Your stroke can be straight or circular, from "hilt to tip" OR "tip to hilt," whichever is more comfortable. If you're using a small portable sharpener, stroke the blade in nearly a straight direction. Remember to always cut into the stone and never pull or drag your edge backwards. The blade edge should face in the same direction as your stroke. So, you're essentially moving the metal away from the edge. We recommend the circular stroke as it helps you maintain your angle instead of having to find it every time you lift the knife from the stone.
Your immediate goal is to raise a burr on the side of knife opposite to the side you are sharpening and depending on the steel, the grit of stone and how you are doing, it will be either a very quick process or it will seem like it takes an eternity. Patience here will reward you, believe me. The sharpening process is incomplete with no burr creation on your first stone. (Yes, it is possible to stop at that magic moment without the burr forming but we are not there yet, we don’t even need to go there, ever, I am just mentioning it so those gifted sharpeners will be happy) . Think of the burr as the debris that is making the knife dull being forced down the blade towards the edge and over to the other side of the by your sharpening prowess. You form the burr, that knife will get sharp, no burr, you just need to look at your work. A Loupe is handy here, an inexpensive magnifying device with a light that allows you to see the edge very well, if you are not forming a burr, you are not reaching the edge. (Having a loupe also makes you look cool and scientific, like a Sharpologist).
The stick – With a stick sharpener hold the sharpener in front of you (facing away from you) with one hand and the handle in the other hand. Hold the base of the knife against the base of the tip at a slight angle and then push the blade along the stick pulling it across the stick at the same time. The tip of the blade should cross the end of the stick. To sharpen the other side of the blade place it under the stick and repeat the process making sure to reverse the angle at which you are holding the knife against the stick.
The toughest angle to master is the angle at which you'll sharpen the edge of the knife. For a Japanese knife, that should be around 12-15 degrees. Before you reach for the protractor, a good test is to get roughly half an index finger's gap between the spine of the knife and the stone (see above). Remember to remove your finger before you start sharpening. For a Western-style knife, you want an angle of about 20°, so raise it ever-so-slightly higher.
Unfortunately, the arrays of modern whetstone can be bewildering to the inexperienced sharpeners that so often times many of them end up with a crap or wrong decision on stone type for their utensils. The most difficult to determine is whether the whetstone is fake or fabricated with low quality of materials. To avoid this you can only go for the reliable brand of a whetstone.
The type and size of the blade being sharpened determines the size of the stone needed. In general , a 6" stone is considered a small sharpening stone, an 8" stone is a common larger size, and a stone larger than 8" (10"-12" are available) is considered generously sized. Stones smaller than 6" (3" and 4" stones are quite common), are considered pocket stones and can be used for toolboxes, tackle boxes and on-the-go sharpening, but are generally not recommended for regular sharpening jobs.
This is a good quality stone for a beginner looking to learn about hand sharpening knives and blades. It holds up well, especially for the price point. New sharpeners are prone to gouging and scratching stones, pushing too hard, etc, and this stone handles the abuse nicely. The no slip base is very effective at cementing the stone in place, which is a critical safety feature.
Grit choices should fall in line with the steel used to make the knives you plan to sharpen. If your knives are all European, relatively soft steel knives, then you could finish off your knives at the 1,000 – 2,000 grit level. There is a lengthy explanation regarding this topic but suffice it to say that at 2,000 grit, these knives can be made extremely sharp.
I've used ceramic rods, diamond plates, and leather strops for our sharpening needs. And, like most, I've tried a dozen little gimmicky sharpeners that, while some work, those that do often remove way too much material from the edge, making your blade wear down faster. I've also used oil stones, grinders and buffers for less meticulous sharpening of axes and such. These two stones from Unimi (600/1000 and 2000/6000) served as my introduction to whetstone sharpening. And I must say I like it. Though, I'm not sure of the need for investing in more expensive stones.
Method 3: Use a Sharpening Stone. This is the best method by far. Not only will it give you the best edge, it also removes the least amount of material. With a fine enough grit, your knife should be able to take hairs off your arm when you've finished. Additionally—and I'm not kidding about the importance of this one—the act of sharpening your knife will help you create a much stronger bond with your blade, and a knife that is treated respectfully will behave much better for its owner. The only problem? It takes a little know-how.
Now move the blade – with a little pressure – in regular movements up and down along the sharpening stone. Always maintain the angle between the blade and stone. You will notice a burr become visible after five or so movements. Mentally divide the blade into three sections if the knife has a large blade. Always start with the tip and work back towards the bolster.
Selecting the right sharpening angle is the next step in sharpening. For more detailed instructions on selecting the right angle, try reading this article. Regardless of the method of sharpening, a appropriate angle should be selected. This angle doesn't need to be exact but following some general guidelines is a good idea. Most knife manufacturers recommend a roughly 20 degree angle. Depending on the use of your knife, you can move up or down from that angle. A fillet or slicing knife is never used on anything hard so an angle a few degrees less will produce a sharper edge. On the other hand, a survival knife with various uses can benefit from a more durable edge a few degrees larger.