Customer Reviews: Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker Knife Sharpener 204MF
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on May 29, 2005
I have been sharpening knives on flat stones by hand for many years. I just got a Spyderco Sharpmaker, and it's the best contraption I have ever used.

The stones are good quality. Similar cheaper brands have lumps on otherwise perfect stones, making them almost useless. Both the coarse and fine stones leave a relatively fine edge considering how well they remove metal.

The triangular shape of the stones makes them work very well for regular knives and serrated knives as well.

It comes with an instruction book that tells you exactly what to do. If you follow the instructions, you will get a very sharp edge. The only skill involved is holding the blade up and down, and that isn't hard at all.

The price looks high, but you get a total of 4 long stones (two fine, two medium) of good quality. It is well worth the price to be able to keep your knives sharp on your own instead of paying someone to do it, which adds up fast.

I don't recommend sharpening systems that involve clamping a guide system to the blade because they tend to slip and/or scratch the blade, are annoying to use for quick touch-ups, and don't actually maintain a good angle along the whole blade due to the mechanics involved.
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on June 12, 2014
I read all the reviews, watched the video on line, and took the plunge. I have now sharpened about every item possible and can provide an assessment. This product works and works very well. Knifes (both serrated and straight) scissors, awls and gouges all sharpen right up.

After the first 10 knifes I wanted to write a review and respond to the one-star people, "What are you idiots talking about? This thing is so simple even a caveman can do it." But I read a little closer and it appears there are two schools of complaints. The first complains about the "tolerances" and the possible slop. These tend to be people who have been sharpening on stones for years and are rather accomplished already. The second are folks who have been using various gadgets over the years and consider this another ina long line of failures. This is my takeaway:

If you are accomplished with a stone, or consider yourself already able to accomplish a sharp knife, you might be disappointed because there is not a lot of innate skill necessary here. Your talents will seem wasted. The trick is to not over think this. You hold the knife vertical and pull it down and across (or out) of the rods. The rods are at 30 or 40 degrees so as long as the knife is straight up and down, you're good. That's it. No oil, no real set up, just draw the blade while holding it vertical (and not quite vertical is ok - more later).

The person using a stone for years has developed a soft touch, and the ability to maintain the same angle in both direction when pulling the blade across the stone. That is a very, very difficult skill to master. With this unit that skill is generally unnecessary. The rods are at 30/40 degrees, the knife is vertical. The consistent angle you hold the knife is the key.

Trying to determine if you are holding a blade horizontally on a stone at a 30 degree angle is hard. Quick, draw a 30 degree angle right now - bet you're off by at least 7 degrees. Now draw another - bet that ones off by a lot, too! Now draw a vertical line. Damn near perfect I bet. See, that's how this works. It is much easier for us humans to distinguish between up and down verses flat. Much easier than the difference between 221/2 degrees and 34 degrees. Your vertical line was off by no more than a degree or two.

But even if you hold the knife just a bit off vertical, but you do that every time, you're fine. Left side of the blade is 2 degrees off vertical, right side is 1 degree off - no problem. The idea is that the same bevel is on each side. Where you run into problems is when stroke 1 is 3 degrees off to the left of vertical, stroke 2 is 1 degree off to the right of vertical, stroke 3 is 4 off perfect vertical to the right and the next is 4 degrees off to the right, ad infinitum. Being off a bit is fine, as long as you are consistently off.

This is where relaxing and just letting muscle memory take over. Get comfortable, drag the knife through, and repeat. Don't "try" to guide the knife to vertical, just draw it through and continue. Like when you drew the straight line. You didn't have to think about that at all. It's kind of like golf, knitting, bowling or measuring for cooking. The more you "think" about what you are doing, the more you "concentrate" on the specific task, the more you will be frustrated. Just draw the knife through the rods. They don't have to be precisely 40 degrees. They don't have to fit in the slots so perfectly that they do not wobble at all ( a very minor amount of play must exist to get the rods inserted) and you don't have to make sure each and every stroke is dead solid perfect. Just consistent.

The thing is, I don't hold out much hope for pleasing the diehard Arkansas or Japanese stone sharpener because the required level of skill they already have accumulated is devalued. They may just have to dumb down their technique. Really precise sharpening with a stone is an art and a skill gained over time. I don't think a professional golfer has fun playing with what appears to be rookie equipment. That may be the stone sharpener's problem. They don't need this system, thus they devalue it. Nothing wrong with that.

For the person who sees this as another gadget, you're right (and you're wrong because it really does work). Treat it as a gadget. Have fun with it. It is not hard to master if you approach it as an easy to learn task. Here is your tip:

Start with the brown rods, and use the pointy edge. Make about twenty strokes per side. Now use the pointy edge of the white stones and do another 20 strokes. That was easy, now do it again. After the second time around check the blade (don't do so after the first time because you haven't quite relaxed yet). Is the blade significantly sharper than when you started? Then it worked. Do not try the sharpening steps using the flat side of the rods until you are comfortable with the pointy edges.

Why? Because it is harder due to surface area on the rod you must contact with the blade and you WILL start concentrating trying to combine that vertical holding pattern with contacting the knife blade on the entire flat surface and then things will get out of had, and you will over-concentrate, and everything will go to crap, the blade will not sharpen, this thing is a piece of crap, AGGGGGGHHHHH!

Deep Breath! Relax. You don't even need the flat side. The pointy side will make your knife so sharp you'll slice your thumb off as is.
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VINE VOICEon June 15, 2007
Boy! If I sound excited about this item, you bet your butt it's true! This marvelous tool belongs in EVERY kitchen, ASAP!

I am 59, almost 60, and have used knives all my life, both outside, and inside, and especially in the kitchen. One thing I was never taught by my dad (died when I was 10) and also was never able to "master" in these subsequent years, was how to sharpen a knife! Trust me, I can take a dull knife and make it duller!

Then, Zam! I'm at a local (big, well-known, name) shop here two weeks ago, and they are giving a knife sharpening seminar in the hunting & archery department, so, naturally, I trecked upstairs to check it out.

Well, the guy doing the demonstration showed us 3 things, a flat oilstone system, a hydrastone system, and this little baby. He thoroughly went through all three systems with us, carefully explaining their workings, and what they are best for.

Hydrastone and oilstone are for outdoor/sporting/pocket knives, where you want and need a very fine edge to the blade, and always polishing at the end with a leather strop and jeweler's polish.

But, for KITCHEN, the single best item is this system from Spyderco. I saw it work, I even tried it myself, and can do it! And, if I can do it, you can, too! Trust me! I purchased this ON THE SPOT, and it was NOT an impulse purchase, either!

Every knife in my block, and in my utility drawer is now razor sharp, able to slice down a piece of adding machine tape (paper). What a truly GREAT feeling to pick up ANY knife and be able to cut with it! I'm in heaven! Another tip...when finished with ANY knife, wash and rinse in hot soapy water and wipe dry immediately....DO NOT allow foodstuff to "sit" for any length of time on a blade, especially if you have been cutting fruit.

OK, I'll stop now, I realize I've made this a long review, but I am very pleased and excited about this product, and want you to know about it, and to know that it is a GREAT product, and it REALLY WORKS! And WELL! ~operabruin
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on November 30, 2010
Dear prospective buyers,

I've read all of the negative reviews on this product, as well as many positive, and have come to the conclusion (with the additional experience of my own use) that if this isn't working for you the error is the your own.

I've been able to get shave sharp edges on every blade I've passed on this sharpener and have had no similar results from any other sharpening device. Please be aware, however, that I have spent innumerable passes on some knives that do not have an edge close to 40 degrees, have thick blades, and are composed of hard steel (Chris Reeve Mark VI in particular, A2 tool steel at 55-57 rockwell hardness). Your results will definitely differ based on these factors, your technique, and tenacity. If you have a friend with a grinder and a steady hand, you can have him/her back bevel the blade to around 30 degrees, which will make the initial 40 degree edge setting process much easier. Basically, as long as the back bevel is less than 40, honing in the edge will be a snap.

If you keep the stones cleansed of steel it will help immensely. This may require frequent Ajax scrub downs, but it's worth the extra effort in the end. I must admit that the coarse stones are beginning to wear on the triangle points of my sharpener, but I've had the thing for at least 3 years and use it all the time. My guess with unsuccsessful users is that they don't stick with the coarse stone long enough to get the edge to 40 degrees.

Some additional advice: do not go past the tip of the blade when using the triangle point of the stones. It rounds the point and (because I made this mistake I know) makes reshaping the point very time consuming and difficult. Do all of your tip work with the flat sides of the stones and do not let the knife slide off - keep the point of the blade on the flat part of the stone all the way through your stroke. This may take a little more time than the rest of the edge because the flat side does not remove as much metal, but much less than bringing a point back if you neglect the technique.

I do not believe you will find a better sharpener. Get it!
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on December 30, 2008
I've had one for two months and have mixed feelings.

I've never been able to manage the accuracy required to sharpen anything freehand so I needed an aid to help me out. The Sharpmaker is really good at assisting with maintaining the two knife angles. It does take a little attention to make sure that you hold a blade vertical through the entire stroke, but it takes a lot less that holding a blade elevated off a flat stone. In that respect this product works really well.

However, it turns out I have a house full of neglected knives, scissors, etc. Not only are they not sharp, many are actually damaged with nicks out of the blade edge. In order to sharpen these edges, you need to remove quite a bit of material. The medium stones supplied with the Sharpmaker are fine for touching up a mildly dull blade, but they just aren't up to the task of removing lots of material, at least not quickly.

Further, it seems that most of the edges I have to sharpen aren't anywhere near preset angles that the Sharpmaker is designed to sharpen. I have some knives at just over 40 degrees. I have some kitchen knives that are chisel ground to around 12 degrees on one side (a little steeper than the 15-degree angle that the 30-degree edge is designed for). Of my 5 pairs of scissors (different brands), none of them is angle to match the 12.5 degree slot in the base of the shapener. For scissors, it isn't too hard to hold the cutting face flat to a stone since most are pretty broad. But for knives, if they don't match the 30 or 40 degree angles, you have two choices if you don't want to revert to free hand sharpening.

1) For edges that are a tiny bit steeper than 30 or 40 degrees
a) put a micro-bevel primary edge on them.
b) if you want to retain a nice chisel ground edge, the microbevel is not an option and you'll have to reprofile the blade by removing a lot of material at the blades edge.
2) For edges with an angle just over 30 degrees:
a) put a 40 degree microbevel on the edge
b) reprofile the blade by removing a lot of material at the shoulder of the edge.
3) For edges that are just over 40 degrees your only option is to reprofile the blade removing a lot of material at the shoulder of the edge.

Of course, reverting to free hand is always an option, but that sort of negates the system that this product offers.

If you do decide you want to reprofile or remove a lot of material to eliminate nicks, you are not going to be able to do it easily with the medium stones. I've tried, it's a time consuming affair. I have ordered a set of these to hopefully address this problem. I hear that they make re-profiling blades much easier.

I know this review sounded fairly negative. But it's not a bad product. It just works well only if you have edges that are already in good condition and are at the right angles. If your edges are, then you're golden. Use this sharpener regularly to keep them in good condition. If you have edges that aren't, then you are almost necessarily looking at spending another $45-50 on Diamond SharpMaker Stones or using a different product to do the rough reprofiling required to get an edge to exactly 30 or 40 degrees.

Update (2009-Jan-23):
I've received the Diamond SharpMaker Stones and used them for a little while. These really help a lot to remove material when steepening an angle or removing chips in the edge. Unless you have edges at the right angle and in good condition, I think you really need to pick up the diamond stones along with the Sharpmaker to have a versatile enough system.
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on June 9, 2015
I suck at hand sharpening knives, this isn't a rare issue. I was looking at a couple of budget priced hand sharpening systems and after reading other reviews I decided to take a chance with this one. Overall, the general vibe I got from the reviews was essentially, at worst this will give a "utility" edge. In other words, the worse case scenario was you could get an edge good enough to perform everyday tasks or touch up most knives. I got it today and sharpened three of my knives which had gone dull. After briefly scanning the directions i.e. completely ignoring them (I am going somewhere with this so don't freak out), I was able to set up the sharpener and put ok to good utility edges on them. The best edge was surprisingly from the tanto blade. I don't know the steel on that one as the company that makes it has no info on it, last time I checked, the website wasn't even up, it only had a logo and some "coming soon" launch info and today I can't even find that page online. The clip points are both AUS-8 and I am happy with the edge as it is better than I could do with a regular stone and they get used so often there is no point to having a razor edge on them anyway in my opinion. So, my point is really simple to use and you will likely get out of it what you put in, if you practice with it and actually study the directions/dvd it comes with I think you could put a beautiful edge on blades which go dull from normal use.
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on July 6, 2010
Before we start, I have to say that I'm a fairly mechanically inclined person and I can figure out how a lot of things work without instructions. I'm a finish construction worker. That said, I've never been able to properly sharpen a knife to save my life!!

I've had this sharpener for about 6 months now. I've read at least 100 reviews about it, even before I bought it. I'm sure they're all accurate, but what you need to observe is the amount of positive over negative. Certainly, since this is a manual sharpener, there will be a few people who are not able to make this work. The overwhelming majority, however, will.

After reading so many reviews, I decided to purchase the diamond and extra fine stones initially. I will say that in all honesty, this system is not complete without them. If you truly want the whole gamut, you must purchase these as well.

When I bought this sharpener I had knives that spanned from butter knife dull to pretty sharp. One of those knives was my first knife ever, a Buck knife my Dad gave me when I was 12 and that was 24 years ago. Just so you know, I've always been the person who could sharpen a semi sharp knife into butter knife quality. That buck knife is now twice as sharp as the day I received it! Really. I can now do a one pass shave with it.

If you own kitchen knives like Henckles or Wusthof then you are fool for not keeping them scary sharp. This sharpener costs less than one chef knife and it will keep it scary sharp forever. I do about 50 (25 per side) strokes on the corner and flat side of the fine and extra fine about once a month (Henckles) and it slices onions with no sting. For the un-initiated, the reason onions sting your eyes is because the dullness of the blade crushes instead of cutting. A truly sharp knife reduces the tears.

The best advice I can give is to just buy from a reputable seller and return it if you think it sucks. Spyderco has an awesome reputation and if it really sucks for you, they do have excellent customer service.

Trust in the many who have tried and declared true!


Over 2 years later, I am still extremely happy with this sharpening system. I subsequently bought the Edge Pro system a few months after I wrote this review. What I have found is that sometimes new knives have uneven edge bevels. In that case, I use the Edge Pro to re-profile the edge, but I find that I use the Sharpmaker to maintain them. It's so fast and easy to set up that it makes sharpening a breeze. Since I have the Edge Pro and I no longer let my blades deteriorate into butter knife status, the diamond stones are no longer necessary. The diamond ones do work, but I have to say, I'm not sure I would buy them again because they don't really seem to last very long. All of the ceramic ones are still in excellent condition but the diamond ones have seen better days.

Overall, I would say the Sharpmaker is more of a maintenance sharpener. If you have an extremely dull knife, it's either going to take a few hours with the Sharpmaker, or have it professionally sharpened first. In the maintenance role, the Sharpmaker can't be beat.

I love it!
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on April 28, 2012
I love knives and have been stuck for years not knowing what to do with my dull knives. I am a bit of a perfectionist and find sharping knives freehand inconsistent and very difficult to master and learn until the sharpmaker came along. With so many positive reviews in Amazon, and Youtube videos showing how 'fast' it is to sharpen knives on a sharpmaker, I initially thought that this was the solution to all of my dull knife concerns. The answer is yes and no.

I have been using the sharpmaker for six months now since the time of purchase and have already sharpened about 8 knives with good results. And would want to share my experience with newbies who are planning to purchase a sharpmaker.

1. Is this the one stop solution to dull knives? NO.
The sharpmaker can 'QUICKLY' sharpen ANY knife from dull to razor sharp if and only IF the blade has a 30 and/or 40 degree edge/bevel (15/15 degree and 20/20 degree on both sides of the blade). Any other blade angle/bevel from the above. It will literally take you forever to sharpen your blade with the basic set.

With blades that do not match the 30/40 degree bevel set on the sharpmaker, a re-beveling/re-profiling must be done. This is a process of removing huge amounts of steel from the knife to correct the angle to 30/40 degrees. This task simply cannot be done by the medium stones (roughest stone in the basic sharpmaker set). Some users recommended purchasing the spyderco diamond triangle rods for re-profiling and will make life much easier. I did not go through this avenue as I personally find an additional USD 40.00+ is beyond my budget. Plus reviews indicating that the diamond stones will still take time doing re-profiling tasks I opted for other solutions.

2. Whet Stones as a supplement
I strongly recommend that whetstones are a must to supplement the sharpmaker. I use both the coarse and fine side of the whetstone to re-profile a knife, once this is achieved. The sharpmaker is used to finalize the edge to a utility edge, or to a razor sharp edge. Both utility and razor edge can easily cut through paper.

So what about my concern with freehand consistency and how to deal with the mess of oil/water whetstones?
With the whetstones, I still do not do free hand. My solution was to build a contraption/jig that will hold the whetstone at a 20 degree angle, similar to how the sharpmaker hold its medium and fine stones. This way I use my contraption to re-profile/re-bevel any knife. This saves me a lot of time.

For comparison purposes, I have a kitchen knife that does not comply to the 40 degree bevel (about 56 degree bevel maybe). It took me 3 hours without any results on the sharpmaker. With whetstones, the job is done in 15 to 30 minutes. Then another 15 minutes on the sharpmaker to make a razor edge. I have also done the same technique on my cleaver and my cleaver is also razor sharp and takes about 30 mins to sharpen.

How about the mess? I use the whetstones dry. There have been a lot of research of using water/oil whetstones dry with promising results. And from my experience this is true. I use the stones dry as how I sharpen with a sharpmaker. My theory is adding oil or water on whetstones is to give the knife edge a semi-mirror like finish. Using it dry will give the blade a dull finish showing the scratch/wear marks done by the whetstones. This is where the sharpmaker comes in. After the 40 degree edge has been established by the whetstones. The sharpmaker will easily sharpen and polish the knife to razor sharp and give it a mirror like finish.

I made the jig by using wood, hinges, slotted flat bars, and screws and the whole thing cost me no more than USD 10.00
For people who does not want the hassle of building jigs. Some users suggest the sand paper method by wrapping a coarse paper over the spyderco stones. Well this does work, but the sand paper wears down too fast and at times gets sliced by the knife during sharpening. So be prepared to re-wrap sand paper on the stone in each sharpening. I initially did this method but the hassle made me go for a customized solution. For people who do not want to go for a customized solution, you can try the diamond stones but I have not personally used them to comment.

3. Is the Sharpmaker recommended?
Yes indeed! You just have to understand the design limitations. As long as you have a 30 or 40 degree bevel. The sharpmaker can do the job FAST. But if you don't have the correct bevel, it will take forever to sharpen a knife. With whetstone and sharpmaker combination I have already fixed kitchen knives with a ruler edge (literally flat edge as how you see the edge of a ruler) to razor sharp and pretty happy with it.

4. Other tips
The more I sharpen, the more I learn about knives and sharpening concept and technique.
6 months ago. My thinking was this: I need the spyderco diamond stones and spyderco basic set to resharpen knives.
Now. My thinking is: I need the spyderco basic set and spyderco ultrafine stones to make knives hair whittling sharp!

From my research, most newbies will always prefer diamond stones. While enthusiasts and pro sharpener will recommend the ultrafine stones.
Diamond stones and other coarse stones can easily be bought from any supplier. All these can repair damaged knives whether it be free hand or via contraptions/jigs. But what you pay for in a Spyderco system are the stones, stones that make knife edges beyond sharp. The spyderco medium, fine, and ultrafine stones are what you pay for.

My next purchase will most probably be the spyderco ultrafine stones. My dilema is if the premium is worth it or not. As the fine stones already gives me a razor sharp edge and already pretty darn happy with it (i can already shave with my knives). And making hair whittling sharp knives are more of an obsession for me to hone my sharpening skills. As for my daily activities I don't see an application where I need a hair whittling sharp knife.
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on August 19, 2013
This thing actually works pretty good, I've been reading through the negative reviews,
and here is what I have to say....

If you have a super dull knife, or a somewhat dull knife with a really hard steel, perhaps stainless...
You are really going to have a rough time with this sharpener.

This sharpener is not going to put an edge on your knife. Think of it as more of a honing station.
If your knife is particularly dull, you are going to need to remove some steel, and these stones are
not going to do it.

You can get more power out of it, if you purchase the accessory, extra course stones. It still won't put
an edge on a blade, but it will sharpen up a dull edge...there's a difference.

Another thing to consider...this sharpener holds the stones at either a 30 or 40 degree angle. If your knife's edge has a different degree angle, you will probably find that you are actually making your knife more dull. If you keep at it with the extra course stones, you will eventually change the bevel, but its going to take a long time. You may want to invest in an automatic sharpener like a worksharp, or perhaps try a cheap 'pull the knife through' type of hand sharpener that will remove a lot of material and set the angle you want on the edge.

Again...think of this as more of a honing station. Even with the course stones, it would take you hours and hours to put a fresh edge on a blade that did not already have one, or change the existing angle on the edge.

As a honing station, its great! You will be popping hairs on your arm in no time. If you really want to achieve a scary can purchase the extra fine accessory stones. They really make for crazy surgical sharpness. I bought them for s***ts and giggles. To be honest, I almost never use them...I really don't need any of my knives to be that sharp. Its just not practical.

I really like the product, but only give 4 stars. This is because in order to make this sharpener really functional, you really need to purchase the accessory extra course stones. Also because I think Spyderco needs to make it clear that this is not so much a sharpening station, as it is a honing station. I think this is at the heart of the bad reviews I see here. alot of these poor reviews, a lot of people mention that they used it for hours on a blade with no result, and or kept watching the DVD over and over to see if they were doing something wrong. This thing is as easy as pie to use, and really doesn't take long to clean up and hone your edge. If you are spending hours on single knife blade or feel the need to watch the DVD more than once....chances are your knife is so dull that it really doesn't have an edge anymore, or has an edge that is set to a different angle than this sharpener was intended.

Just one man's opinion.
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on January 22, 2008
I purchased one of the Tri-Angle sharpeners years ago when they first came out. I used it for literally thousands of sharpenings, without a single problem.

Unfortunately that late, lamented sharpener vanished in a move, and I replaced it with a new one.

Big mistake.

I opened my shiny new sharpener, and went to insert the sharpening stones. Unfortunately, the base holes were too small. After several frustrating minutes of forcing the sharpening rods, I got the unit setup, and sharpened my first knife.

Or tried to.

Now, remember, I used to own one of these, and used it almost daily for years. The new unit was having a terrible time sharpening a dull knife with the course stones. Worse, after no more than a dozen passes on these stones, I noticed more wear on the triangle edge than I had seen with 4 years of regular use with the old set.

In the end, I finally got a passable edge by hand sharpening the knife on a diamond stone for the course stage, and using the fine stones on my Spyderco. -- But in the interim, my handy calipers say the triangle point on the course stones had been worn by .072" (that's more than 1/16 of an inch)!

So, while the design of this sharpener can't be beat, the new manufacturing leaves a lot to be desired. Until Spyderco fixes their quality, avoid this sharpener like the plague.
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