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The worst part about buying a high priced knife is that half the time they don’t come sharp out of the box. Now, I’m a man of particular tastes. I like my soup boiling hot, my steak bleeding, and my knives sharp enough to shave the tiny hairs on the back of my knuckles. So, when I order a $200 knife I don’t want to be using it to spread butter, call me crazy.
Imagine your wallet a lot lighter and that you have a hunk of dull steel in your hand, what to do? For the imaginative amongst us, the first step is to grind that piece of steel against some kind of rock like our cave-dwelling ancestors did before us. This is where sharpening stones come in, and they come in all varieties. So you go out and buy a $10 water stone, take it back home and hack it at it with your newly-bought bowie. Congratulations, you just ruined your blade and that part of your self-esteem which thinks instructions are for losers.
Of course, there’s an easier solution than actually learning how to properly sharpen a knife, this is the twenty-first century after all. So in come the “idiot proof” sharpeners, among them the Warthog V-Sharp. The specific model I’m reviewing today is the XE, “Xtreme Edge”.
It is about the size of a personal pizza, made of an ABS plastic frame, some nails and springs. It is extremely light, and (if you have the space for it) could be carried easily in a pack for field use. The XE model comes with two 325-grit diamond sharpening rods crisscrossing for the titular V shape. To sharpen, the operator draws the blade down and out against the sharpening rods. Here’s a instructional video for your viewing pleasure:
The process itself is fairly painless and easy to master. The angle of the sharpening rods can be changed from 17°, 20°, 25° and 30° by simply popping them out of place and adjusting to the position you desire.
I used my V-sharp to hone a few kitchen knives, two folders, a machete, and the dullest fixed blade you’ve ever seen.
Here are the results of my tests.
The construction of the XE model is solid, but it doesn’t look that way. In fact, right out of the box my first impression was “if I ever step on this, I’ll have a lot of plastic to pick out of my foot.” The tiny lettering on the box assured me that the frame was “high impact” which in my vocabulary I took to mean that I can run it over with my car to minimal damage. So I took it outside and threw it around a bit on the sidewalk. True to its word, other than a few scratches, the XE seemed to be fine (although I did manage to pop out one of the rods and loosen a spring). This unexpected resilience is due to its ABS plastic construction, which with a little research, I found was the same material used in car bumpers.
The diamond sharpening rods themselves are also well made, although they are only one-sided which cuts down on their lifespan by half. Additional rods are for sale in 325, 600, and 1000 grit for the somewhat expensive price of $26.95 USD. So you better hope that your first pair will last you for a long duration.
Overall, I like the construction and V-shaped design of the XE, as well as the quality of the materials. I did not however, run it over with my car so we’ll never know the full extent of its “high impact” capabilities.
The selling point of the V-Sharp is that it is easy to use. It earns a gold star in this regard. Sharpening with the XE is intuitive and smooth with zero fuss. It is simply one of the easiest sharpening systems I have run across.
However, does it work?
Yes. The knives I used on it were all in various stages of dullness and the XE made them usable again. I found that the best results were the kitchen knives at the lower angles. As I moved up the angle spectrum, the results were less stellar, but that of course was expected.
I’d say that my best efforts produced an 8/10 on my personal sharpness scale. That is, the blade is sufficiently sharp enough to slice everyday newspaper but not capable of shaving human hair. Overall, I was pretty happy with this result.
However, I found that using the XE on longer blades such as a machete is awkward. You would have to bolt down the XE to a flat surface and be careful not to the twist the blade (however slightly) as you sharpen it, as that would misalign the cutting edge and mess up the bevels.
The XE also imparts a rather toothy, uneven edge, which you would have to further hone to avoid a ripping effect. For this, there is a steeling tool on the back of the hone rods and it works decently. On thinner knives this is not an issue.
Flat out, the XE costs near $70 retail, which is expensive for what it does compared to other existing products. Despite this high price tag, I found that the construction and craftsmanship of the sharpener does in some part make up for it. Just know that you are trading what is essentially one decently priced knife for a sharpener.
I would recommend the V-Sharp XE, especially to someone new at knives. It is a solid machine that I found to be pretty reliable and puts out positive results. The only fault I have with it is the steep price. Other than that, things work much or less like the advertisements say. Of course, it will never give your blades the super sharp, touch-it-and bleed edge. For that, unfortunately, you would have to do it the hard way and buy a book on how to handle sharpening stones.
Images courtesy Daniel Xu