Presented by: Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpeners
Work Sharp is a company that doesn’t rest on its laurels. It already had a catalog full of well-received sharpening systems at the end of 2019, when it decided to try its hand at the rod and clamp sharpener format. We all know now that the result of that initiative was the Work Sharp Precision Adjust, a certified hit for the Ashland, Oregon-based company. In 2021, Work Sharp built on that success with the Precision Adjust Elite (and Elite Upgrade Kit for those who already own the base system). The line expansion fleshed out the capabilities of Work Sharp’s latest star, and is probably going to end up under the tree for a lot of knife nerds. With that in mind we sat down with the designer of the Precision Adjust himself, Steve Baker, to hear the story of how it came to be and what it means for the company.
Looking Outside for Inspiration
“I’ve been working at Work Sharp for 24 years and have spent a large part of that time as one of the product design engineers,” Baker tells us. “I was the lead designer for this product and spent countless hours researching competitor products, their intellectual property, and most importantly what the customer wants from this style of sharpener.”
The style of sharpener is the venerable, flexible, and accessible rod and clamp system. “Some of these sharpeners have been passed down through generations,” Baker even notes. But this longevity also indicated a problem: “When looking around, the category had been pretty stagnant regarding innovation. We looked at the current products and what the consumers were saying about them to see where we could improve the user’s experience. This really lead us down the road that ultimately resulted in the Precision Adjust Knife Sharpener.”
The good rod and clamp sharpeners of the past provided enthusiast-approved results in a manner accessible for novices. Baker decided to build on both the accessibility and capability with the Precision Adjust. “The Tri-Brasive rod, containing multiple abrasives that can be progressed through by simply rotating the carrier, makes it easy to switch to the next grit,” he says. “Having them all on the same carrier and rod ensures that the angle will be consistent.” He also points out the appeal of the V-Clamp, which can be rotated entirely without removing the knife, ensuring a consistent edge angle on both sides without any fuss.
An Intensive R&D Process
Development of the Precision Adjust was complicated by the sheer number of factors at play – far more than those in all but the most complicated of folding knives. “The testing and prototyping happens on many different levels; from material selection, abrasives, mechanisms, product life, ergonomics, user interface, performance, effectiveness, industrial design, and the list keeps going,” says Baker.
He worked out all of these issues through these prototypes; many, many prototypes. “I don’t know the exact number of hours that went into testing/prototyping the Precision Adjust, so I will just say; a lot,” he tells us. “I built quite a few to prove out theories and applications. Some of these I still have just because it’s fun to look back sometimes to remember where it all came from.” Of course, the whole endeavor was further complicated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “At the start of the project I worked with the other members of the New Product Development team and we all had input into the rough idea of what this product would be,” Baker recalls. “When the pandemic hit we all started working from home and I spent the next few months standing in my living room, just me and my dog Bailey, designing the final product.”
Going Beyond the Basics with the Elite
Bailey and Baker bottled lightning: the Precision Adjust immediately connected with customers. That set the gears in motion for a potential expansion. “Directly after the premier of the Precision Adjust we started getting feedback from our consumers that they wanted, no, DEMANDED more grits to choose from,” says Baker. “We also reached out to people in our Work Shop videos on YouTube asking what they specifically wanted in additional abrasives.”
The Elite’s coarse 220 grit stone opens the door for heavier reprofiling and repair work, while its 400 and 800 grit stones allow users to more gradually work their way up in the refinement of an edge. “The leather strop with compound takes the edge to a new level of refinement, sharpness, and a mirror polish,” Baker adds. He also notes that the carrying case is the bow on top, allowing this widely capable, low maintenance system to travel easier. “Whether you are sharpening on your home benchtop, taking your sharpener to hunting camp or your buddy’s house, you have the perfect way to sharpen and maintain your edges anywhere, anytime.”
What’s next for the Precision Adjust system, and for Work Sharp? “This is a tricky question,” Baker concedes. “While I won’t say what we are currently working on, I will say that Work Sharp is always looking into the future to provide innovative new products that we believe our consumers will love.” Baker himself startedd 2021 in his new role as Product Line Manager, getting the Precision Adjust into as many hands as possible. Now that its reputation is well-established, he says that he and his team are once again listening to feedback, and thinking very carefully about where to go next. “This platform has a lot of future potential and we are getting back into some R&D work and cultivating more customer insights to see where it will take us. Stay tune, there is so much more to come…”
Featured Image: Work Sharp Precision Adjust Elite