See: http://www.wickededgeusa.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=82. There is a lot of good information there, plus a forum of users.
Being somewhat geeky, I recently purchased the Wicked Edge Precision Sharpener, “Pro-Pack” along with an additional sets of 800/100 diamond ‘stones’ and a set of ceramic ‘stones’ for curved blades for an embarrassingly large amount of money, even on sale. But hey, I have bought some expensive knives and if added up, there is far more money invested in the knives than the sharpener. Rationalization is a wonderful tool.
The adage, “Cry once, buy once” that fits this purchase. I have a few sharpening systems, among others the Spyderco crocksticks and a DMT, both for well under $100. They both put a nice edge on a knife, but nothing eye-popping amazing. What is nice about those systems is that they are small and easily thrown in knapsack or bag. The WEPS is definitely a base-camp or home unit.
The WEPS puts on a beyond professional sharpened edge on my knives. Amazing results on both a functional level and an esthetic level; elegant.
There is a learning curve but it is a gentle curve; the first knife I sharpened came out sharper and better looking than any previous attempt on other systems. I’ve done about 10 knives so far and the results keep improving and the thrill is just beginning. I’m pestering friends to sharpen their knives.
I ordered mine through a distributor, oldawan.com. Nice easy transaction and fast delivery. Wicked Edge was having some delays but may soon be up to date .
The WEPS is elegant, it has the look, feel and function of a precision instrument. It is. You have a few choices for the base to mount the clamp. I regret not spending a few more (fiat) dollars and getting one of the heavy granite ones. The clamp, now secured on the base, is the backbone of the system. It doesn’t move. You can pick up the the whole thing by lifting the handle of the knife. Impressive.
The clamp is similar to the Lansky and other systems, just beefier and more precise. Place the blade in (more on this later), snug up the top screw, then tighten the lower screw. The hardened aluminum clamp holds the blade nicely. If the spine part of the blade is not 90*, the clamps often have a hard time tight and some sort of insert needs to placed between the knife and the vise arms. Many use foamy double sided tape or chamois cloth to take up the space between the right angles of the vise arms and the angled spine.
Some attention needs to used to properly center the blade fore and aft; my first few knives were clamped too close to the heel of the knife which resulted in a wider bevel along the curved portion of the knife as compared to the straight part. Alignment stayed true. It is more of an aesthetic issue than functional.
Underneath the vise part of the base are two symmetric arms that jut out and are inscribed in 1 degree hash marks labeled from 15 to 30 degrees. There are little divots in the sides of the stationary arms to screw the operating rods in tight.These are just estimations as mounting the blade higher or lower in the clamp will change the angle a bit. This is why you see folks on the Wicked Edge forum talking about the ‘Angle Cube” readings -- some (yeah, me too) measure the actual angle verses the indicated angle.
Now we talk about the rods, the parts I think ‘make’ the WEPS. At this point take a break and watch a few youtube videos on the sharpener sent in by happy users with more technological prowess than I. But then, I can hit their video camera at 500 yards with my 308, so there. The rods pivot across the blade and the stones move up and down. This elegant set up keeps the stone at the same angle along the edge. Its like comparing a straight line drawn with a ruler versus freehand. Additionally, you do a stroke on the right side, then the left side, keeping things even. Try doing this with a Lansky or freehand! Or you can do 5 or 10 strokes on one side to check burr development on the other. No comparison. End of story.
The basic system comes with 2 pairs of stones, each pair has 2 grits. 100, 200, the other 400 and 600. These let you reprofile an edge (eg: a 20* angel from the manufacturer and you take it down to 15*) and take it to more than adequate sharpness. It doesn’t quite take you to the mirror edge I love to see (and use), so I got the Pro System which includes 800 and 1000 grit stones and leather strops (5/3.5 micron (flippin’ microns!) and paste. Using all the stones (not the strops) puts a glowing edge on knives and using the lower angles, will slice through paper using only the weight of the blade. The strops add some sharpness but for me, its the aesthetic of a truly mirror finish. Place the edge on a printed page, you can read the letters. Cool.
The sharpening process is best viewed on youtube or the Wicked Edge site. The instructions are also available under “Instructions” under “Resources”. Basically, place the blade in the clamp on the depth guide with the alignment guide in place, and tighten. If this makes no sense to you, you didn’t read the instructions! What I do then, I learned from the Wicked Edge site. I take a magic marker and draw it down the existing edge, essentially painting the bevel. I lightly run a stone across the now painted edge and see where the marker is removed. This allows a good visual check on how the stones remove the metal along the curved portion of the blade so that you don’t develop an much wider bevel along the curve. See “Finding the Sweet Spot - Positioning Your Knife Front to Back” under Directions under Resources on their web site. It also allows you to visually determine you’ve developed a burr.
To fully benefit from the WEPS, you may need to brush up on your knife sharpening theory. Google “Experiments on Knife Sharpening John D. Verhoeven Emeritus Professor Department of Materials Science and Engineering Iowa State University Ames, IA” -- electron micrographs!! And also look at the less high-brow http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/. The bottom line, the sharper, the less durable and the more durable, the less sharp. You will need to make compromises, a 15* angle on a little pocket knife is fine, but such an acute angle does not belong a camping knife that you baton the occasional log or use like a machete. If you’re going to drop the fiat $$$ on this system, read the two. You may also be interested in taking a look at http://sharpeningtechniques.blogspot.com/ (by the developer of the WEPS). If these don’t hold your interest, then the WEPS may not be for you.
The advantages of the WEPS is found in their name -- precision. Add on sharpening both sides simultaneously (less time) and the ability to get as fancy as you want. Great customer service (I stripped a bolt as I often do, and at first they sent a replacement screw, then I got a letter that they thought that perhaps the arm threading caused the problem and sent a replacement arm with its screw, both completely free of charge.
Disadvantages. Hmmm. It’s not easily taken when camping. But then, I knew that. At best, it’s a base camp item rather than back packing item. Big deal. The knives sharpened with the WEPS holds their edge very, very well and any touch ups needed should be taken care of by a smaller, more portable system.
Is it right for you? A few hundred dollars for a sharpener? Either a waste of money or a bargain depending on your likes. I like a sharp knife and no system I’ve used has come close. It’s a pleasure to use. It’s a pleasure to look at the results. I just don’t like the bald spots on my arms where I test the edge.... If you enjoyed the paper Experiments on Knife Sharpening, then I think it will be money well-spent.
For pics of the WEPS system, please go to their site and to youtube.