The whole thing sounded interesting, I've used traditional sharpening methods with an Arkansas stone, and crock stick style systems like the Spyderco Sharpmaker. I decided it was worth checking out, this device is either the best idea in sharpening or it's a passing fad like a lot of things these days. For testing I got the standard Horl 2 system which includes the tumbler, a diamond and a ceramic honing disc, and the magnetic angle guide. Taking things, a bit further, I decided to test the premium sharpness set, this is an accessory to the Horl 2 system which includes a 3000 and 6000 grit disc, and a leather strop.
The Horl 2 and the premium sharpness set come in these really nice boxes, opening them gave me Leatherman Tread vibes. It speaks volumes when a company goes the extra mile and pays attention to packaging. Both boxes have a plastic insert which is molded to hold the different pieces of the system. The standard system came with instructions in multiple languages, Horl took the effort to send me a separate pamphlet in English. In regard to the packaging, they make a decent storage option. The company offers wooden boxes and holders so you can have these products become part of your kitchen, but for now the boxes are robust enough to keep them stored when not in use.
Pulling out the contents of the Horl rolling sharpener, you'll notice the heft and quality. As humans we not only take quality as attention to detail and how elegantly it moves, but subconsciously weight plays a factor. The sharpener features a rubber ring on both sides, which help the sharpener roll as well help it grip the surface you're rolling on. The tumbler, can I say that? We'll just call it the rolling sharpener. When you're rolling it there's a smooth motion to it, I'm sure there's some sort of bearing system to make it roll so effortlessly. The finished wood on the sharpener is nicely done, and the embossed Horl logo is a nice touch. Natural materials are a nice touch, synthetic materials and industrial styling are far too commonplace. On either side of the sharpener are the grinding or honing discs; one side is diamond and the other ceramic. I'm not sure about the grit for the diamond, but the company offers a disc that is coarser than the one provided.
In the same box as the sharpener is the angle guide, this wooden block with rubber feet is angled on either side to ensure your sharpening at the correct angle. The guide features two angles, one 15 and the other 20 degrees. The 15 degrees is more for thin kitchen or fillet knives, while the 20 degrees is used not only for kitchen knives but for others that use this standard angle. To be honest, there are many companies that produce knives with angles that are neither of these, but Horl is generalizing because they are the most commonly used grind angles in the industry. Both angles have a rubber pad to protect the blade from being scratched when sharpening, and have a strong magnet embedded that makes sure the knife won't move during the sharpening process. When sharpening one handed is placed on the angle guide to hold the knife still, and the rubber feet on the bottom of the guide help make sure the guide doesn't move. These design choices are important considering the knife is sharpened with the blade facing the user.
To sharpen your knives, you place the knife upside-down against the angle of your choice and place the angle guide on the table or surface you'll be sharpening on. It's important to make sure the spine of the knife is level against your work surface, this ensures the sharpener is level with the edge of your knife. I ran into an issue with one of the knives because the blade is very tall. Horl suggests using something like a cutting board to elevate the sharpener, while keeping the angle guide on your working surface. If you need more than a touch up, use the diamond side of the sharpener and place it against the heel of the blade. With the sharpener being horizontal to your knife, you'll roll the sharpener along the edge. It's important to use gentle pressure to keep the sharpener in contact with the knife, don't push too hard or you're likely to remove more steel than necessary and may cause premature wear of your discs over time. On the knives I did, I rolled the sharpener 20 times on each side, paying attention to make sure I went all the way from heel to tip. When it comes to sharpening the tip, you need to almost turn the sharpener in somewhat towards the tip to make sure it keeps contact. It's probably important, and part of the instructions to check for a burr on the edge before changing sides. I was pretty confident that a burr had formed and did 20 passes on the other side with the diamond disc. I then switched over to the ceramic honing disc, doing the same 20 per side. These knives were my mom's, she doesn't do any sharpening, but does use a butcher's steel to keep her knives somewhat sharp. I checked them before using the sharpener and they did indeed need work, they had rolls and dings here and there.
After using both the diamond and ceramic discs on the blade, I checked the sharpness and ran the blade over a paper towel on the cutting board, it definitely made an improvement, and I was able to cut the towel. The knife may be sharp, but let's take this to the next level and use the accessory kit with the fine honing discs and leather strop. I unscrewed one of the discs from the sharpener and screwed on the 3000-grit disc, which is the blue one. I did the same as the two previous stones and did 20 passes per side. I then swapped discs again and went to the 6000-grit white disc. I've contemplated leaving both the higher grit discs on permanently, and just use the Horl for touch ups, but frankly there's a lot of knives in my family that need work, and it gives me an excuse to show off the kit. I'm not sure what the polishing discs are made from, probably a ceramic similar to what's on my Sharpmaker. When using the 6000-grit disc I get a fine dust on the blade, this doesn't happen with the 3000-grit disc. If I wet the discs, it doesn't happen as much, and the manual doesn't say they need to be soaked or anything like a water stone. I inquired with the company, and they said the discs last 3 to 5 years on average and suggested that maybe the burr might not be removed and is causing this. To remedy, use the leather strop between the primary set of discs before moving onto the higher grit.
Anyways, to summarize I've gone through all the discs from diamond to 6000 grit, and for a final step the accessory kit includes a leather strop. The leather is of a high quality and has both a course and smooth side. The kit does not include any paste to aid in the stropping process, luckily, I have my own. For those unfamiliar with stropping, it's the process of drawing the edge backwards across a piece of leather with or without compound, and it helps further refine the edge of the knife. Using a compound like chromium oxide will help aid in that edge refinement, some people routinely strop rather than letting the edge degrade too far to require stones. I put the paste on the rough side of the strop and proceeded to do several passes on each side. I'm fairly new to stropping and learning every day. It seems to be a suggested step in many a sharpening setup so I figured I might as well learn.
Running through all of these steps has produced an edge that's razor sharp, it was able to pass the typical paper test and shave hair easily. Frankly I'm impressed, just goes to show you there's more than one way to get the job done. After all, folks have been known to use a car window to hone the edge of their pocketknife. I'm impressed by this setup, it's that out of the box thinking that drives industry. It's such a good idea it seems that people are copying the design like nobody's business. Which is funny, because it's been around since 2016, why steal the design now? Maybe increased popularity, who knows.
The Horl 2 rolling sharpening system has ease of use as its main selling point, with a touch of modern design. This system is so easy to use, and it opens up the ability for anyone to sharpen their knives without any experience. This system will not replace traditional sharpening methods, but it's innovative and brings the joy of knife maintenance to everyone.