In 1985, an inventor named Charles Forest took out a patent on an oval-shaped, carbide blade knife sharpener he called the Pac Man, after the ghost-gobbling arcade character it resembled. The invention has generated varying degrees of interest over the years (Swiss army knife maker Victorinox even marketed it for a time). Forest has passed away, but his daughter, Bonnie Sterngold, and her business partner, Ken Block, continue to sell a modernized version of the tool, the Sterling Sharpener.
Ken is a lifelong sailor, having raced everything from Etchells off Marblehead, Massachusetts, to an Ericson 38 on Utah’s Bear Lake, so it didn’t take him long to realize that this 3-inch-long, half-ounce sharpener would make a practical addition to any boat’s tool inventory.
“This is the sort of thing you put in that second drawer down from the nav station where you keep your cotter pins and ring dings,” he says. “So many times I’m on a boat and there’s this nice, expensive knife that’s totally dull.”
The man has a point. Why invest in a proper knife without a way to sharpen it? And why lug around a whet stone when you can carry the Sterling Sharpener on a keychain? This rustproof sharpener consists of two tungsten carbide cutting blades set in an anodized aluminum body. To use, simply place your knife blade into the crux of the cutting blades and draw back from heel to point.
I put the Sterling to task on a kitchen knife with a reputation for mutilating ripe tomatoes. After passing the knife through the Sterling’s the carbide blades a few times, I was slicing paper thin tomato slices like the best TV chef. To maximize performance, Ken advises experimenting with the pressure you apply to the knife and the angle at which you hold the sharpener. I found that different knives required subtle adjustments in technique, but the Sterling is basically foolproof. It’s easy to feel when the sharpener achieves a good, clean pass at the blade, and despite my greatest efforts, I’ve yet to really screw up any knife I’ve tried. Purists may stand by their whet stones, but for accident prone individuals like me, the Sterling Sharpener seems to do the trick.