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1. Be ready

The most common mistake? Not sharpening at all. Like a pencil sharpener in a classroom, a designated, always-ready sharpening station encourages you to sharpen regularly.

2. Don't confuse shiny with sharp

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A shiny bevel, like the one below, can give the illusion of being sharp while still holding imperfections, such as nicks or a rolled edge. Examine the edge closely with a magnifying glass after sharpening to check for defects.

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3. Choose the proper grit

If inspection reveals imperfections, use a coarse abrasive first to re-establish the cutting edge. Then hone your way back using finer grits. When a blade stops cutting well, a quick touch-up with a too-fine grit (such as the 3-micron diamond paste, below) seldom cures the problem.

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4. Keep abrasives fresh and flat

Worn sandpaper cuts steel slowly, and dished-out sharpening stones (below) round a cutting edge. Replace sandpaper frequently and lap (flatten) your stones with a diamond lapping plate.

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5. Write the right angle

Adjusting your honing guide or bench grinder's tool rest to the wrong angle wastes time and steel, as you unintentionally reshape the edge. Mark your blades with the correct bevel angle to ensure you set your guides to match.

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More resources

*  Need an easy sharpening method? Watch this video.