By the time winter comes around, I have so many knives in such dire need of sharpening that I have to put aside a big block of time to work on them. I generally use a series of honing stones of decreasing grit size for this. Once I restore (or, in some cases, build) the blade bevel, I use a sharpening rod coated with industrial diamonds to touch up the blades as I use them through the rest of the year.
I have discovered a product that may make my old sharpening stones obsolete. Called the Guided Sharpening System, from the Oregon company Work Sharp, it uses a pivoting sharpening plate to follow the blade’s contour, simplifying the process of building a consistent bevel on just about any type of knife or tool.
The heart of the portable benchtop system is the pivoting plate, guided by angled blocks that keep blades at either 20 degrees or the more aggressive 17 degrees. By pushing a blade across the plate, you replicate the swirling motion you may be familiar with from using a honing stone. The tilt of the plate ensures that you maintain the proper angle across the entire length of the blade. Doing this repeatedly will build up a burr on the off side of the blade. Turn the knife over and grind down the burr. Repeat with the fine-grit plate. In about half the time you might spend on a stone, you can build a sharp edge, which can then be refined with an included ceramic rod.
The system also works with serrated blades and fishhooks. I’m not giving away my honing stones, but by cutting in half the time I spend sharpening my knives with the Work Sharp unit, I figure I can double the number of blades I own. ($60; worksharptools.com)