Pros: Quick to learn, Can sharpen at consistent angle
Cons: Initial Price
The Edge Pro Essential Set is a custom resale of the Edge Pro Apex 1 sharpening system by Chef Knives To Go ("CKTG"), an authorized reseller of the Edge Pro Apex Sharpening System. The Apex 1 is stripped of its original sharpening stones, and three new custom cut or manufactured Shapton Glass Stones (500, 1K and 4K) mounted and sized for the Edge Pro system are then included. A quick-load spring, a platform magnet and a drill stop collar are added, to produce a kit which gives the user a majority of the items which add to the usefulness of the system.
The Edge Pro systems (Apex or Pro) is a guided rod system where the user is able to adjust the angle of the stones to match the desired edge bevel angles of the knife being sharpened. The inventor, Ben Dale of Hood River, Oregon, has taken standard industrial mold polishing stones, mounted them on cut aluminum blanks and devised a jig, which allows the user to set and maintain almost any angle.
The heart of any sharpening system, whether freehand or guided, is the sharpening medium. In the "Essential Set", the original stones are replaced by one of the best sharpening stones available, Shapton Glass Stones, for which Mark Richmond has been able to have produced for CKTG in sizes (1" x 6") which are directly usable with the Edge Pro (CKTG currently has an exclusive contract for Edge Pro-sized Shapton Glass Stones). As freehand sharpeners know, the Shapton Glass Stones are "splash and go", which makes their use valuable in a kitchen.
Though the Edge Pro Apex has its own carrying and storage bag, it is small enough so that when broken down, it can be put into a knife roll.
The learning curve on the Edge Pro is quick - 6 to 7 knives. By using the the "Essential Set", I am able to quickly raise a burr and follow through on the progression of stones, from 500 grit to 1K to 4K.
The "Essential Set" differs from the "Shapton Glass Stone Set" and the "Full Monty Set" in that the latter two sets offer two more stones and some accessories. However, I compared the three sets and decided that I could first buy the "Essential" set and then bring it up to the same level as the other two sets by individual stone and other accessory purchases from CKTG without having much of a monetary loss (I actually found when pricing out the components that it was cheaper for me to buy the "Essential Set" and the additional stones separately! I also found that it was cheaper for me to buy the "Essential Set" and the two original stones, then for me to buy the Edge Pro Apex 1 kit and the three Shapton Glass Stones, quick change spring, platform magnet and drill stop collar separately).
The addition into the "Essential Set" of the quick-load spring, the platform magnet and the stop-collar are additions which make sense. The quick-load spring allows for the rapid replacement of mounted stones. The platform magnet allows the user to more easily control the placement of the knife blade onto the Edge Pro stand platform, and slows the movement of the blade (but does not hold the blade by itself). It makes keeping the blade stationary during the sharpening process much easier. The drill stop collar is an additional accessory which allows the user to adjust the height of the guide rod to compensate for the thickness of different stones when sharpening a knife (the trick was developed by an Edge Pro enthusiast with the Internet moniker of "Mad Rookie").
Some additional accessories are very useful, while others are questionable. Adding an Angle Cube ($35 to $40) increases the accuracy of setting angle bevels on the Edge Pro and cannot be recommended enough, though smart shoppers may be able to find it less expensive than at CKTG. On the other hand, strops are one category which I feel can be better done freehand than with the Edge Pro.
Comparison with other methods, including both freehand sharpening and other guide systems show the Edge Pro's advantages and shortcomings.
A good freehand sharpener probably does not need the Edge Pro. For those who have their own sharpening stone collection and the developed skill to use it, adding the Edge Pro is probably redundant.
Someone starting out can certainly buy some basic stones and practice freehand sharpening. That's well worth it, even if you buy an Edge Pro.
The biggest problem with the Edge Pro is the initial cost - you are shelling out more for the system (mainly for the Edge Pro Apex platform) than it would cost to buy an electric sharpening system, such as a Chef's Choice. The horror stories of electric sharpeners were enough to discourage me from going that route.
Once that initial cost is paid, then the cost gets reduced significantly. Chosera and Shapton stones are available for the Edge Pro at moderate prices, less than for full-sized stones.
With the exception of the Wicked Edge Sharpening System, other sharpening guide systems, however, simply do not have the ability to match what the Edge Pro offers - the ability to set almost any angle, maintain that angle over the entire length of the knife, and produce consistently even, sharp edges.
Bottom Line: for those with minimal freehand experience, the Edge Pro "Essential Set" from CKTG allows for perhaps the fastest means to reach a consistent, sharp edge with minimal risk of damage to quality knives.