A blade's sharpness may be tested by checking if it "bites"—begins to cut by being drawn across an object without pressure. Specialized sticks exist to check bite, though one can also use a soft ballpoint pen, such as the common white Bic Stic. A thumbnail may be used at the risk of a cut, or the edge of a sheet of paper. For kitchen knives, various vegetables may be used to check bite, notably carrots, tomatoes, or cucumbers. In testing in this way, any nicks are felt as obstacles.
We get asked regularly to recommend stones for the beginning sharpener. Everyone wants to get stones that will be of the most practical use. No one wants to waste money on something they will have to replace later. The goal is to get stones that can be used as a foundation for your future needs. But the number of options available can be bewildering to the inexperienced sharpener, leaving many wondering where to start.
Beginning on the right side of the knife, move from tip to heel and heel to tip, then flip the knife and repeat. For the left side, it’s opposite—start at the top of the stone to reach the heel area completely. So, you will move from heel to tip and then tip to heel. Remember to apply and release pressure as you did earlier, exactly the same as in Step 2, but with light, refining pressure.
Pressure is something that is sometimes not mentioned but in my experience and in my opinion, it is extremely important to apply the correct amount of pressure, I use three different levels of sharpening pressure, with my sharpening pressure being measured on a scale from 1-5 with 1 being very light and 5 being maximum pressure. When you initiate the sharpening process, when you have all your ducks lined up and you are ready to start, use P4 (Pressure at level 4, almost maximum). in this case it is you and the stone working together, you are going to apply pressure with your finger tips (2 or 3 finger tips) placed as close to the primary edge as you can get, i.e. over the area you are working on, on the opposite side of the blade. As you push the knife away from you in a trailing motion, apply P4 pressure to the knife as it glides over the wet whetstone, (whet means sharpen) you will see the black residue start to form in the water on the surface, this is Swarf and this is good, don’t feel obliged to remove this with water, it is fine. Continue working from the heel to the tip of the knife moving your fingers along the edge and applying pressure as you move the knife away from you on the right side of the knife and as you pull it towards you on the left side, these are called edge trailing strokes.
Hold your knife at approximately 20° in relation to the honing rod. Your angle doesn't need to be exact, just approximate. Whatever angle you decide to choose, or unwittingly end up choosing, make sure to maintain the same angle throughout the honing process. Changing the angle used during the honing process won't smooth out the metal in the blade as much as using a consistent angle will.
Table mounted device – Typically the manual powered table mounted sharpener looks virtually identical to the electric powered sharpener with a slot for each stage. Where they differ is that each slot in the manual powered sharpener has only one groove and you pull the blade through this groove toward you to sharpen the blade. Once the blade is sufficiently sharp you place it in the honing groove to refine the edge and pull it toward you again several times. If there is a third, cleaning, stage you repeat the process for that stage as well.
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.