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Friday, 10 May 2024 10:18

Gatco Ultimate Diamond Sharpening System

Written by

When looking for a good, guided angle system there's lots of factors involved. Quality, warranty, support, and price are just a few of the things I look for. One such system that garners my attention, and meets these criteria is Gatco Ultimate Diamond Sharpener. You know I can't review a product without digging into company history, it wouldn't be one of my reviews, right? The company's website claims they've been in business for over two decades, with the company being purchased by Bear and Sons Cutlery November 14, 2016. But that's not the whole truth, thanks to Sal Glesser from Spyderco I've learned some Gatco lore. The original system was invented by Mr. Ray Longbrake back in the late 70's. Called the "Loray" sharpener. Arthur "Lansky" Levine was a distributor of Loray's. Ray and Aruthur had a falling out and Arthur tooled up and created the "Lansky" version. John Anthon was the Sales manager for Lansky. John and Arthur had a falling out and John created GATCO and tooled up his version.

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This style of system has been around since the late 1970's. It's a design that's been upgraded over the last decade, thanks in part to the popularity of modern powder steels. The hard vanadium carbides in many of these steels are harder than common abrasives like aluminum oxide, which makes sharpening more difficult. Diamonds aren't just a girl's best friend, making sharpening a reprofiling easier than traditional stones. Being around for roughly 45 years it was time for an upgrade.

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Because this sharpener has a long name, I'm going to refer to it as the Gatco Ultimate. The system comes in a very nice storage case, that seems quite durable. The lock is a little hard to disengage, but I would rather that be the case than not wanting to stay shut. The blue color is eye catching and will potentially keep the system from being misplaced. Opening it up your greeted with a well-organized case, each having a molded compartment to keep things from moving around. Included in the case is:

Alumina ceramic hone
Specially formulated oil
Coarse diamond
Med diamond
Fine diamond

There are no grit ratings or anything so it's hard to say how big of a jump there is in grits. As for the oil, some diamond products claim they don't need any lubricant, but oil or water does hold float steel particles, and keeps the diamond plates from becoming clogged. I'm also using a Gatco Easy Grip Clamp Mount. This will allow me to hold the system on a table rather than holding it by the clamp only. It's a small detail but I felt would make the world a difference.

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Putting your knife in the clamp is done by loosening the thumb screw closest to the end, enough so that the spine of the knife will fit. Tighten that thumb screw, then unscrew the other screw towards the rear of the clamp. This causes pressure to increase towards the jaws locking the knife in place. Like with any clamped system, make sure your edge is centered equally. The angle guide has markings for 11°-30°, which to me is quite odd. I would expect angles I'm used to like a 17 or a 20° angle. Instead, the numbers feel out of place and challenge what I feel a guided sharpener should have. Of course, I'm used to systems that have a range with infinite adjustments in between min and max angles. This makes dialing in your exact angle easy and helps those who wish to maintain the factory angle. To use a system like the Gatco Ultimate, you're going to have to choose an angle close to what's originally on the knife and change the angle to a new one specified by the system. I'm choosing 22° because it's close to factory angle and may make my edge a little more robust.

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The diamond plates that come with the Gatco Ultimate are far better than those on similar systems. The rods that guide abrasive plates are thicker than the competition preventing any unwanted flexing. Rather than being a part you attach to the abrasive holders they're built right in. They are even telescopic making them longer than others, and they collapse for storage. This makes it a huge improvement and helps keep those angles true. The abrasive holders are super comfortable with an area molded to hold onto during use. The plates are fairly wide, which leads to better coverage, and shorter work of sharpening.

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Like most diamond products these were super aggressive out the gate but mellowed out after some use. They made short work of reprofiling the edge and setting my new angle. I have been using the honing oil for the plates as well as the ceramic hone to make cleaning the plates easier. Progressing through the grits the Gatco Ultimate did a good job at refining the scratch pattern on the blade. The Alumina Ceramic hone is a finishing stone, it didn't do a great job at polishing but did help smooth things out. The Easy Grip was super helpful in keeping the Gatco Ultimate steady. There is some wiggle in the Grip so I would have to use my thumb to keep things from moving. This moving does not interrupt the angle, it's just an inconvenience. The finished product is an edge that's sharp and cleaned up to a near polished finish. The knife I did today is an old Schrade that I've had a hard time getting a good edge on. The Gatco Ultimate made short work of the task and delivered with exceptional results.

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The Gatco Ultimate is a very good implementation of a design that's stood the test of time. The diamond plate makes short work of your sharpening regardless of steel type. I found the abrasive holder easy to hold, and its width really made a difference. When sharpening there's side to side movement due to the channel in which the rod angles are set. It doesn't mess with your angle but can be annoying. The clamp holds your knife well with no movement when locked down. Flipping the system into the Grip made it feel like a KME or similar without the extra features. Overall, it's a great system, I recommend it, but for the price you could get a Work Sharp Precision Adjust with more functionally.

David Bowen

As Co Founder of Multitool.org David has been a multitool enthusaist since the 90's.  David has always been fascinated with the design inginuity and uselfulness of multitools.

David is always looking forward to what's new in the industry and how the humble multitool continues to evolve as it radically changes and improves the lives of users.

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