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Expert Interview: Kyle Crawford - Work Sharp brand manager

The knife sharpeners from Work Sharp have been in our assortment for quite a while now. The innovative ideas they come up with even surprises us sometimes. It's about time we take a look at Work Sharp. We talked to Kyle Crawford, the Brand Manager at Work Sharp.

I’m Kyle Crawford, the Work Sharp Brand Manager. I’ve been working at Darex since 2001 and it has been an incredible journey. When I started at the company, I was stacking pallets in the shipping department, then moved to the sales team and travelled all over to sell and promote our Drill Doctor line of drill bit sharpeners. In that time I learned a lot and was ready for a new challenge, and so was the company.

Can you tell us something about your role at Work Sharp?

In 2005 I became a part of the marketing team as a Product Manager and was tasked with developing a new brand and a new product line that extended our reach into new sharpening markets. Work Sharp was born and our first product was an innovative sharpening system designed for woodworking tools. By 2009 we were looking for the next opportunity and that is when we developed the Original Knife & Tool Sharpener. That product was and continues to be a game changer in the category and brings professional level belt sharpening technology to the average home user. Since then we have created an entire product line of innovative sharpening solutions in both the outdoor and kitchen markets.

I remain intimately involved with all aspects of the brand from new product development to helping our customer service team provide the best information possible. I really enjoy the various tasks and challenges that I encounter in a day, no two days at Work Sharp have ever been the same, and I really enjoy that. I am proud of the work that me and my team have achieved and grateful that we have been able to have so much fun doing it, we genuinely enjoy what we do and hold ourselves to a high standard. As an avid do-it-yourselfer and knife & tool user, the products we develop are core to my passions and lifestyle. I EDC a knife like most of our customers, so it creates a real kinship between us. And the future is bright, we have a wealth of new products on the horizon that will continue to bring sharpening solutions to market. I am exceedingly grateful to the millions of customers we have earned over the years, without them, none of this would be possible.

What defines Work Sharp?

Since inception, Work Sharp has worked tirelessly to create an honest relationship with our customers, to provide world class customer service and deliver innovative, high performance products at an honest price. Much of that honesty is used to deliver products to customers that are fast, easy to use and work every time. These seemingly simple traits are often stated, but less often achieved. We are rewarded daily by customers contacting us because they are surprised and delighted that the Work Sharp product they purchased has delivered on it’s marketed promises, and are often exceeded. At the end of the day, the Work Sharp team is a collective of hard working people who walk the talk of the brand - we are more like our customer than they may realize. Not only is it more fun for us, but it helps us create innovative solutions to age old problems. We aren’t interested in copying others or speaking down to others in the category. Instead we strive to innovate and become sharpening experts on all products and technologies, then provide that education back to the sharpening interested world. When people begin to learn about and research sharpening, our goal is to provide honest educational content that helps them make the best buying decisions for their individual needs. I’m honored if Work Sharp wins that sale, but if not, it does not deter us from our path. We will still work hard to provide education and an awesome shopping experience for people wanting to sharpen, and until Work Sharp becomes the obvious choice for sharpening, our work is not done.

One of the most rewarding things of managing this brand is when a customer goes out of their way to thank us and express their appreciation. People contact us to say thank you for teaching them how to sharpen, our educational content and product designs teach them a skill, and they are grateful. So am I, it’s what makes all of our hard work worth it. It’s more than just a sharp knife, it’s an experience we get to create and share with our customer, and we are honored to be included in the customer’s adventures!

Some of Work Sharp's innovative products.

How has your experience resulted in the new whetstone and benchstone knife sharpeners?

The more we connect with our customers and listen to their needs and wants the more we continue to learn. The Benchstone and Whetstones are evolutions on tried and true methods of sharpening. We listened to the knife community share their love for traditional sharpening methods, and yet still face challenges getting the results they expected. We took the feedback we heard and built solutions that evolve traditional sharpening to modern expectations. High quality abrasives, interchangeable angle guides, pivot response, and water control are a few of the features we packed into these new tools so users can confidently sharpen the way they want to sharpen and expect razor-sharp results.

Why have you chosen to make more manual sharpeners?

Everything we do is based around how we can best serve our customers. When we first launched the line of Work Sharp Sharpeners we focused on a technology we pioneered nearly 10 years ago: flexible belt sharpening. This is an extremely effective method for sharpening knives. However, as we evolved customers who owned our tools came to us with remarks and ideas about manual sharpening. So, together with our team we modernized manual sharpening to make it easier for everyone!

Work Sharp Benchstone Knife Sharperner
Work Sharp Whetstone Knife Sharpener

Are there any other innovative new features for these sharpeners?

We are proud to talk about the most obvious innovative evolutions for these two tools: Magnetic Angle Guides that can be removed offer guidance for those who want, and freehand sharpening capability for those who don’t, Pivot Response, which allows the base of the Benchstone to rotate and follow the curve of a knife, and the Water Control Base, offering cleaner water stone sharpening with less mess. There are, however, a few key features that we don’t talk much about but that are of high importance. Our dual-grit whetstone is a single stone, baked together as one unit, not two stones fixed together with adhesive after production, this means the stone will not separate with use, and customers can expect a long life. Our Water Control Base is made from a high-density plastic that is mold resistant. Unlike wood bases which do not dry thoroughly, our high-density plastic is safe and clean to use.

Why/how have you chosen the angles of these sharpeners?

The Benchstone includes interchangeable angle guides with 20- and 25-degree ramps. These angles are well suited for western culinary knives and pocket knives. These offer easy repeatable angles for sharpening most common types of knives. Water Stones in general are usually intended for sharpening eastern style blades and lower angle tools. Stronger blades and hardworking outdoor knives are more prone to wear and tear and may need repair, because water stones remove material at a slower rate we expect most users will use this system for finer blades, and thus we offer two fine angle options, both 15- and 17-degrees. Of course, the angle guides are interchangeable from one to the next, and additional angle guides will be available from Work Sharp.

Why/how have you chosen for the grit sizes for these sharpeners?

Work Sharp Benchstone Knife Sharpener

320 grit (JIS) Coarse Diamond: We have worked to develop an incredibly consistent level of abrasiveness with high adhesion to maximize cutting power and the longevity of a coarse-grit diamond plate. We recommend this stone for repairs or setting an edge on a neglected blade. Providing a fast cutting abrasive gives users the ability to sharpen a knife quickly, no matter how dull.

600 grit (JIS) Fine Diamond: Users will love the consistency and speed with which the 600 grit can sharpen a blade. After initial sharpening, keeping a blade sharp and touched up every few months should only require 3-5 strokes per side on the 600 grit before refining on the ceramic.

Fine Ceramic: A fine ceramic is incredibly important for daily maintenance and touch ups. The fine ceramic plate offers smooth consistent abrasive and can be washed with soap and water. Expect a long life from this ceramic plate which will be the most used surface on the Benchstone.

With this set of three high quality abrasives a knife can be repaired, sharpened, and honed with one system.

Work Sharp Whetstone Knife Sharpener

1000 grit (JIS): A clean cutting stone that can quickly build a slurry to speed sharpening and material removal. This 1000-grit Aluminum Oxide stone wears slowly and cuts quickly to restore and edge.

6000 grit (JIS): Capable of refining an edge to a near mirror finish our 6000-grit stone creates a refined cutting edge and is ideal for ongoing maintenance and touchups.

The combination of these two stones is what makes the Whetstone so effective. If a customer is beginning their sharpening stone collection a 1000 grit and 6000 grit stone is the most common combination, this is for good reason. Between these two are two great options for material removal, and a 6000-grit finish on a bevel will leave a hair popping, shave-sharp edge that will fall through a tomato.