Many woodworkers already know how to sharpen knives, but in many cases, those around us, family members, friends, co-workers are often challenged by knife sharpening, but now, finally ... there is a way we can all have sharp knives. And wouldn't it be nice to have the knife sharpener right beside the knives at all times? An easy build for home or for a gift idea, everyone can use a small footprint knife block.

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I recall as a woodworker being disappointed with the quality of my chisel and plane blade sharpening. Even after I would sharpen them they still didn't work properly. One day I confided in an older, experienced woodworker who told me I was doing everything correctly, except I was not removing the "Burr" ...

 The "Burr"? what was that?  Then he explained that when we sharpen blades across their cutting surface, we often end up with a very fine burr along the edge of the blade and if this is not removed, even an otherwise sharp blade will not cut properly. 

Knife sharpening system

This same principle is true of knife blades, when sharpened across their edge, they can end up with burrs which prevents them from cutting their best, especially if you are cutting cooked meat which already has a tendency to tear, sharp blades are imperative. The other obstruction that will cause all blades to perform poorly is nicking in the blade. Nicks will tend to grab whatever they are cutting and tear, and it doesn't matter whether it is wood or meat, nicks need to be avoided. For knives, one of the best places for getting nicks in your knife blades in the dishwasher. Knives are often placed in a position with other knives or steel utensils and an as water is sprayed against them they bump and bump together until nicks and small chips are broken off the blade edges. The other issue with knives in the dishwasher, even stainless steel, is that moisture will get in between the steel blade handle and the grips and begin a corrosion process that may not damage the knife tang, but often will corrode that rivets that are holding the handle parts to the tang.

Thanks to the innovative minds and M-Power Tools, there is a whole new idea in blade sharpening that avoids making a burr and allows for quick and easy knife sharpening that they call Fasttrack Knife Sharpener. The sharpener uses a Diamond Stone that clips into place and is held there by a small powerful magnet. The sharpener comes with a 220 Grit Diamond Stone, but others grits can also be ordered like 450, 600 and even 1000 grit. 

Fasttrack Knife Sharpener

 M-Power Knife Sharpener

It is so easy to sharpen knives with this unit because of the 2 magnets on the opposite inside face that holds the knife blade at the proper angle for sharpening, then all you need to do is drag the knife through the sharpener a few times on one side, then turn it over and do the same on the other side and in no time you have a nice sharp knife. 

If you want an even finer edge, you can do what I did and order a little bit higher grit like 450 or 600 which is perfect for "tuning up" an already pretty sharp blade and making it even sharper, which can easily be done every few days when the knife is used to ensure you always have a sharp knife on hand. 

Example of the 600 Grit Diamond Stone


 Nobody more than a woodworker understands why sharp blades are important, and why keeping them sharp is easier than trying to re-sharpen completely dull, pitted blades, so having a knife block that holds the knife sharpener just makes sense ... and it's easy to build and especially for smaller kitchens with less counter space, this knife block looks great and works great.

You can make this any size you want, with any woods that you want to use Walnut and Alder in the glue up, then cut the finished size down to  3" thick, by 5-1/2" wide and 10" tall. If you have knives with longer blades, you may need to adjust the height. The knife holder took me a couple of tries to get the best fit, but with a Forstner bit that was 1-3/8 inches (or if you have a 35 mm Forstner bit that is used for installing European Hinges, that works great too). I found having the Forstner bit overhang the wood by 1/2" was a perfect depth to hold the Fasttrack sharpener. 

For accents, I made some walnut edges by rounding off the edges first with my Palm Sander, then cutting off the strip on my table saw. For quicker assembly, I used 5-minute epoxy to attach the sharpener holder and the walnut strips. For the finish on my block, I used Teak-Olje from the Owatrol company, one of my new favorite oil finishes, a teak oil finish that really "pops" the color and texture of the wood. 

Knife Block

The Fasttrack sharpener is a revelation in knife sharpening, and now anyone, even woodworkers who know sharpening techniques can have a quick easy way of keeping knives sharp ... any maybe even make few knife blocks along the way ... a quick, easy answer to knife sharpening.

Copyright Colin Knecht

How to make a knife block