I’d be lying if I said I knew much about knife sharpening systems. You may think that should disqualify me from reviewing them, but hear me out.

Typically, when you’re selling a product, you want to market to the person who is the “lowest common denominator” among your target demographic. This person isn’t the expert who is so familiar with said product that they could teach a class on how to use it, nor is it the person who has purchased something like this before and will figure it out within a few minutes.

The ViperSharp Diamond Kit comes with a sturdy quartz base, and in addition to the diamond-plated hones, it comes with a lapping plate and micron lapping fi lms to get a mirror-bright fi nish.

Your lowest common denominator is going to be the guy who buys the shrink-wrapped slabs of particle board from Ikea, gets frustrated by the hieroglyphic assembly guide and breaks down to call the 800 number before scrapping the BJÖRKSNÄS nightstand project altogether. When it comes to knife sharpening systems, I’m not too far from being that guy.

“As someone new to all this sharpening business, I would have preferred more written instructions.”

Fear not. With a little help from YouTube, I took Knife Sharpening 101 and figured out how to sharpen knives. Then I spent a good deal of time working with two professional sharpening systems from ViperSharp, a Utah-based cottage company owned and operated by Mike Wood. Here are my findings on these two systems: one with diamond hones and one with ceramic.

The ViperSharp Ceramic Kit comes with a plastic base, five different-grit hones and two leather strops.


Packaged in a Plano Gun Guard case, this kit comes with a plastic base with holes to mount it onto a table. The website says you can choose between “cutting board” and “quartz” bases but there doesn’t appear to be a selection menu for these materials. I did find later that you can purchase a ceramic kit with quartz base for $275.99, though. The kit also comes with an upright assembly that includes an outer sleeve, riser and clamp receiver, a clamp assembly and a stone carriage. You also get five ceramic stones, each with a different grit (80, 220, 400, 600 and 1,200), as well as two leather strops. The kit I received was missing the clamp, but it was included in the diamond kit, so I’m going to chalk that up to the guys at ViperSharp knowing I’d only need one to review each kit.

ViperSharp’s owner and designer, Mike Wood, told me that the ceramic kit was intended for more basic sharpening endeavors, like sharpening your unmarked-steel kitchen knives or blades that aren’t made of “super steels” like the CPM families (M4, S35VN, S30V, S90V, etc.). This kit is obviously the cheaper of the two kits ViperSharp offers, sitting at a $224.97 price point.

The author much preferred the diamond kit’s quartz base to the ceramic’s plastic
base (shown), which kept tipping over. Holes in the base allow for more permanent
mounting, though.


The diamond kit also comes in the same Gun Guard packaging as the ceramic kit, and the whole setup is identical to the ceramic’s. The only differences between the two systems are the base and the stones. With the ceramic kit, you get a smaller, black plastic base, and with the diamond, you get a larger, hefty white quartz base. The included hones for the diamond kit are 250-, 400-, 600- and 1,200-grit, as well as a leather strop. While the ceramic kit only requires warm soapy water for stone lubrication, the diamond kit requires oil, which is included in a small squirt bottle. Last, this kit includes three micron diamond lapping films and a lapping plate for achieving a mirror-like polish.

“The hone/stone carriage assembly is fantastic. You simply slide the hone into the carriage and it snaps
into place and feels good and sturdy in hand.”

While this kit can handle any ol’ blade, it is said to be designed for sharpening more difficult steels, such as D2, S35VN and beyond. Therefore, you could consider this one to be the more versatile of the two, which is what I would be looking for when purchasing a sharpening system. However, the diamond kit’s MSRP is $393.97, which is close to $200 more than the other system.

The ceramic kit includes 80-, 220-, 400-, 600- and 1,200-grit stones, as well as a leather strop for refining.


This is where I needed a little more help than the instructions could provide. It’s not that the systems are overly complicated; there aren’t many pieces and it’s pretty self-explanatory. However, for someone who’s never had a sharpening system before, there was definitely a learning curve.

Each kit has a base with a hole where you plug in the upright pole that will hold the clamp (which holds your knife) and a guide rod, which in turn holds the hone/stone carriage. Getting the upright assembly plugged in is simple enough, as is screwing in the guide bearing that will be threaded with the guide rod. The hone/stone carriage assembly is fantastic. You simply slide the hone into the carriage and it snaps into place and feels good and sturdy in hand.

The notches on the back of the riser indicate the angles at which you will sharpen. The top notch starts o at 16 degrees and each one after that adds one degree.

What’s a little trickier is setting the sharpening angle of your blade. There are notches on the inner riser to indicate the different degrees at which you can sharpen. The topmost notch indicates 16 degrees, and each notch below that adds one more degree, so you can sharpen blades at as low as 10 degrees (for wide, thin blades like chef’s knives) and as high as 35 degrees. You will have to decide for yourself how you want to select an angle; the instructions say you can use an angle finder, or you could just eyeball it and do some trial and error.

As someone new to all this sharpening business, I would have preferred more written instructions. If you go to YouTube, Mike’s ViperSharp channel has all kinds of tutorials and videos on how to sharpen certain knives and how to use the system, but I had to really dig to find a step-by-step process of setting up the system to make sure I was doing it right. The included written instructions have a lot of tips and whatnot, but no step-by-step assembly (and simple pictures of this would be excellent, too).

To get the sharpening angle consistent along the entire length of the bl ade, you must align the clamp parallel to the invisible line running from blade tip to heel. The author found it easiest to hold up the included instruction pamphlet to find the line.

There’s also a parts list, but it was missing at least one thing (the guide rod), and it would have been great to have an image of each part alongside its name, then a step-by-step assembly. There was also a blue plastic brick in each kit whose purpose I never did discover, which is slightly disconcerting.

I also had to do some research online to figure out at what angle I should set the riser to sharpen different kinds of knives. I found a pretty handy guide on RedLabelAbrasives.com that explained the factors in determining the best angle for your knife, so I used that to choose an angle for each blade I sharpened. I appreciate that ViperSharp has a ton of videos to help noobs like me figure things out, but personally, I would just like to see some of these basic things included in the printed instructions so I don’t have to weed through a sprawl of videos. Someone else may prefer the YouTube approach.

The diamond kit has fewer abrasives to work with, but a few more of the fine-grit polishing hones

One last note on the assembly: I had issues with getting the lock ring to stay put on the guide rod on the diamond kit (not so much on the ceramic, even though both sets of guides and lock rings are identical). The lock ring is a small metal ring that slides onto the end of the guide rod and is then tightened by a tiny hex screw to keep the rod where you want it.

Two problems here. One is that the more I sharpened (I sharpened about half a dozen knives, using each hone for each blade), the more times the lock ring loosened its grip on the guide rod, which could have led to me banging up my blade with the hone or maybe cutting myself.

The second problem is that this tiny hex screw did not come with an accompanying Allen wrench to tighten it to my satisfaction. Both kits come with two sizes of Allen wrenches to secure both the clamp and the base/upright pole, yet no tiny wrench for this lock-ring screw. It would have been nice for that to be included, or maybe the lock-ring configuration might need to be tweaked a bit.

The clamp has foam padding on the inside to keep from scratching your knife.


Each of these systems has its own set of pros and cons, so it’s difficult to say which is the better buy. On one hand, the ceramic kit comes with one more grit of hone than the diamond, though you could say the diamond is more efficient and thus needs fewer hones to get the job done. Also, having to switch stones fewer times is nice, especially if you’re sharpening a handful of blades.

Hands down the thing I liked in one system versus the other was the quartz base in the diamond kit. I can’t tell you how many times the plastic base in the ceramic kit tipped over while I was adjusting the angle, or the guide rod, or when swapping stones. This is an easy fix, however, as the plastic base can be screwed onto a tabletop in a workshop or wherever you’d like to mount it.

The guide rod is threaded through the g uide bearing and then secured with the lock ring. The lock ring slides onto the guide rod and is then tightened with the hex key. The author had issues with the lock ring in the diamond kit staying locked in place.

After surmounting the assembly and Sharpening-101 challenges (and learning about burrs online), I enjoyed the sharpening process and felt that both kits were well-designed and easy to use. All you have to do is secure the knife in the clamp (which has foam grippers so it doesn’t damage your blade) and make about 20-30 passes with each hone, working from coarse to fine grit. Then you slide the clamp out, flip it and repeat on the other side, creating and removing burrs on each side.

In terms of performance, I thought the diamond kit outshone the ceramic just a little, but I did have some trouble getting my S35VN blade as sharp as I would have liked. The diamond did wonders on all my basic kitchen knives, and even touched up my D2 folder quite nicely, but for the price, I thought the ceramic did nearly as good of a job on the lesser steels.

This 6-inch kitchen knife is about as long as the sharpening system can handle doing in the conventional sense, but there are included instructions on how to sharpen blades that are 7 inches or longer.


In choosing the better ViperSharp system, what it comes down to for me is the base and what kind of knives you want to sharpen. The diamond’s quartz base won me over, but I wasn’t as sold on its sharpening capabilities over the ceramic’s. Both hone sets seemed adequate for any sharpening endeavors, so I would say that, unless you have a ton of super steels, at about $170 less, the ceramic kit seems like a good deal (as long as you intend on mounting that pesky plastic base).

You could also split the difference and go for a ceramic kit with quartz base for $275.99. If the diamond’s price tag doesn’t scare you off, those diamond hones are pretty sweet, and I really liked the micron lapping plate to bring my new edge to a mirror-bright finish. KI

The diamond-plated hones require oil for lubrication, as opposed to just water
for the ceramic stones. This small squirt bottle is included.

Each kit comes with an extra lock ring and extra tiny hex screw.

Each kit comes with a p air of Allen wrenches for the various screws, but unfortunately, neither comes with the tiniest wrench that is needed to really tighten the lock ring.

The author could find no indication of why this piece of plastic was included in both kits.

The clamp can be secured by an extra included hex screw, but owner Mike Wood prefers to omit the s crew when sharpening. Regardless of whether the screw was used, the author did find that there was a little slop in the contact point between the clamp and the ris er, but it wasn’t much cause for concern.


ViperSharp Ceramic Knife Sharpening System
Dimensions: 14 x 12 x 2.75 inches
Weight: 3 pounds
Base: Plastic
Hones: Ceramic
Grits: 80, 220, 400, 600, 1,200
Extras: 2 Leather strops
Case: Plano Gun Guard plastic case with foam inserts
Parts List: Clamp set with screw and Allen wrench, base screw with Allen wrench, lock ring, guide bearing, guide rod, outer sleeve, inner riser, stone carriage, abrasives


ViperSharp Diamond Knife Sharpening System
Dimensions: 14 x 12 x 3 inches
Weight: 6 pounds
Base: Quartz
Hones: Diamond-plated
Grits: 250, 400, 600, 1,200
Extras: 2 Leather strops, Lapping plate, 3 Micron diamond lapping films, 4 Adhesive foam pads
Case: Plano Gun Guard plastic case with foam inserts
Parts List: Clamp set with screw and Allen wrench, base screw with Allen wrench, lock ring, guide bearing, guide rod, outer sleeve, inner riser, stone carriage, abrasives


Editor’s Note:

A version of this article first appeared in the December 2022 print issue of Knives Illustrated.