Today I am reviewing the Lansky Turn Box Crock Stick knife sharpener (model LCD5D with 4 ceramic rods); one of my favorite sharpening systems for its quick touch up ability, ease of use and portability for carrying in the field. Despite my best efforts, I have never been skilled at manual sharpening with a whetstone. Countless hours of practice have mostly lead to inconsistent sharpness, incorrect edge angles, wasted time and much frustration. This simple little $12 sharpening system from Lansky can alleviate all those complications.
The Lansky Turn Box is a very affordable, compact, quick and easy to learn sharpening system. Those of you familiar with the Spyderco Sharpmaker will notice many similarities between these two rod-based sharpening systems. They actually complement each other quite well.
The Turn Box uses 5″ alumina ceramic rods placed into a wooden base using two sets of drilled out holes with pre-set edge angles. The complete system is comprised of 2 medium grit ceramic rods (grey), 2 fine grit ceramic rods (white) and a hardwood base that also doubles as a storage compartment for the 4 ceramic rods.
When sharpening a knife choosing the correct edge geometry/angle is crucial. With the Lansky Turn Box you can select from either a 20 or 25 degree edge angle (40 and 50 degrees inclusive) using the pre-drilled holes at the top of the base. Both the Turn Box and the Sharpmaker feature the more commonly used 20 degree setting. This is a good general purpose edge angle that provides balance between sharpness and durability. Perfect for utility and EDC knives. The 20 degree angle will most likely receive the majority of use when sharpening a typical EDC or folding pocket knife.
The second angle setting is where they differ. The Sharpmaker’s secondary angle is a very acute 15 degrees. Great for obtaining a thin, razor sharp and hair popping edge ideal for filleting and paring. But you sacrifice some durability for this thinner edge. The Lansky Turn Box’s second pre-set angle comes in at 25 degrees. This is a more obtuse, robust edge that should be less prone to chipping and rolling without much loss of cutting performance. The 25 degree setting is what I use on my fixed blades and survival knives because I want their edges to withstand more abuse, but it all boils down to personal preference.
Between the two of them they offer three common edge angles that will work well for 99% of your cutting tasks. This is why I feel these two sharpening systems are such a great match. The Sharpmaker is more of a primary system for advanced use to keep at your work bench. It’s more expensive, larger, includes safety guards and has a better build quality.
The Lansky Turn Box in comparison is much more affordable (I paid $12 for mine), economically manufactured (without feeling cheap) and more compact. The small size and sleek form factor makes it more than suitable as a backup or portable field sharpening system that’s easy to carry and use without requiring much space.
Ceramic Rods – Medium and Fine Grit
There are a total of 4 ceramic rods included with the Lansky Turn Box sharpening system. The grey rods are a medium grit for use on dull, rolled or slightly chipped edges. The white rods are much finer. They are used for quick touch ups on blades that still have a decent workable edge or final sharpening/finishing after using the medium grit rods on a more damaged edge.
The ceramic rods are 5″ in length. Fairly small, but with the right technique I have been able to sharpen some pretty large blades. Most knives with a blade length under 10″ should be doable. Any larger than that really becomes difficult to sharpen and requires a more substantial area of contact that a 5″ ceramic rod simply can’t provide.
Wooden Base/Storage System
A simple wooden base with pre-drilled holes holds the ceramic rods in their proper angles. The base measures roughly 6″ in length, 2″ in width and 1.125″ in height. This base also acts as a storage system. About half an inch of the tip has been sawed off and secured in place with a single screw. This acts as a cap that can be twisted to reveal the drilled out storage compartments for the ceramic rods.
It’s a crude mechanism that has for the most part worked flawlessly the entire time I have owned it. Though I did use a bit of Loctite on the “cap” screw as it tends to loosen overtime. Can be a chore to constantly tighten it otherwise, but not a big deal. Easy fix.
How to Use the Lansky Turn Box: Technique & Maintenance
Using the Turn Box couldn’t be easier. If you’ve ever used your knife to slice anything then you already have the basic motion used to sharpen with this system in your head. Simply select between the 20 or 25 degree angle setting and follow these steps:
- Find a flat, stable surface to place the Turn Box at an appropriate working height.
- Prepare your ceramic rods. Start with the medium grey rods if sharpening a very dull knife and then move onto the fine once you obtain a reasonably sharp edge. For quick touch ups the white fine rods alone will do the job.
- Insert the matching ceramic rods into the corresponding holes for the edge angle you desire.
- Hold the knife in a completely vertical fashion (spine pointing up, edge down) and position the back of the blade edge near the top the ceramic rod.
- Using a straight cutting motion, pull the knife inward (towards yourself) and down until you reach the tip of the blade keeping the knife vertical the whole way down. Note: Try to stop right at the knife’s tip without letting your blade slide off the rod. The occasional slip won’t cause much harm, but letting the knife slide off too often will eventually leave you stuck with a rounded tip.
- Now switch to the opposite ceramic rod and repeat step 4 on the other side of the edge. Keep alternating between each rod with an even number of swipes on each side of the edge. Note: If your knife has a chisel grind it will only need to be sharpened on the side with the edge bevel, but afterwards you will need to remove any burr that forms with a few passes on the unsharpened edge.
- After a sufficient number of swipes (will vary depending on blade dullness) on the ceramic rods you will both feel and hear the edge beginning to smooth out as the steel is honed and realigned to the proper angle.
- Test the sharpness of your knife as you progress. Once you reach the point where it can easily shave hair and cut paper cleanly without tearing you can pat yourself on the back. Your knife is now sharp. Feel free to stop here if you just want to quickly achieve a sharp, toothy edge. Continue to the last step below for extra edge finishing to maximize your knife’s cutting performance.
Optional: Strop your blade to a polished edge. Using the Lansky Turn Box alone is more than enough to get a very sharp knife for average use. If you’re picky and want that scary, hair splitting sharpness that people talk about you’ll need to hone your knife using some sort of strop (old leather belt will work in a pinch) loaded with with a stropping/buffing compound. This is one way to get those beautiful mirror polishes often seen on high end custom knives. A mirror polish doesn’t necessarily make an edge sharper, but could reduce friction and lessen resistance when pulling a blade through material being cut.
A tip I would like to suggest and may implement myself in the future is cementing a piece of leather to the bottom of the base. This way you will always have a strop in the field without having to keep track of one separately.
Cleaning and Maintaining Ceramic Rods
If you take procedures to maintain and clean the ceramic rods included with the Lansky Turn Box on a regular basis their lifespan can be increased. Once a rod has filled with steel dust to the point there is no fresh ceramic, it’s time for a good washing. Nothing fancy is needed for cleaning. Hot, soapy water will work ok. I usually just use a few drops of gun oil and a clean rag. Seems to draw out the small steel particles very easily. A liquid cleanser called Bar Keepers Friend also works really well with ceramic rods.
As you sharpen, spin the rods occasionally to space out the wear evenly and expose fresh ceramic for optimal sharpening performance. Be careful to never drop the rods. Ceramic is a very brittle material that can easily be chipped or broken.
Final Conclusion On the Lansky Turn Box Knife Sharpening System
The Turn Box is a simple, no-frills solution to knife sharpening that offers big value in a relatively small package. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better sharpener for under $20, much less the $12 going rate of this economical Lansky sharpening system.
Very few sharpening systems can provide such quick, easy, cheap and razor sharp edges in a portable form factor. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. It’s the perfect system for novices just getting started who only own a handful of knives. A good field sharpener due to its small foot print and usability. I believe even hardcore knife nuts will be pleased with this knife sharpener as a backup or complementary hardware to their more expensive and complex sharpening systems.
Also worth noting, Lansky has another slightly more expensive model of the Turn Box, the TB-2D2C, which is identical to this standard model (LCD5D) except it replaces the medium grit ceramic rods with diamond rods. The diamond rods will be more aggressive, making it easier to sharpen really dull edges and knives with extremely hard blade steels in less time. Diamond rods will also clog at a slower rate and they’re easier to clean when they do. That model is only $6 more, so if you’re routinely sharpening knives with a high level of dullness or more exotic steels it may be a worthy upgrade. Otherwise the standard ceramic version will work just fine.