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Sharpening kits types for beginners or professional - what's the difference?

Sharpening kits types for beginners or professional - what's the difference?

Sharpening kits types for beginners or professional - what's the difference?

While choosing a sharpening system, many users are guided by the superstition that some devices are designed for beginners and others for professionals. The paradox is that there are no worse or better technical solutions among sharpening devices - they are simply different. It is possible to achieve comparable results on different sharpening systems, but the amount of labor will differ.

Professional systems, on the other hand, are mainly designed for a high level of precision in finishing the secondary bevels of the blade, as well as the amount of work and its complexity. Professional sharpeners are not limited by size. In other words, a professional sharpening device can be small and capable. The capabilities depend directly on the technical parameters and the general equipment of the device.

Device Purpose

In order to determine which sharpening system and accessory kit and/or set of sharpening stones is best for you, you need to understand which sharpening device will be the best solution. Roughly all sharpeners can be divided into groups:

  • according to size: handheld and stationary
  • according to design 
  • according to setup

Regardless of size and setup, the purpose of each device depends on a number of technical features.  The features inherent in one device or another eventually determine the scope of the application. For example, let us examine a knife sharpening kit with a choice of sharpening angle at a cost of about $100. Often the kit contains a device for clamping the knife and several abrasive bars with guides.

According to the manufacturer, almost any knife can be sharpened with this system. The device will cope with sharpening without much effort, no matter whether it is a hunting knife, a pocket knife, or even a chef's or kitchen knife. The crucial issue is the word "almost".

It quickly becomes clear that the size of the pocket knife differs from that of a kitchen knife and sharpening will not be equally simple. Knives have different lengths, different spine thicknesses, different thicknesses behind the edge, and possibly different steel. All these parameters determine how much time you will spend and what results you will achieve. 

This sharpener will certainly do the job. The result will depend on the experience of the user, but comfort is out of the question. Thus, the greater the choice of equipment and size of the sharpening device, the more efficient and productive the work and the greater the range of possibilities.

The choice of parts and abrasives is directly related to the purpose of the sharpener itself. In other words, the choice depends on the types of your knives and the task at hand. The price of the abrasives and accessories will be a more significant factor than just the cost of the sharpening system. We will consider all these issues in detail.

  1. Size – small – compact and portable, large – aimed at the widest possible application - connection to the workplace

According to the size criteria, all sharpening systems can be divided into the following main groups:

  • Manual sharpening systems;
  • Stationary compact sharpeners;
  • Stationary medium-sized sharpeners;
  • Stationary advanced full-sized sharpeners.

Small manual sharpening systems are compact and easy to transport. You can hold this type of device in your hand and do small amounts of work. This solution is suitable for outside sharpening. Some manufacturers have accessories for attaching the device to the table for greater convenience. The most famous manufacturers of such solutions are DMT Aligner, EZE-LAP Sharpening kit, GATCO, TAIDEA Sharpening system, and Lansky.

Among these types of devices, there is no obvious best option and therefore it is difficult to give specific recommendations. It all depends on personal preferences and financial possibilities. Since the systems are equipped with long-life diamond stones that do not require opening or leveling and work on different steels, they are perfectly suitable for beginners. 

As for the stationary sharpening systems, they are much more complicated, because with increasing size the range of accessories, consumables and their application grows. In addition, some models are difficult to assign strictly to one or another group of sharpeners.

Today you can find compact stationary knife sharpening systems from such companies as: TSProf, Kazak, Hapstone, Edge Pro, Wicked Edge, KME, and Work Sharp Precision Adjust Knife. All of the systems in this range come with a set of abrasive stones. That said, TSProf and Edge Pro supply their units with more versatile consumables which fit most professional sharpening systems.  

Among the compact stationary sharpening systems with their own original consumables, the Wicked Edge solutions are worth mentioning. The system is designed in such a way that the abrasives can only be used on this system. Wicked Edge offers a range of abrasives on different bonding agents and is superior to all other competitor models in this category. However, Wicked Edge's abrasives are inferior to all other sharpening systems that use APEX format abrasives.

The Wicked Edge, KMFS, KME, and Work Sharp Precision Adjust Knife Sharpener have abrasives that are not interchangeable and therefore limited in their capabilities. In addition, the technical features of these devices do not allow you to sharpen some thin and long blades of household knives. Besides, some types of blades with certain geometries simply cannot be clamped in these devices.

Such systems from TSProf, Kazak, Hapstone, and Edge Pro, on the other hand, can sharpen long knives thanks to their design. Some models are still aimed at small knives and have their own distinctive features - the presence of a rotating frame, the size of the clamps, and the possibility of using abrasive bars on different bonding agents.

Besides TSProf, Kazak, Hapstone, and Edge Pro, most manufacturers support the idea of a compact design and offer the user only abrasives of a certain size, setting technological limits for the application.

In spite of their relatively compact size, all devices in this category have significant differences. Therefore, before you choose a compact device you should properly understand your purposes and the capabilities of this or that device. The main advantage of such sharpeners is their space-saving design and focus on operations with small knives.

Stationary medium-sized sharpeners such as TSProf Kadet; Kazak; Hapstone, and Edge PRO, in contrast to the previous group of devices are much larger and designed for use at home. Some models of the above manufacturers can claim to be professional sharpening devices, and some of them actually are. 

We should also emphasize that the physical size and kitting of the devices open up much more possibilities for the user, including the compatibility of components with other professional models of devices within the same brand. One example is the possibility of using clamps from TSProf Kadet on the sharpening device TSProf K03 and vice versa. The manufacturers of the Hapstone and Kazak sharpening systems use a similar principle.

Besides, due to their design, medium-sized sharpeners are able to cope with quite serious sharpening tasks, which are not always needed at home.

The size of the devices also allows them to be placed for work on any table without worrying about the preparation of a special workplace, and after use, they can be folded up and stored away. 

The abrasives that often come with these sharpening systems are the same size as on professional systems, and therefore it is possible to put together a set of abrasive stones according to your needs, rather than at the discretion of the manufacturer, as in the case of manual sharpeners.

Comparing medium-sized sharpeners with each other is not an easy task. Comparing technical capabilities with full-size sharpeners is a much more difficult question than all of the previous ones. 

Stationary advanced full-sized sharpeners are mainly represented with the following models: TSProf K03; Kazak UBR, Pro & Model 100; Hapstone R2, Grid Viva, Zigzag Max, Saturn.

Full-sized or advanced models of each manufacturer are considered the most suitable solution. This solution is best because of its wide technical capabilities. Their price is not the most important factor. Advanced models of sharpeners from any manufacturer can cope with the widest range of sharpening tasks and really sharpen any knife.

If you consider the line of devices of one manufacturer and try to compare them, it is actually quite difficult to draw a line between a device designed for a beginner and a device for a professional. A vivid example of such a comparison can be two TSPROF models: Kadet Pro and K03 Pro.

It is safe to say that if you give two sharpeners of different sizes from any manufacturer into the hands of one experienced sharpening specialist with the same set of abrasive stones and assign a task to sharpen two identical blades, the result will be the same.

For a less experienced user, of course, learning how to sharpen on the advanced version will be difficult, and understanding how this or that abrasive works will take more time, but it will undoubtedly pay off. 

In addition to the fact that the advanced models of the sharpeners can sharpen long and thin, flexible blades of complicated shapes and different weights, they can also sharpen various cutting tools, and allow the use of abrasives of different sizes, exceeding the APEX type.

Design and kitting features

Turning mechanism

True professional systems, not upstarts with "PRO" prefixes, are characterized by the presence of a turning mechanism. The peculiarity of the semi-automatic and automatic turning mechanism is the ability to turn the blade quickly. This process is especially important and critical at the finishing stages of sharpening when thin abrasives are used. The turning itself always takes longer than the actual work on one side of the secondary bevel.

Height adjusting mechanism

Before looking at the details of one or the other system, we should pay attention to one of the fundamental elements of a sharpening system - the adjustment of the angle of the abrasive guide with the abrasive holder. Some manufacturers offer a vertical bar, some have a toothed rack, and others have a more sophisticated technological solution in the form of a special rack and pinion lift.

The vertical bar solution is used not only to make the design cheaper but also because some manufacturers believe that a toothed rack or an expensive rack and pinion lift is unnecessary. 

The reason for this disagreement is based on the approach to the solution of using abrasives of different thicknesses during the same sharpening process. Of course, it is possible to use a thickness compensator and a micrometer controller in the finishing stages, if one is offered by the manufacturer at all.

Some believe that a toothed rack or a rack and pinion lift have no influence on sharpening and that they are not needed for regular sharpening at all. However, this is not entirely true. For a proper understanding, it is necessary to give an example and explain the nature of the abrasives.

Let us say you have a set of new or used abrasive stones from the same manufacturer. Even new abrasives may have a slight difference in thickness, not to mention the difference in thickness that can occur on used abrasives. It should be clear to everyone that the degree of wear of abrasives of different grit of the same series can hardly be the same. Besides, if the stones were previously levelled, you will have to compensate the thickness of each stone.

If the task is to sharpen the blade correctly and without increasing the angle during abrasive changes, the maximum accuracy of hitting the previous angle will give you a rack and pinion lift or micrometer controller in combination with a precise electronic angle finder. This can be critical, including at the finishing stages. A rack and pinion lift can also be useful if you need to return to a particular sharpening step and get an angle back to correct a mistake.

Angle adjustment with a toothed rack mechanism or a more complex rack and pinion lift is not strictly necessary but makes sharpening and the use of abrasives of different thicknesses much easier.

Modular design

The very notion of device modularity applies only to the large advanced sharpeners of the leading manufacturers of sharpening systems and is understood as a wide variety of applications for a wide range of tasks. In technical terms, there is a certain basic configuration of the sharpening device, or more correctly, the body of the sharpening system, on which all the attachments are mounted. In conjunction with this body, it is possible to use a special accessory or part to solve a specific task. Some manufacturers sometimes provide the opportunity to combine some of the offered parts, which greatly expands the capabilities of the sharpening device and makes the work much more convenient. 

As an example, such parts include such common solutions as additional clamps for sharpening special cutting tools. Sometimes these clamps come in a variety of sizes and are equipped with various additional clamping systems. Depending on their design features, they can be used to sharpen complex-shaped knife blades, chisels, scissors, and much more.

The list of such parts includes various attachments, connectors, clamps, as well as various special stops and mountings.

The wide range of tasks always requires the use of heterogeneous abrasives. Therefore, when manufacturers offer special versions of their sharpeners for sale, often they also offer certain sets of abrasive stones as part of the sharpening kit. Quite often they are useful for certain tasks, but over time the user, one way or another, will come to the conclusion that it is not enough.

 Kitting by abrasive stones

Every manufacturer or specialized store offers sharpening systems packed with sharpening stones during special promotions or for a certain period of time. This is very similar to the way you are offered a set of multi-purpose bits together with a drill at a construction store. It makes sense if the special price of a set of drills and bits is more profitable than buying them separately. Otherwise, what is the point of buying a system with abrasives that probably have no use? An experienced user or professional might think so.

On the other hand, if a beginner sharpener has to make a choice and is not yet familiar with the tasks he or she may encounter, the electroplated diamond plates will be more than enough In this case, the availability of, for example, diamond abrasive stones on a galvanic base may be useful for a while. All thanks to the fact that electroplated diamonds are the most simple consumable material.

Based on this, despite the fact that the sharpening system is equipped with a set of abrasive stones, it is safe to say that any user is bound to buy additional abrasives at some point. Due to this, one should not consider only the price of the system itself when considering which system to buy: mid-size or flagship, you should also consider the price of a kit. That is when you come to the decision that you need different abrasives and put together exactly what you will need, the difference in the cost of the sharpener itself on the overall background will be quite insignificant.

The criterion for the size of the sharpening device and the choice of the workplace

As mentioned, all of the sharpeners described above come in a variety of sizes and you will need a certain amount of space to use them. Of course, this space is not limited to the device itself, but also to all the accessories and boxes of abrasive stones that you use for a particular task. For compact systems, a kitchen table might be enough, but for the advanced models, you will have to worry about storing all your tools, and that can be a tricky issue.

Therefore, the bigger the system, the more different sets of abrasive stones, pastes, strops, and other stuff you have, the more space you will need. If you do not have a lot of space, a compact or medium-sized stationary sharpening system is fine. If you have the space, the funds, and the desire for sharpening experiments, then the advanced sharpener of one of the manufacturers will do for you.

Price of similar systems of different brands

If you compare similar sharpening systems from different manufacturers according to a number of the described parameters, you will most likely come to the conclusion that they do not have any key advantages. If such a key advantage is present in one design or another, then competitors will always adjust and offer their own similar solutions. On the other hand, there would be a noticeable difference in the price of the device, either downward or upward. These are simple market rules that apply not only to the market of sharpening systems or hand-held power tools but literally everything. It was, is, and will be. Of course, there are personal preferences, but along with all these aspects, other things being equal, the criterion of warranty and post-warranty service of your device will be a significant factor.

Important criterion

Every commercial contract has a warranty clause and sharpening systems, like any other product, are no exception. Most devices are made of metal, but metal can also fail for various technical reasons. Therefore sharpeners should be chosen not only according to personal preferences, range of accessories, and cost, but also according to the criterion of warranty and post-warranty service and availability of spare parts.

Conclusion

Among all sharpeners of the same class, there is no such thing as worse or better, they are just all different and each has its own strengths and there is no perfect sharpening system. 

On the other hand, if such a sharpening system existed, it would have to meet the following parameters:

  • Maximum versatility - for sharpening both knives and other cutting tools
  • Quality - of materials used in manufacturing to ensure durability
  • Angle setting precision - the wider the scale of the sharpening angles, the more possibilities, but the possibility of fine adjustment with minimal increments is recommended
  • Modular design - the ability to use different parts, additional accessories, and interchangeable parts within one brand
  • Range of abrasive stones for use with different steels with the correct grit size
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