With the story out of the way in the first post here, the time has come for the actual review of the Wicked Edge Precision Sharpening System (WEPS). As I mentioned previously, I purchased the Pro-Pack I, which included the base sharpener, plus the Paperstone base, 800/1000 grit stones, and the 5µm and 3.5µm strops. I ordered it over the phone, expecting it to be several weeks before I got it, but was pleasantly surprised when it shipped about 1.5weeks later, and I had it all ready in about 2 weeks.
Now, my main set of kitchen knives are pretty nice, and had recently been sharpened professionally, so I wasn’t about to “learn” the system on those. But I did have a couple cheap/old pairing knives to learn on. This was probably a bit of a mistake, since the angles allowed by the system are affected by the “height” of the blade (as well as it’s placement in the vise).
What this allows, though, is repeatability. By placing the blade in a specific space in relation to the arms, and by setting the arms to a specific degree, you can sharpen a blade, use it until it needs sharpening again, then come back and “touch up” without removing much material… basically, sharpener becomes hone (unless there’s serious need to step back to lower grits).
So anyway, I got my pairing knives, and went to work. First thing I noticed, once I mounted the blade, and started with the 100grit stones was the sheer volume of metal dust. I was re-profiling the blade angle, but I was a bit shocked. I was also a bit surprised at how mediocre the results were after I had progressed. At this point, I was completely ignoring the strops since I didn’t want to ruin them by mistake (would rather figure out how to use the system first, then add additional steps). The knife SEEMED sharp, but wouldn’t cut paper really. Having read a lot of forum threads on the the WEPS, I knew the first knife was probably going to be subpar. So, I tried again, and spent a bit more time making sure the burr was formed. Then slowly progressed from stage to stage, making sure I was spending enough time on each. After the 1000grit, I stopped and tested. Better, but still “eh”. So, I stopped for the night, and got some rest.
The next evening after work and some more reading, I figured that maybe the issue was the steel. So, a grabbed a better pairing knife, and gave it a try. Progressing through the stages (at the same angle as the previous blade), and in the end the result was a sharper blade, but still not really sharp. So, I bit the bullet, and pulled out the strops. After applying the compound, I went to work on the blade. A few minutes later, I gave it another shot at cutting paper, and boy howdy was there a difference. The blade went from “sharp” to sharp. Before this I was pretty skeptical about stropping, regardless of the posts I’d read, but after, I was a convert, and I’ve stropped every blade since.
So, having done a good job with the second blade, I went back and tried with the first again. This time stropping at the end, and the result was very similar to the second blade. So, learning curve for basic sharpening seems to be about 3 blades. =)
Having exhausted my easily sharpen-able blades, I waited a couple days for my wife to bring home a couple beater knives from her work kitchen. These were largely blades that had been donated over the years to the office kitchen. The first one to come in was a santoku style blade that had certainly seen better days. Figuring it was an Asian style knife, I set the angle to 16° on each side, and went to work. After a bit of work, it was extremely sharp, and she took it back to work.
Next day, she brought home several other knives from work, including a fillet/boning knife that was 12″ long. This was a fairly difficult item to sharpen since there was a bit of play in the blade, but working on it in stages worked, and soon I had a knife that was more like a small sword than a knife. =)
In total at this point, I’ve sharpened about 6 knives, and they’ve all come out very sharp after getting the hang of things. Around the forums, most say results improve with the stones breaking in. While that’s no doubt true, I think there’s a lot to be said with technique as well. I started out almost overworking things, where after a while, it becomes a bit more comfortable, and you figure out when you’re done with a stone grit, as well as when you’ve finished developing a burr, which is probably the biggest single thing to know when sharpening. Until you have a burr on the knife, you’re not really sharpening so much as profiling.
So what do I think? It was a bit more than I’d suggest anyone buying, but given the number of sharpening opportunities I’ll have (no one in my or my wife’s family have their knives sharpened), I foresee it becoming a bit of a hobby that should benefit everyone. =)
Links of interest: