Given the speed and efficiency of their electric sharpeners, I have long had a problem developing any serious interest in Chef’sChoice’s manual models. It wasn’t that they didn’t do everything the company said they would, it was just that they were so much slower than the power hones. I’m not one of those people who are willing to waste long periods of time sharpening a blade. Every time I hear someone say they spent an hour sharpening their knife, I simply wonder, “What are they doing wrong?” So when Chef’sChoice told me their new “Pronto” was the fastest manual sharpener on the market, they had my attention.
Like many of Chef’sChoice’s sharpeners, the Pronto offers a two-stage system of first thinning and sharpening the edge and then finishing it by honing and polishing the cutting surface to a second, steeper bevel. Unlike many similar systems that only offer silicon carbide and/or ceramic wheels, both stages on the Pronto feature diamonds for the abrasive surfaces. Not only are diamonds easily capable of sharpening the hardest blade, they don’t require oil or water to function and they will wear almost forever.
The Pronto also offers what the company calls “Criss-Cross” sharpening, in that the hone works with both the push and the pull strokes on both sides of the blade at the same time. Each abrasive disk flips slightly to the left or right depending which way the knife is being moved. This creates the “criss-cross” pattern on the microscopic teeth and improves the “bite” of both straight and serrated edges.
The Criss-Cross disks are set at an angle of 20 degrees. Like most set-angle sharpeners, I find they work best if you spend a little extra time on the first use, allowing your cutting edges to adjust themselves to the hone. Once they have been ground to the same angle as the sharpener, resharpenings and quick touch-ups go much faster. On especially dull knives, Chef’sChoice recommends starting with 20 back-and-forth passes on stage one, using roughly 4 to 5 pounds of downward force on the blade. Knives that are in better condition may only require 10 passes on the first stage. The knife should slice paper with only a slight drag at this point.
A knife correctly honed on stage one will only require two or three passes on stage two to be ready for use. Use slightly less force at this station with smooth consistent strokes. As with the electric sharpeners, you should be able to touch up edges using only the second stage for a fairly long period of time. Once the bevels wear down it’s time to go back to the first stage to reset them. Serrated blades can be touched up on the second stage with five or more full passes. The Pronto is not really recommended for Asian blades sharpened at lower angles than 20 degrees, ceramic blades or scissors.
Finding a really dull knife around our home to test a new sharpener on is not always that easy. I finally settled on a Swedish Frosts Mora from the stack my wife keeps in the greenhouse for various gardening and horticultural uses. All of these tools end up being used to dig weeds from flowerbeds, hack on vines, cut brush and similar tasks. The knife I selected was definitely dull with a capital D.
I started by giving the Frosts a full 20 passes through stage one followed by five more on the second stage. End result, shaving sharp edge in about three or four minutes time. Next, I went through our kitchen cutlery block either completely resharpening any knives that were remotely close to dull or touching up those that were still relatively sharp. All were quickly put in first class order.
The only real problem I had with the Pronto—here it comes folks, my never-ending gripe against the world I live in—the tool is primarily set up for righties only. A left-hander like myself can use it right-handed but it feels a little awkward. A southpaw could also grip the Pronto by the tip of the sharpening end rather than the handle with his/her right hand if they were especially careful. Still, you are running the risk of somehow missing the slots and cutting your hand. I chose to use it in the preferred left-hand on handle, right-hand on knife method and had good results. Over time, I’m sure I will get used to this “reverse” hold.
Like all of the Chef’sChoice sharpeners, the Pronto is ideal for those that are looking for a quick, easy, no special skills required method of honing their blades. And it really is quicker than the vast majority of manual sharpeners on the market.
For more information, please contact www.edgecraft.com or 800-342-3255.
It’s a liner-locking folder and Inuit-style Ulu outdoorsman’s knife all in one handy package!
by Terrill Hoffman / Jul 6, 2009