This is my first knife sharpening system review and it’s been a long time coming. I’ve discussed sharpening knives many times in the past, and seeing the interest, it seems only natural for me to progress to reviewing the actual tools used.
The Smith’s PP1 sharpener is probably the most inexpensive sharpening option besides the reverse of a coffee mug. Its ridiculously low price point was admittedly my main point of interest. Gotta say – I was pretty excited to see what 10 dollars could do!
First things first, I had to find a knife that was dull enough to help me review this kind of knife sharpener properly. Unfortunately, all my knives are (more or less) sharp, so I decided to cheat by purposefully blunting a knife using a coarse DMT stone.
Take my word for it, my RAT 1 was as sharp as a ruler after running the edge over the DMT stone about 20 or so times. Couldn’t bite into paper, let alone cut it.
I chose the Ontario RAT 1 for this review because it has what I consider to be a standard blade steel (AUS-8). AUS-8 is not a particularly exotic steel, but it’s by no means pot metal either!
With that said, back to the sharpener. The Smith’s Pocket Pal has three different sharpening mediums. All three sharpening mediums – tungsten carbide, ceramic, and diamonds – are harder than steel, so you could use this tool with literally any type of steel blade knife.
I’ve tested the sharpener out before with a ZDP-189 steel, and it worked, though it took a bit more time to sharpen than the run of the mill standard blade steel knives take.
To sharpen with the Smith’s PP1 sharpener, all you’ll have to do is drag your knife repeatedly across the two v-shaped grooves: first repeatedly through one, then repeatedly through the other.
First you add an edge using the tungsten carbide side (labelled “carbide”). This works pretty damn fast and feels like it’s literally carving an edge into the steel rather than grinding. In fact, that’s a fairly accurate description of what actually happens. When you feel that the edge has a nice toothy burr then you can move on over to the ceramic side.
I think one of the key advantages to the Smith’s PP1 sharpener is that the angles are hard-set. There is literally no work required with regards to this sharpening method. All you have to do is hold the blade straight, drag back across the groove, and repeat until you’ve got a sharp edge. I can’t think of a simpler system, and I do think that in adverse conditions, like while field dressing a deer in the rain, the Pocket Pal will likely prove invaluable considering this straight forward way to touch up the edge of your knife.
Something to think about.
I found holding it with my (mangled) pointing finger and thumb on my knees to be the easiest way to sharpen the knife in a fashion that would be realistic for “in field” use. The Smith’s PP1 sharpener is basically weightless, so gripping it is a necessity. With that said, it really doesn’t require much force or any specific environment to use, so whether its the camp ground, a table, or your knee, you will be just fine.
Pretty simple right? End result is not awe inspiring, cutting through paper was a little toothy, but definitely feasible for putting on a good working edge. I wouldn’t shave with it but for touching up a knife in the outdoors? Hell yes.
I was honestly surprised that it sharpened so well, but I guess you shouldn’t judge a tool by its price point – or appearance for that matter!
I did expect the Smith’s Pocket Pal to do pretty well at sharpening, especially considering some glowing reviews across the web. That being the case, I was most curious about the single tapered diamond rod on the PP1. It’s intended for sharpening serrations, which, for the sake of full disclosure, I am not the biggest fan of, but I did have my Camillus Les Stroud SK Mountain to try it out on.
The diamond coated rod is similar to the finish of a fine DMT stone. It’s not particularly abrasive, but I figure for a touch up it will do fine.
Interestingly enough, since the Camillus has a thick black coating over the serrations, this actually allows you to visually appreciate how the Smith’s PP1 sharpener handles serrations.
That black coating easily disappears and is replaced by a quite sharp serrated edge with the PP1.
The Smith’s Pocket Pal is surprisingly functional. I have absolutely zero experience sharpening serrations prior to using this tool, but this was so easy a toddler could do it! Now I know how I will sharpen the blade on my Leatherman Wave (and M.U.T.)!
The tapering on the rod doesn’t go thin enough to do the teensy tiny serrations on the Camillus Les Stroud SK Mountain, but I figure it’s good enough for most serrations that I have experienced, including the Victorinox and Spyderedge ones.
For good measure, I did the reverse too. Not sure if that’s what your supposed to do seeing as there was no bevel, but it made sense to me! Correct me if I am wrong in the comments!
As you can see, the final result is very pretty and even. I would say that the finish on the edge of the teeth is around 400 grit (just a guesstimate, don’t quote me on that one!). The serrations are definitely usable for their intended purpose!
The sharpened serrations will happily carve paper. Not as smooth a cut as a plain edge would give, but at least it’s a clean separation of the fibers with no tearing.
It’s worth noting that the Smith’s PP1 knife sharpener has (in theory) replaceable sharpening bits. At its price point, however, I’m not sure it’s worth trying to source replacement bits of ceramic or carbide, but the possibility is there for those who’d choose to use it.
I didn’t specify measurements because I didn’t deem it important in light of having so many photographs. But for the sake of consistency, it weighs in at almost nothing and roughly the size of my thumb.
Reviewing a 10 dollar pocket sharpener is pretty difficult. It’s hard to ascertain the value and relative merits when a product has so few competitors. I do own the Lanksy BladeMedic as well, but realistically, at 10 bucks, it’s nigh impossible to argue that the Smith’s PP1 knife sharpener is not worth it.
As a basic sharpener, it’s pretty fantastic. As mentioned above, it weighs nothing, and for those who haven’t sharpened a knife before, the Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal is honestly an incredibly simple system that’s perfect for any beginner. Will I use it again? I’ll be honest, maybe not. I own lots of sharpening tools, including a full fledged belt grinder, many of which can leave a far better edge on my knives. However, for field use, in an emergency, or even as a backup knife sharpener, I do see myself throwing it into my backpack and/or garage – just in case.
It works. It’s cheap. And with a single moving part (the diamond rod) – I don’t think you could break it. An excellent survival/SHTF investment, even if it won’t replace a dedicated system for regular use.