. The primary grind angle on this blade is quite wide, so as the edge bevel angle was halved, the edge bevel width has increased significantly. In fact the entire edge bezel does not fit in the magnified view.
This re-profiled edge was done using a very light pressure onto the 120 grit belt, followed by a strop using a metal polishing compound. The result was nicely hair popping.

Both the Work Sharp Ken Onion standard sharpening head and the Blade Grinding Attachment use a ‘unsupported belt’. There is no platen behind the section of belt used for sharpening. This is also termed a ‘slack belt’. A consequence of this is that the edge created by the Work Sharp is convexed. You can vary how much the edge is convexed in a couple of ways. With the Blade Grinding Attachment, the rollers that set the angle of the belt can be positioned closer (less convexed edge) or wider apart (more convexed edge). As the belt is ‘slack’ you can also increase pressure onto the belt, which will deflect it more and produce an edge with more pronounced convexing.
All of this allows you to play around with settings and pressure to find the edge bevel shape you prefer; always slightly convexed, but you can decide how much.

I am now going to back to that point about time saving with a powered sharpener; you will either save a lot of time making a knife very sharp, or ruin it in double quick time. No sharpening system is fool-proof. Sharpening, as a process, relies on removing metal and forming a fine cutting edge. Just like sharpening a pencil, you can over sharpen and use the pencil up much faster than needed. A powered pencil sharpener can eat up the entire pencil in no time.

Sharpening is a skill you need to learn, whatever system you use. Work Sharp, with the Ken Onion Edition, or this extra enhancement of the Blade Grinding Attachment give you an excellent tool, which you will get more and more out of as you learn to work with it.

With a good powered system, and the Work Sharp is excellent, you can concentrate on the skill and control of positioning the blade, without the repeated effort of grinding the metal away yourself. The powered movement of the abrasive allows you to finesse your technique.

Tactical Reviews new standard in sharpness is now ‘WORK SHARP Sharp’ thanks to the Ken Onion Edition Sharpener with Blade Grinding Attachment.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond that covered in the review.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

What doesn’t work so well for me

Very easy to misshape the blade tip (requires good technique to avoid).
The vertical belt section is also not supported and flexes.

Things I like

Complete control of belt speed.
Quick and easy belt changes.
Long duty cycle (rated for 1 hour continuous running).
Allows for varying amount of edge convexing.
Angle of belt set by movable roller assembly.
Very compact for a high quality mini belt grinder.
Super fast sharpening and re-profiling.
Solid build quality.
Very quickly get your edges ‘WORK SHARP Sharp’.

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Gear Review: HORL 2 Knife Sharpener

HORL 1993 are creating a revolution in sharpening with their innovative line of rolling knife sharpeners. Many of you will likely have seen their system popping up in various social media feeds, especially if you have any interests involving knives. Though primarily aimed at sharpening kitchen knives, having given the system a quick try out at IWA 2022, I was intrigued to test it in more depth and with other types of knives. Join me in this HORL 2 knife sharpener review for a closer look at this new approach to guided sharpening.

What is on test?:

For this review, on test are the HORL 2 sharpener with add-on Premium Sharpening kit plus the storage block. HORL also sent the tea towel and branded plasters.

A good look round the HORL 2 – Things to look out for here are:
In this first part which includes the HORL 2 sharpener plus the optional storage block, I’m breaking it into three sections. First the HORL 2 box and first look over the knife holder / angle guide, then views all round the storage block, and finally the rolling sharpening stone itself.

Inside the box are a couple of printed guides, and the two main components, the rolling sharpener and the magnetic guide block. The precisely finished wooden guide block has two angled ends, 15 degrees and 20 degrees. The ends are marked with their angle and have a rubber surface to cushion and hold the knife.

An optional extra that goes with the sharpener so well you really should get it, is the storage block. Available in either of the two woods used for the sharpeners themselves you can match the sharpener or go with a wood contrast. The block has two cut-outs, one is an angled pocket to sit the rolling sharpener in, and the other is a slot that has a couple of bolt heads which the magnetic guide block grabs on to. The quality of finish is very high.

Lastly in this detailed look at the components is the rolling sharpener itself. A cylinder with a round sharpening stone at each end.
The wooden centre grip section of the rolling sharpener is in the matching wood to the guide block, and rotates freely. At each end are rubber rings to act as wheels, and the sharpening disks. As it comes this includes a diamond disk and a grooved ceramic coated disk.
Also shown here is how the HORL 2 neatly sits on the storage block.

The Premium Sharpening Kit add-on:
Though you can produce a good edge with the standard HOLR 2, the premium sharpening kit is designed to further refine that edge and take it to another level.
The kit includes two extra sharpening disks of 3000 and 6000 grit. These are found inside matching storage tins, wrapped in a cloth square. As well as these two fine stones, you also have a thick leather strop for cleaning and deburring the edge.
The 3000 grit stone is blue and the finest 6000 grit stone is white. Both are marked on the back of the disk with the grit.

Changing the Stone:
Changing stones on the HORL 2 is simple. Grip the rubber wheel firmly and simply unscrew the stone you want to change; then screw in the replacement. My own preference was the diamond and 3000 grit as a pair.

Video overview and sharpening test.

This video takes detailed look at the HORL 2 being used for the first time on a Santoku kitchen knife and an outdoor / hunting knife. It is quite long but also uncovers a few tips and tricks you might be interested in as well as showing a reprofile of the edge angle. It is worth watching for the insights into how the sharpener interacts with parts of the knife and possible precautions you might want to take.

What it is like to use?

If you have watched the whole video you will have seen what I’m going to describe in this section for real. For this review I’m using the HORL 2 along with two optional extras, the storage block, and the premium sharpening kit with its finer grit stones and leather strop.

As the simplest and most basic look at using the HORL 2, these photos show how you set up the knife on the magnetic angle block with the roller sharpener against the knife edge. You can see how the edge-to-stone angle is maintained and allows sharpening by rolling the sharpener backwards and forwards.
Of note is that your kitchen work surface (or table) is used as part of the sharpening system because you need a large surface to working the rolling sharpener along the blade. Typically a sharpening system will contain the dust and metal filings produced to the sharpener, but the HORL 2 drops the filings that don’t stick to the magnetized blade all over the work surface. It is a bit of a messy eater when it comes to sharpening systems.

Beyond the basic operation of the HORL 2 here are a few general observations:

  • Operation is incredibly simple for use with most kitchen knives.
  • If the depth of the blade is more than the diameter of the sharpening disk you have to use ‘riser blocks’ (like a chopping board) to be able to sharpen the edge.
  • It is very easy to bump the sharpening stone into the knife bolster or handle. I use masking tape to protect these areas from damage.
  • You will magnetise the blade by using the magnetic angle guide block.
  • The sharpening dust collects on the magnetised blade and edge during use.
  • Shorter / narrower blades (paring knives or pocket knives) need very careful positioning on the angle block.
  • As your worktop is part of the sharpening system, this will be covered in metal filings

When swapping from a kitchen knife to an outdoor / hunting knife, it became apparent of an issue you need to work round regarding the tip of the knife.
With many hunting knives, the blade edge curves upward to meet the spine of the blade at the tip. This introduces challenges of maintaining the edge angle all through the sweep of the edge on any sharpening system. On the HORL 2 it requires the user to no longer rely on the angle block to provide the correct angle, instead the user has to twist the rolling sharpener to the correct angle at the tip.
Illustrated below is the angle the roller needs to be moved to sharpen this knife all the way to the tip. It is actually 20 degrees, the same angle as is used on the magnetic angle block. With the rubber wheels on the roller gripping the work surface, this does need the user to force the roller to twist round and get the hang of following the angle near the tip.
Another feature of a hunting knife verses a kitchen knife it that typically there is a ‘plunge line’ where the blade profile and ricasso meet. Also shown below are photos of how the corners of the HORL 2 stones hit the plunge line and might not quite reach the very end of the cutting edge. You will also likely mark the ricasso with the stone.
Finally with the grooved ceramic stone of the HORL 2 and the tip of a knife with a curve there is a possibility of the edge catching into the groove. This happened a couple of times in the video when turning the sharpener to work the tip of the blade, and prompted me to abandon the ceramic stone for a blade with curved tip like this. For kitchen knives this was not an issue.

Review Summary

The views expressed in this summary table are from the point of view of the reviewer’s personal use. I am not a member of the armed forces and cannot comment on its use beyond that covered in the review.

Something that might be a ‘pro’ for one user can be a ‘con’ for another, so the comments are categorised based on my requirements. You should consider all points and if they could be beneficial to you.

I’m starting with what doesn’t work so well, so I can finish on a more positive note

What doesn’t work so well for me

  • Needs ‘riser blocks’ for blades wider than the sharpening disk.
  • Magnetises the blade and this collects metal filings on the blade and angle block.
  • Covers the kitchen work surface in metal filings.
  • Still requires the user to control the angle of the stone at the blade tip.
  • Easy to hit and mark the handle or other parts of the knife with the rolling stone.

Things I like

  • For most typical straight-edge kitchen knives it makes sharpening super simple and easy.
  • Elegant and attractive solution that looks good in any kitchen.
  • Choice of stone types and grits.
  • Easy touch ups.
  • Very quick to set up and use.
  • Choice of 15 DPS or 20 DPS sharpening angles.

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CandlePowerForums – Knife Reviews Section (Largest and Friendliest Flashlight Community Forum)

Sharpest Knife Competition at IWA 2019

This year at IWA, Tactical Reviews is throwing down the gauntlet and asking the knife trade “How sharp can you go?”. OK, it’s actually a lot less formal than that, a ‘just for fun’ competition to see who can create the finest edge on a knife blade, by any means they choose.

Entry is free and open to all exhibitors and visitors to IWA 2019 (see rules below). There is no prize beyond the warm feeling the winner will have, knowing they had the ‘Sharpest Knife at IWA’.

Come and find me with the awesome people at Chris Reeve Knives in hall 5, stand 5-135, on Sunday 10th March between 16:00 and 17:00. Get in early or you might miss out.

How is the sharpness measured? Using a PT50A BESS Certified sharpness tester:

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) will be used to determine how sharp each knife edge is. The ‘Edge on Up’ PT50A tester uses a certified test media fibre and records the force required to cut it. The lower the score the better. As an example, a typical Morakniv factory edge scores around 250. See this guide:

Every knife tested will be given an official sharpness score and certificate. A measurement will be taken initially in the centre of the blade, then the heel, then the tip, and an average value taken. This will test the sharpness over the entire blade, not just the easiest part to sharpen.

‘The Sharpest Knife’ Competition – IWA 2019


  1. Open to all knives, custom-made or production. – No Razors allowed.
  2. Kitchen knives, though allowed, are NOT eligible to be overall winner; they have been found to have too much of an advantage, so may be entered for an honourable mention only.
  3. Any knife deemed not to be in the spirit of the ‘sharpest knife’ contest will be disallowed (surgical/laboratory etc.).
  4. Open to anyone – Professional / Maker / Amateur / User.
  5. Knives must be submitted either folded or sheathed, with the cutting edge covered.
  6. Each knife will initially have a single measurement taken. If the result is within 50 BESS of the leading entry, further measurements may be taken (at the discretion of the tester).
  7. Subject to the previous rule, each qualifying knife will then have a set of three measurements taken along the blade (centre, heel and tip) with the average BESS score counting as the result.
  8. In the case of a draw, the lowest individual score will be used for secondary ranking. If there is still a draw, the first one tested will win.
  9. The tester’s results are final – No knife may be entered twice.

The winner will be announced at close of the competition.

IMPORTANT: You undertake the competition at your own risk and your health and safety is your own responsibility. By taking part in this competition, you agree to indemnify the organisers and their agents against all costs, losses, damages, injuries, expenses and liabilities suffered as a result of your participation. No liability can be accepted for damage to any knife entered.

News: Sharpest Knife Competition at Knives UK 2018 – The Results

It Happened! The first ‘Sharpest Knife’ competition of its kind in a public access show in the Northern Hemisphere. Eyes were opened, hopes dashed, legends toppled, shock results revealed, and a winner who could not believe it! Drama and enlightenment added to a day of excitement at Knives UK 2018, with the vast array of beautifully hand crafted knives and tools, what more could you ask for?

Let the contest begin:

The Winner.

I was so busy I didn’t have time to get round all the Knives UK exhibitors, so this is a whistle-stop tour that does not do the show justice, merely giving a brief glimpse of it.

See Announcement: The ‘Sharpest Knife’ Competition at KnivesUK 2018 for more details.