Knife Sharpening Systems are Time-Tested and Precise - Carolina Country

Knife Sharpening Systems are Time-Tested and Precise

They also make for a sharp gift idea

By Mike Zlotnicki

Knife Sharpening Systems are Time-Tested and Precise

GATCO 5-Stone sharpening system. Photo by Mike Zlotnicki.

When it comes to the gift for “the sportsman who has everything,” a controlled-angle knife sharpening system is hard to beat.

Your dad and granddad may have used a whet stone back in the day, and I still have some floating around the house. These specialty knife sharpening systems are simply really good and easy to use.

The two main brands are GATCO (Great American Tool Company) and Lansky. They are nearly identical, and I’ve used the GATCO brand since the late Fred Bonner gave me one for Christmas in the mid ’90s. The premise is that different types of knives have different angles to the bevel (sharp part of the blade), and these sharpening systems enable one to stay on the same angle and use various sharpening stones affixed to rods to put the edge on a knife.

For instance, pictured is a Buck Zipper fixed blade knife, a popular model for deer hunters. The directions recommend using the 25-degree angle hole in the clamp. I bought an accessory clamp holder and attached it to a small plank of wood, which then clamps to my work surface. Starting with the course stone, you go up and down the blade, then flip and do the other side. Next I move to medium coarse, then fine, then extra fine until you can literally shave hair off of your arm (but don’t try that). For a typical folding or fixed blade hunting knife, it only takes about five minutes to go from dull to very sharp.

I’ll still carry a small portable sharpener if I’m going deer hunting, but these systems excel at rejuvenating an old or “abused” knife and making it useful again.

Any and all blades

Clarence Claus Wrap

These sharpening systems can handle the full spectrum of blades, from utility to culinary. Pocket and hunting knives are recommended for the 25-degree angle, but there are six angled holes in the clamp ranging from 11 degrees (razor blades and X-Acto knives) to 30 degrees (utility cutlery like carpet knives).

Sharpening serrated cutlery is also possible using a V-shaped stone. You use the 30-degree angle and sharpen each serration on the sharpened side of the blade. Kitchen knives have a range of uses,
and the system’s instructions offer an equal range of sharpening angles to get it just right — 19 degrees for fillet knives and 22 degrees for most kitchen knives. It’s pretty nice to pick up any knife in the kitchen and know that it’s sharper than the day you brought it home.

The kits come with a small bottle of honing oil. The basic systems have three stones. The deluxe systems have five stones and use diamond surfaces for abrasion. Prices run from around $50 to just over $100. Go to for more information on their systems. Bear & Son bought the GATCO sharpening division in 2016, so go to for information on the GATCO system.

These sharpening systems may seem “over the top,” but they work, and work well. You may find yourself seeking out knives to sharpen if you purchase one, or better yet, unwrap one from under the tree.

About the Author

Mike Zlotnicki is associate editor at Wildlife in North Carolina magazine. He lives in Garner with his wife, three daughters and two German shorthaired pointers.

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