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Work Sharp Culinary E5 Review – Electric Kitchen Knife Sharpener

The E5 sharpener comes with a quick start guide and a user guide. I recommend you to read them both. The quick start guide can be confusing if you don’t know the anatomy of your knife since the picture is slightly complicated but more about that later. The E5 sharpener has different versions, one with a honing rod and one without a honing rod. The version I have has a honing rod that is detachable from the handle. The reason for that is because of the Microforge that is included with the Works Sharp Honing rod. But more about the Microforge later. You also get the E5 sharpener with a dust cover. The E5 sharpener comes with two red medium grit-rated belts, and the last item in the box is the power adapter. 

E5 Work Sharp Culinary Guides
E5 Work Sharp Culinary Guides

The aesthetics and build quality of the E5 sharpener

The E5 sharpener is compact and can be easily stored. The metal part at the front and the top are slightly texturized but still very smooth to the touch. The plastic parts are nicely coated, so they are not slippery. You can easily lift the E5 sharpener because of the texturized rubber behind the edge guards. The E5 sharpener comes with four nonslip feet beneath the sharpener. The E5 will not move at all while you are using it. The design and the information cards inside the E5 sharpener make it easy to use without the chances of mistakes. There are also instructions on the inside, just in case you forgot how to use the sharpener. The E5 sharpener is well built, and there are no loose parts. The complete unit is very sturdy. Despite the compact design, you also get a compartment to place your belts. The chamber can even fit six belts at the maximum. The angle guides are also from a very well-built quality and snap easily in place. The leather lining has an embossed logo of Work Sharp. 

Work Sharp E5 Culinary sharpener
Work Sharp E5 Culinary sharpener

Two red medium grit-rated belts.

The E5 comes with two red belts with a medium grit rating. One of the red belts is in the hidden chamber. The one that was hidden had a crack in the belt due to the limited chamber space. The cracks are normal and do not come loose, and it will not affect the performance of the belts at all. What is interesting is that the E5 sharpener only comes with red belts. Separate belts with different grit ratings are optional. 

Work Sharp Culinary Red Belt
Work Sharp Culinary Red Belt

Shape, sharpen and refine

The exciting part is that one single belt can shape, sharpen, and refine your knife edge. A single belt can create different grit ratings due to the rotating speed of the E5 sharpener and the abrasion used on the belt. It means that the E5 sharpener can mimic a specific grit rating but can’t copy it exactly. So the single red belt can act as a coarse, medium, and fine grit. The quality of results is also dependent on the knife steel structure, the harder the steel, the better the results. And that is how one single belt can Shape, Sharpen and Refine. 

Red Belts in the compartment and wheels
Red Belts in the compartment and wheels

The E5 Ceramic Honing Rod (optional)

The optional honing rod is detachable. The most exciting part is the ceramic rod, which caught me by surprise. The smoothness on the ceramic rod is higher than the 3000 grit rating. After talking to Work Sharp, they told me that it is close to 6000 grit. And the corrugated side is of the same density. However, because of the higher density and harder ceramic bond, it will make it cut faster and feel rougher than a 6000 grit Ceramic Waterstone. The corrugated side has the same grit rating but acts as a rougher surface due to less surface area for increased material removal. The honing rod comes with a 17-degree angle guide. Wich accommodates the standard included angle guides of the E5 sharpener. Not only is the honing rod detachable, but you can also easily rotate the honing rod. You can use both the smooth and the corrugated sides with the angle guide on the handle. The handle comes with texturized rubber for extra grip and a very well-placed thumb rest and finger placement. The rubberized tip on the honing rod also prevents you from slipping. The handle of the rod also includes something that Work Sharp calls the Microforge.

Honing rod with an 17-degree angle guide
Honing rod with a 17-degree angle guide

The Mircroforge

The name MicroForge comes from Microscopic cold Forge. The design of the Microforge is to increase the lifespan of a knife with softer steel. They do that by adding microscopic recessed cutting edges on the edge of your blade. The exciting part is the spacing of the recessed cutting edge. They have a specific spacing and no toothy edge that you see on most serrated knives. The recessed side is also increasing the durability since it protects the knife from impact and rolling damage. Because you are forging it without heat and at room temperature, it is safe to use the MicroForge on knives with a Rockwell below 63. However, the benefits are minimal for knives above a Rockwell of 59. But more about the MicroForge and when you want to use it in a different video. 


Convex Edge VS Flat Grind

The E5 Culinary sharpener creates a convex edge, which increases the durability of your knife, and your knife will roll less due to improper use. In short, the convex edge is ideal for domestic cooks. Since most professional cooks use the honing rod far more often and sharpen their multiple knives at a different angles, the convex edge is not ideal for professional cooks. Therefore most if not all professional cooks will use a flat grind edge on their kitchen knives. With a flat grind, you have less steel behind the edge, and therefore you can use the flat side as an angle guideline for the honing session. Since you also use the honing rod multiple times a day, you can get away with honing far more often before needing a sharpening session. And since you already know how to handle a knife properly, you won’t benefit from the extra durability of the cutting core of a convex grind.  

Convex Edge is ideal for domestic cooks

Limited use of the Work Sharp E5 Culinary Sharpener

There are multiple ways to use your E5 sharpener, but the included red belts limit the options. If you want to remove chips, or repair or create a finer edge, you need to buy the additional belts separately. If you’re going to sharpen your Chinese cleaver or your Japanese knife with a Rockwell above 60, you want to buy the upgrade kit, which includes a 15-degree and a 20-degree angle guide. 

Standard 17-degree angle guides

How to use the Work Sharp E5 Culinary Sharpener

The E5 Culinary sharpener’s user’s guide has a ton of information and suggestion on which cycle you should use. I highly recommend reading the user’s manual first. There are three stages, Shape, Sharpen, and Refine. You don’t have to use the Shape cycle if your knife is already in decent condition. If your knife is slightly dull, you can get away with just the Shape and Refine cycle. If your knife is completely dull, you need to start with the Shape cycle. The cycles automatically jump to the refine cycle after 90 seconds. Make sure you complete the refine cycle between each session. The LED light will flash on and off, indicating that the cycle is about to finish, so make sure to finish your alternating strokes evenly. 

Easy to use you get a knife sharp within 2/3 minutes
Easy to use you get a knife sharp within 2/3 minutes

Sharpen the complete blade edge!

The picture on the quick start guide may confuse people, but you have to make sure you get the complete knife heel on the belt. Otherwise, the heel area will not be sharp.

The picture shows the knife heel exposed which can create confusion
The picture shows the knife heel exposed which can create confusion
Make sure the complete heel touches the belts for the best results
Make sure the complete heel touches the belts for the best results

The knife-edge with the red belt (medium)

After testing the finished results, I find that the edge created by the medium grit-sized red belt is acceptable for most home cooks. You will get a sharp edge within a few minutes. The finish on the blade depends on the knife Rockwell, but it sits around a 2000-grit finish if you compare it with a Waterstone. 

Sharpness comparable with a 2000/3000 grit ceramic stone
Sharpness comparable with a 2000/3000 grit ceramic stone

Suitable for home cooks?

This E5 Electric Sharpener is ideal for home cooks, that don’t have the time to sharpen, it is easy to use, and unlike manual sharpening, you don’t have a steep learning curve of months. You can get the edge on your first try without knowing about grit sizes. The edge it creates will please the majority of home cooks, and you will love how easily you can get your knife sharp with the E5 sharpener. If you own a Japanese knife with a Rockwell higher than 60 or have a Chinese cleaver, then I highly recommend the upgrade kit.

E5 Shape Cycle and the Sharpen Cycle + red belts and included honing rod
E5 Shape Cycle and the Sharpen Cycle + red belts and included honing rod

Suitable for knife enthusiasts?  

For knife enthusiasts that already know how to sharpen, you will feel that the red belt and the included angle of 17 degrees will fall short for you to like the product. The sharpness won’t amaze you. However, the ease of use and how fast the system is will surprise you. If you want to have more options since the red belt alone will fall short for most knife enthusiasts, I recommend adding the E5 upgrade kit, which includes 15 and 20 degrees angles and new belts from various grits. 

The results of the E5+Red Belts+Honing are shaving sharp.
The results of the E5+Red Belts+Honing are shaving sharp.

Suitable for Professional Cooks?

The E5 is not suitable for professional cooks for various reasons, but one of them is that the E5 is used dry, and therefore the steel particles and dust can fly around in the kitchen. It is not safe for the food that you are serving. In most professional kitchens, we already have limited space to do our prep work. Having a dedicated room for the sharpener is not an option unless you want to kick out the manager or accountant from his tiny space. 

Dust particles can fly around but the internal fan and rotational force suck the majority in the E5
Dust particles can fly around but the internal fan and rotational force suck the majority in the E5

E5 Upgrade kits and Belts

I wished that the standard package included some of the optional belts; however, they are inexpensive, so you can just order a few belts optional with the sharpener. If you own Japanese-styled knives with a Rockwell of 61 and above or a Chinese Cleaver, I highly recommend the E5 Upgrade Kit, which includes the correct angles for those knives. You also get a repairing belt to remove chips.

Optional Belts and Upgrade kit for different angles
Optional Belts and Upgrade kit for different angles

The durability of the E5 sharpener

I used the E5 sharpener for days and hours on more than 25 knives, and the belt is still performing great without any signs of wear. The Electric sharpener itself is also very well built even after 2 hours of constant use. The unit does not feel warm at all, and there is no smell of a burned motor. 

Very durable and the belt lasts a long time!
Very durable and the belt lasts a long time!

 🛒S H O P:

E5 Culinary Electric Sharpener:
NA: E5 Culinary Electric Sharpener
EU: E5 Culinary Electric Sharpener

E5 Upgrade Kit:
NA: E5 Upgrade Kit
EU: E5 Upgrade Kit

Master Belt Kit:
NA: Master Belt Kit
EU: Master Belt Kit

N O T E S: This product really shines for those who don’t know how to manually sharpen, it takes away the steep learning curve and knowledge about the correct grit sizes and sharpening techniques, angles, etc. Therefore ideal for most home cooks!

I N F O: For Knife enthusiasts that want to experiment more with angles and other things I heard that they really like the Ken Onion Edition from Work Sharp with the special grind attachment. Which mimics the manual sharpening methods a bit more.

🛒S H O P: Ken Onion Sharpener + Blade Grinding attachment

NA: Ken Onion Sharpener + Blade Grinding attachment

EU: Ken Onion Sharpener + Blade Grinding attachment

I did not test the Ken Onion Sharpener so I can’t give you my opinions or experience with it. Since I got emails from knife enthusiasts that they really like the Ken Onion Sharpener so I wanted to add this as an alternative since so many knife enthusiasts like it.

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Hi, I'm ChefPanko, I have worked for multiple restaurants and have decided to share my experience with you guys. I will share recipes and techniques that I have learned, taken, and improved from the French, Japanese restaurants that I have worked for. I will also explore other cuisines with you guys.

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  1. Thanks for a great review. I’ve been a fan of Work Sharp sharpeners for a long time. The E5 seems to be the ultimate user friendly mistake proof knife sharpener that can blend in with kitchen design–but it’s still just an elegant pull through–and my manual Wusthof pull through for about $25 already meets home cook requirements pretty well.
    What we need are some comparisons that illustrate knife maintenance differences/similarities between Work Sharp and stones. It might be interesting to compare knives you’ve just tested with the E5 against a next resharpening with stones.

    I have had enthusiast friends who used stones for years switch to the Work Sharp Ken Onion version and use the ,manual controls that free hand enthusiasts like you would prefer–and it costs less than the E5.

    I’m looking forward to some comparison testing of Work Sharp products and accessories in the future.

    1. That is something Work Sharp needs to market since the E5 standard kit with only the red belts is highly marketed for home cooks. They went for ease of use instead of providing extra belts that you need to swap so the red belts is a one belt solution. With stone you need a coarse, medium, and fine stone. And Work Sharp manages to do that with just one belt. (something only knife enthusiast knows and the majority of home cooks don’t have a stone).

      The idea and technology are amazing but how do you tell that to the home cooks?

      The E5 knife sharpener is amazing in what it does, it is way better than a pull-through sharpener since the result of the red belts alone is better than the majority of the factory edge of the knife manufacturers. It is also safe for even the highest carbon Japanese knives.

      Even I as a knife enthusiast would normally never look at electric solutions and pull-throughs. But this knife sharpener took all my doubts and concern away.

      But someone that already knows how to manual sharpen and owns a 6000+ stone and a strop, it is an expensive alternative. But the time of sharpening 20+ knives in under an hour is great time savings. (2/3 min per knife)

      Compared to maybe 3+ knives with hand sharpening in one hour.

      As a knife enthusiast, I’m disappointed that they only included the red belts.
      Since they only provide the red belts they are highly marketing to home cooks.

      I think the only way to convince home cooks/knife enthusiasts is to open a booth at a cooking event and let every person try it themself. It is a product that you need to try before you believe it. The ease of use and how fast it sharpens needs to be shown in person and let the people try it themself.

      Show the red belts only to home cooks, and show the result of the upgrade kit and extra belts to knife enthusiasts. (one of the reasons I will make a separate video while the red belts will lack in result for knife enthusiast the upgrade kit will satisfy even them but since it is optional it is only fair to review them separately).

      Great idea about comparisons with stones.

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