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Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener vs Ken Onion Edition – An In-depth Comparison

Most of the knife enthusiasts know the superior power of Work Sharp Sharpeners. Among the various models, the Original Knife & Tool Sharpener and the Ken Onion Edition have always been the best sellers on the market.

Regardless of the models, the results have always been good. In short, you have versatility, portability, and superior sharpening results all packed in one sharpener.

Buying Decision
If you’ve already made up your mind to buy the Original Work Sharp Sharpener, click here to check the price. Or click here for the Ken Onion Edition.

As we know, the original Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener has all the basic functions and it’s way cheaper than the upgraded model – Ken Onion Knife Sharpener.

So, which sharpener should you buy?

Under $100 or more?

As a matter of fact, we’d want everything (advanced features and sharpening capabilities) included in the package but on the flip side we wouldn’t want to part with the hard-earned cash for the Ken Onion Edition.

Not because it’s not a worthy purchase, but rather some may not know its sharpening capabilities.

If you’re sitting on the fence deciding which model to buy, you may want to read the reviews of the two top-selling sharpeners – Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener and Ken Onion Knife Sharpener.

Otherwise, let’s proceed with the comparison.

In this article, we’ll discuss the in-depth comparison of the functions, pros and cons of the two sharpeners, so it’s easy for you to make an informed decision.

Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener vs Ken Onion Edition

The table below shows a quick comparison of the two sharpeners.

Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition
½” x 12” Belt (included 6 belts, 2 of each type) ¾” x 12” Belt (included 5 belts)
Fixed speed motor – 120VAC / 0.7 amp Variable motor speed (1200 to 2800 SFM) – 120VAC / 1.5 amp
Duty cycle – 20 minutes/hour Duty cycle – 1 hour continuous
Fix angle guides (40°, 50°, and 65°) Adjustable angle guides ( 15° to 30° with 1° increment)
Power switch lockout (3-position power switch) Power switch lockout (on top of power trigger switch)
Adjustable sharpening cassette Adjustable sharpening cassette
No expansion capabilities Expansion capabilities (blade grinder and tool grinder)
Weight = 2.05 lbs Weight = 3.3 lbs
Dimension = 13.1 x 5.4 x 8.3 inches Dimension = 5.5 x 11 x 6 inches

Abrasive Belt Size

Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener and Belts

The original sharpener uses ½” wide belts for all grinding tasks while the Ken Onion Edition uses a wider belt of ¾” except for the 6000 grit belt (½” wide) for final touch-ups.

Does it make any difference?

Well, the ¾” belt has a wider grinding surface area. Overall, this will improve stability and speed up the entire work.

Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener Ken Onion Edition

The Original model comes with 3 different grit belts:

  • P80, P220, and 6000 grit.

The Ken Onion Edition includes 5 different grit belts:

  • P120, X65, X22, X4, and 6000 grit

Work sharp belts are quite lasting, though.

From this comparison, Ken Onion Edition wins hands down based 2 advantages:

  1. It packs with more abrasive belts and thus you have more selections for different sharpening applications.
  2. The wider belts do ensure stability and speedy work.

Motor Speed & Duty Cycle

The fixed speed motor of the Original Work Sharp Sharpener has limited functions.

Basically, you control the knife to suit the motor speed to achieve good results. And the motor is not as powerful as the big brother Ken Onion Edition.

Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener

Don’t get me wrong.

This original motor is considered very powerful for most of the sharpening tasks, from kitchen knives to hunting knives. You can even sharpen different types of swords and tools with this sharpener.

But one thing for sure the duty cycle of the original motor is only 20 minutes per hour. That means for every 20 minutes of continuous operation, it needs to shut down for another 40 minutes to cool the motor before the next cycle.

Try to feel the heat of the motor with your fingers immediately after the duty cycle, you’ll prey and hope it still works the next time.

Be mindful if you’re rushing a lot of grinding works in a very short amount of time. You’ll spend more time staring at the machine than grinding. The 20/40 rule applies.

However, the Ken Onion Edition triples the operating time. For home users, the one hour continuous duty cycle is more than sufficient for most of the grinding works.

Please understand this safety feature.

No one wants to damage the motor running non-stop for days and no manufacturer will guarantee any handheld device with a motor can operate continuously without any cooling time. We all know this is not practical.

It’s good to emphasize and understand the limits of the duty cycle to safely operate the sharpening machine. This will ensure its longevity and personal safety as well.

Now, we’ll talk about speed control.

Only the Ken Onion Sharpener has full control of the speed via the adjustable knob and the trigger switch.

The difference between full control and no control is massive if you’re an advanced user or a repairman who wants to have speed control over the entire sharpening process for different applications.

For example, you can set to high speed for coarse grinding and slow speed for honing the blade. You have full control of the entire sharpening process and this makes a great difference in the end result.

In fact, the speed variation is one of the important upgrades in this edition. This major improvement is the  first selling point  of the Ken Onion Edition.

Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener Ken Onion Edition

The speed adjustment knob is conveniently located underneath the hand grip.

From this comparison, the crown goes to the big brother Ken Onion Edition. The high-power motor with a longer duty cycle combined with speed control will provide a full control experience for advanced users.



Fixed vs Adjustable Angle Guide

Can the Original Work Sharp Sharpener sharpen Japanese style of knives?

Too bad! It’s not designed for.

The fixed 40° angle (single bevel of 20°) is designed for typical European kitchen knives. Although it can effectively sharpen hunting or other thicker knives, it lacks the fine angle adjustments of the Ken Onion Sharpener.

Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener Ken Onion Edition

On the other hand, the adjustable angle of the Ken Onion Edition makes it a dream comes true as a truly versatile knife and tool sharpener. You can use it to sharpen any knife of bevel angle in between of 15° and 30° with 1° increment.

You can take it as an all-in-one sharpener to repair all kinds of knives and tools without the need to swop sharpeners.

One sharpener does it all. This is the  second selling point  of the Ken Onion Knife Sharpener.

From this comparison, we know the Ken Onion Sharpener can handle all kinds of bevel angles while the Original Work Sharp has quite a limitation – 20° and 25°.

Power Switch Lockout

Both have power lockout switch function but different in design. The original Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener uses a 3-position power switch, of which one position is the lockout switch.

The Ken Onion Edition’s power lockout switch is located on top of the trigger button. Whether it’s better or not, it’s up to the individual’s preference.

Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition FeaturesBut one thing for sure you’ll notice the trigger switch is bigger and sturdy, has better grip.

There’s no difference in function. But for safety reasons, do not abuse this switch. Try to have full control of the trigger switch while sharpening.

This will ensure the motor can be stopped any time before something bad could happen.

So, what’s the use of the lockout switch?

For advanced users and machinists, this switch can be permanently turned on (at least for the moment) when you’re holding a knife with both hands (tip and handle) for stability.

This function is recommended only if you’ve experienced using the sharpener.

From this comparison, it’s a draw. Both lockout switches have the same function except with different designs.

Adjustable and Detachable Sharpening Cassette

At a glance, both have the adjustable sharpening cassette. However, the sharpening cassette on the Ken Onion Sharpener is detachable to cater for expandable attachments for advanced sharpening capabilities.

Detachable Sharpening Cassette

It transforms into a workbench blade grinder and a handheld tool grinder as well. More on that later.

The Original Sharpener has a fixed sharpening cassette. This is what we know of, it cannot be removed under normal conditions unless someone forcefully removes the parts with some tools.

The initial design of the Original Sharpener did not include the option for expansion. Everything is fixed and that’s it.

Kudos to Ken Onion’s design, the removable sharpening cassette to swap attachment for advanced sharpening is the  third selling point  of this machine.

Advanced users have more settings to play with. This is a dream for a knife and tool enthusiast to get every blade done in one sharpening machine.

From this comparison, we know the versatility of the Work Sharp Ken Onion intentionally pushes the sharpening capabilities to the next level that no other sharpeners can beat.

The winner is the Big Brother – Ken Onion Edition Knife & Tool Sharpener.

Expandable Accessories

The Ken Onion Edition comes with 2 expandable options. One is the Blade Grinding Attachment and the other is the Tool Grinding Attachment. Both can be bought separately on Amazon.

As you’ve read earlier on, the purpose of the removable sharpening cassette is used to attach the expansion accessories.

Let’s see what can be achieved with these accessories.

Blade Grinding Attachment

With the blade grinder attached, it turns the handheld sharpener into a workbench belt grinding machine. A range of 1” x 18” wider abrasive belts (four different types) is used for grinding like the professional blade makers use to make knife.

Work Sharp WSSAKO81112 Blade Grinder Attachment


And the wide angle adjustment of 10° to 35° with 1° increment will include all types of knives and tools of any length and thickness, from kitchen knives to machetes.


The positions of the pulleys are adjustable to create more or less of the convex edge on different types of blades.

Sidenote: Some users are curious to know whether this grinder attachment can sharpen wood-cutting tools like chisels, plane irons, Spokeshave blades, carving tools, lathe tools, and scrapers.

The answer is no.

This is because the flexible belts will turn the edge into a convex grind which in turn renders the chisels and plane irons useless. At least for precision wood cutting point of view.

Fortunately, Work Sharp has a dedicated workbench woodworking tool sharpener for discerning woodworkers and dedicated hobbyists, check out the review on Work Sharp WS3000.

Tool Grinding Attachment

The tool grinder is another attachment that makes a handheld belt sander for light-duty grinding and sharpening tasks.

Work Sharp WSSAKO81111 Tool Grinder Attachment

This sleek grinder is intended to grind hard to reach places that the sharpening cassette can’t reach, such as reaming pipe ends.

If the sharpening cassette can do what the tool grinder does, then why we need the Tool Grinding Attachment, right?

This compact and sleek grinder can reach an optimal speed of 4500 SFM for high speed grinding of garden tools, axes, mower blades and any tool with a blade.

Optimum angle and precision grinding are achievable by rotating the attachment. It can also be used for the flat platen and slack belt grinding.

Weight and Dimensions

Finally, do expect the Ken Onion sharpener to be a little heavier and bulkier than the standard sharpener as it has a more powerful motor and bigger body structure, including the wider belt sharpening cassette.

It does not make much difference to a man handling metal works most of the time. Moreover, when it attaches the blade grinder it’ll turn into a fixed workbench machine.

And the tool grinder attachment is much lighter than the sharpening cassette. If a person can casually operate the Ken Onion Sharpener with the cassette on it, there is no reason he or she will face any difficulty with the tool grinder attachment.

In terms of design and structure, of course, the Original Work Sharp Sharpener is smaller and lighter.

From this comparison, the Original Work Sharp Sharpener is the preferred choice if you want a lightweight sharpening machine.

The Verdict – Work Sharp Original vs Ken Onion Edition

Overall, the Ken Onion Sharpener has more pros than cons.

The only drawback is the price for a budget-conscious buyer.

The Original Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener is already a powerful and versatile sharpener for normal use but it lacks the superior functions of the Ken Onion Edition.

Let’s summarize what makes the Ken Onion Edition a better buy than the standard model if you can afford it.

Remember the three selling points?

Firstly, the variable motor speed will allow the user to have variable speed control in whatever sharpening applications, from sharpening to honing. It could be kitchen knives, hunting knives, swords, machetes, or any other types of blades. It doesn’t matter what kind of blades, it’s all about having total speed control based on an individual’s experience.
Secondly, the flexibility of the adjustable angle guides will assure all kinds of different bevel angles blades restoration. The design to include the fine angle adjustment is another selling point of this all-in-one sharpening machine. It’s hard to find another quality handheld belt grinder with such amazing feature.
The third selling point is the option to include the blade and tool grinding attachments. A person who has a large array of knives and tools will have the most advantages having the blade and tool grinding attachments with him.

Also, a handful of users have started their knife sharpening businesses with the Ken Onion full set accessories.

And the best part is there is no need to put everything in one shot. You could buy the sharpener first to familiarize with the functions and get the different attachment at a later time, or whenever you could afford it.

Also read the review on knife sharpener with belt.

All in all, the Ken Onion Work Sharp Sharpener is the most preferred choice.

Remember, if you decided to purchase the Original Knife & Tool Sharpener, make sure you only need to sharpen typical European style of knives, pocket knives, and hunting knives. Or any tools with a wider bevel angle.

Do not try to sharpen Japanese styles of knives with the Original Model.

Whichever sharpener you buy is still a good choice as Darex Company always stands behind its quality products and the customer service is always top-notch.

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