Smith sharpening kit (the one with the rods)

Joined Aug 18, 2015
I picked up a used older Smith kit. It has a hard case vice the videos online with the zipper case, and you have to screw the guides on every time, but otherwise looks the same as the current kits.

I used the kit, coarse and fine stone at 20 degrees, on my KAI cheap knife, and it made a sharp edge. I cut the heck out of an onion and a pepper. It does the cool looking paper slice on printer paper. Thinking about trying the kit on a good knife.

What did I do wrong, if anything? 25 degrees? No oil next time?

I was at a family dinner for Thanksgiving and was asked to save/finish a few items because lazy, unknowing, and wine doesn't get anything done. My favorite was the 15 year old wustof knives which couldn't cut the turkey because they have been washed in the washer, and never sharpened. My wife volunteered me to sharpen them.

I may try the kit on family screwed up knives, or I may take them to the Sur La Table and have them do it to save me the PITA--they have a sign up they will do it cheap.

I do want to make my knives better, though.
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Joined Aug 18, 2015
I have been using a Chef's Choice 210 for a while, also supposed to be 20 degrees, but I haven't gotten this good of an edge and it takes off a fair amount of metal. This is the first really sharp edge I have put on.
Joined May 29, 2013
Most of these simplistic systems are just that, simplistic and not really all that good.

They are all for the most part variations on a theme, with the following phrases: Use it on a knife, sharpen the edge and you're good to go.

My reaction is that it probably hones the edge and leaves it at that. 

First, let's talk about the difference between honing and sharpening.

In use, knives with softer steel will have their microscopic edge pushed over to one side or the other.  That makes the knife feel dull.  To straighten out the edge, you run a honing rod at roughly the bevel angle along both sides of the edge alternating the hone from side to side on each successive stroke.  You don't need to do it very often - only about 4 times on each side.  You don't need much pressure - edges are (or should be microscopic.  And whatever you do DO NOT CLANG!  All you will do is whump the edge and cause damage.

The one hone I would flat out recommend is a 12 inch Idahone fine grit.  They run somewhere around $30, give or take a few dollars.  They do have one big problem - they are ceramic, and if you drop one, don't be surprised if it shatters and you need to buy a new one.

What hones don't do too well is sharpen.  That involves the removal of metal.  The Smith system, other vertical rod systems and "pull-through" systems will remove metal, but only in a very coarse process.  That leaves a microscopically coarse edger, which is very prone to becoming dull fast.

Yes, you can use a motorized sharpener.  However, consider that such motorized sharpeners normally will also leave a coarse edge (and if you go to Sur la Table, all they will do is run your knives' edges through either a Chef's Choice, or something very similar).  

A second problem is that these motorized grinders will heat up the edge of the blade.  That heat energy will dissipate through the metal, but not until the edge itself really, REALLY heats up, BEFORE the heat energy can dissipate through the metal.  And when you heat up the metal, then it changes the tempering of the steel (Keep in mind that the Tempering process takes place around 400 to 450 degrees Farenheit).  And if the metal is heated up at the immediate edge (we're talking about the microscopic edge area itself), the steel can be changed, so that the steel in the edge simply won't hold.  Then, you will be back to square one, needing the edge to be re-established.

That's one reason why I don't like motorized grinding wheels.  A second reason is that there's no way to easily avoid having the surface of the grinding wheel become loaded with fused-on particles, and become unable to grind.

That's why a lot of us here simply recommend using sharpening stones.

Here's a written tutorial by Chad Ward about sharpening:

And here's a set of videos by Jon Broida on how to sharpen:

Generally, water stones are going to work very well for you.  Getting them wet enough to hold moisture on the surface will allow you to work up a slurry of water, stone and sharpening particles (known as "swarf") that will allow you to efficiently sharpen.  The sharpening action will continuously expose new sharpening stone, and aid in avoiding glazing the surface of the stone.

If you just want a single stone, then first consider size.  You will need a stone not smaller than 8 inches (205 mm) by 2 inches (50 mm) in surface area.  And for a grit, consider something about 1000 grit for your first stone.  Then look for something in the 3000 to 5000 grit for your second stone and 500 grit for a repair stone (when you really need to remove metal).

There are some reputable jigs out there, but they cost a few hundred dollars.  You can look at either the Edge Pro Apex system, or the Wicked Edge system.  Both have good points (they work and they will give you very consistent results, with minimal experience) and one significant bad point (they cost $$$).

Beyond the sharpening process and the honing process is how to minimize dulling the edge.  That means getting a good quality cutting board.  A hardwood end grain board, properly seasoned with mineral oil is the gold standard here.  But, again, not cheap.

Hope that gives you something to chew on.

Galley Swiller
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