Test Lab: Work Sharp 3000 Tool Sharpener Review

by on Nov 11, 2011

A peach colored peg board has white letters spelling out "Test Lab".

After hanging out in the DIY scene for a few years, I’ve realized something: a lot of creative projects are simply involve cutting or shaping raw materials and then putting them back together again. Of course, there are “from the ground up” projects, like painting or crochet, but sewing, cooking, woodworking, paper crafting, and many more require means to break down materials like wood, fabric, or vegetables into specific shapes before putting them back together in the way you want.

created at: 11/09/2011And that, friends, requires sharp tools. Any time you use a blade, you break down the edge, twisting the metal out, dulling it and making it less useful. Even cutting regular paper with scissors. created at: 11/09/2011But here’s the thing – not only are sharp blades more effective, they’re actually safer. So, having sharp tools, like scissors, kitchen knives, carving tools, saw blades, chisels, and paper cutters allows you to work faster, and cut yourself less. 

Enter the Work Sharp 3000. Whereas with traditional two wheel sharpeners and stones, sharpening is usually best left to professionals, who know how to keep the right angle, or bevel, on the tools edge for maximum material removal. But, the Work Sharp 3000 allows you to choose the appropriate edge for different kinds of tools, making it possible to sharpen your own tools at home, and with basically no training. 

I’ve never used any sort of sharpening system [instead taking them to the pros at the local cutlery shop], and within an hour, I was able to put the correct razor-sharp edge on all of my kitchen knives, scissors, chisels, plane irons, and turning tools.

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The Work Sharp 3000 features a two sided spinning glass wheel onto which you attach a series of abrasives and honing pads. It offers three different ways (four with the optional knife and scissor add-on, below) to sharpen your tools: the tool rest, the chisel/plane iron port, and the Edge-Vision see-through wheel. Yeah, see-through.

Free hand sharpening is simple enough using the top tool rest, good for things like lawnmower blades, ax heads, or any large blade. But the most inventive part is the port, allowing you to create a perfect  20°, 25°, 30° or 35° bevel angle without any set up time, and in, like, ten seconds.  

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You simply select your chosen angle, slide it into the port 3-4 times, then pull out across the heat sink, which keeps the blade cool. Done. Look at the quick work it made of my crappy chisel that I use for bad things like opening paint cans and getting thick plastic packaging off. I had given up of this thing, keeping it around for decidedly not-chisel tasks.

created at: 11/09/2011Boom. Shiny, like new, with a snazzy 5-degree micro-bevel. 

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Work Sharp was also kind enough to include a wide-blade attachment, allowing you to keep a perfect bevel on wider blades that don’t fit in the side port. It works wonderfully.

created at: 11/09/2011The Work Sharp 3000 also makes quick work of turning tools, like this very banged up skew chisel With traditional bench grinders, you basically sharpen gouges and turning chisels blindly, since the sharp edge of the tool is on the other side of the tool when sharpening. But the Work Sharp includes a see-through slotted wheel, kinda like a zoetrope, that allows you to see through the abrasive wheel and keep an eye on the edge you’re sharpening. created at: 11/09/2011

See? The wheel is running, and I’m sharpening the skew chisel underneath it! Awesome.

The most interesting for Curbly readers is likely the scissor and knife sharpening attachment. This add-on allows you to sharpen kitchen knives, scissors, serrated knives pocket knives, and crafting tools. One of the best ways to tell if your kitchen knives are sharp is to try to lop off the corner of a sheet of printer paper. I did, and here’s what happened: created at: 11/09/2011

No dice. The cut is jagged, the paper crumpled, and it didn’t make it all the way through. Either time. So, I mounted up the belt sharpening system, and ran all my knives, using the guide to maintain my chosen angle (a 20-degree bevel)…created at: 11/09/2011

…and look! Nice and slicey:

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I even trusted my heavy-duty, German steel tailor sheers that I never let touch anything but fabric, and sharpened at 60-degrees, and…it totally worked. No more waiting in line on that one day a year when the dude comes to the craft store.

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The instructions that come with the belt sharpener are super helpful, and take you from starting a fresh edge to razor-sharp honing. Excellent.

I’ve owned tools that needed sharpening for nearly a decade now – and there’s a reason I’ve been paying someone for years to do it for me. There simply wasn’t an all-in-one tool that I felt comfortable using without running my edge. Believe me, I looked. Now, there is, and the $200 Work Sharp is indeed money well spent for DIYers.

If you’re not one to use chisels and planes, etc, Work Sharp makes an affordable knife and scissor sharpener that works on the same principle at the attachment, but without the wheel. I bet it’d be great.

I recommend it indeed.


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