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Final Thoughts : Learning to Sharpen

Grepper posted a great commentary on learning to sharpen. With his permission, it is substantially below, with only a few editorial changes applied :

I would humbly suggest that if you want to learn to sharpen knives, get a bunch of cheap sacrificial knives from your local thrift store to practice with and have at it. At least that’s what I did. If you are sharpening for other people, no doubt sooner or later you will need to:
  • Learn to sharpen so that you don’t concave the blade at the center.
  • Learn to sharpen the tip and maintain an even bevel.
  • Learn to fix a broken off tip.
  • Learn to deal with chips on the edge that you will see all of the time with hard steel knives like Shun.
  • Learn to flatten the edge if it’s not flat.
  • Learn all about using the stone grader and how various levels of abrasiveness grind an edge.
  • Learn how you need to constantly use the stone grader to maintain a particular level of abrasivness.
  • Learn all about the truing tool and keeping the wheel flat.
  • Learn how to sharpen curved knives like a bird’s beak knife.
  • Learn how to sharpen very hard steel (RHC 60+) knives.
  • Learn how to sharpen cheap, crappy steel knives without the edges chipping away.
  • Learn about toothy vs smooth ground edges.
  • Learn how smooth edge roll and get dull quickly.
  • Learn how to sharpen very small blades like pen knives.
  • Learn how with small blades the knife jig hits the wheel. Learn to deal with it.
  • Learn how to sharpening blades with unequal or single side bevels.
  • Learn how to sharpen serrated blades?
  • Learn how to sharpen very long knives.
  • Learn how to sharpen cleavers.
  • Learn how to recognize knives you can’t (or shouldn't) sharpen, and when you should politely decline.
  • Sooner or later someone will ask you to sharpen a pizza cutter.
Take a knife, grind the edge completely flat, and then sharpen it.

Maybe this should be first on the list : learn about deburring and how important it is.
  • Learn how much compound you want to use on the leather wheel.
  • Learn how much the compound smoothes a toothy edge if a toothy edge is what you want.
Learn to sharpen knives on the Tormek by sharpening knives on the Tormek.

Finally, a microscope and an edge sharpness tester are invaluable in learning about sharpening. With those instruments you can lean more in a couple of months than years of sharpening without them. Those instruments allow you to really understand and actually prove what is going on at the edge, rather than just speculating about it.
  • A microscope allows you to see a burr and understand exactly how your burr removal method is working.
  • An edge sharpness tester (e.g., the PT50 from BESS) demonstrates how the burr affects sharpness.
  • An edge sharpness tester also allows you to understand and numerically represent the sharpness of your blade and how different sharpening procedures affect sharpness.
You don’t need those instruments to get a sharp edge, but if you really want to understand what is happening they are amazing instruments.