So far, I love the Sharpmaker. I got it today and learned/am learning very quickly. It's very easy to keep the blade straight once you get into a rhythm. I do have some questions though...
1. Which angle would you recommend sharpening on (for Spyderco knives mostly but knives in general?)
2. Choils: I tried touching up my Manix 2 (which as you know has a choil) and found some difficulty in starting at the very beginning of the blade. I did not hold it by the choil because when I tried,. I found I'd scrape my hand on the stone (it didn't heart, it just got annoying.) It was no help for consistency either. I still found I was not able to get back on the blade all the way. Any suggestions on how to ensure I'm sharpening the entire blade?
3. If I get the extra (ultra fine and diamond) is there really a point in investing in a strop?
Oh yeah, and the best part about the Sharpmaker is...
IT GIVES ME (AND ANYONE ELSE WHO GETS IT) AN EXCUSE TO BUY MORE KNIVES (BECAUSE IN YOU NEED A LOT OF KNIVES TO SHARPEN TO GET YOUR MONEY'S WORTH FROM THE SHARPMAKER)
Item 1: I don't own a Sharpmaker but understand how it is used. Everyone who has one seems to love it more as time rolls on. Here is my thinking on the Shaprmaker. The Sharpmaker is designed and is masterful at profiling the edge of any knife at 30 degrees inclusive. Then when you need to re-sharpen or touch up the edge you set the Sharpmaker to 40 degrees. This way you are easily hitting the very edge with the stones needing very little practice. Great system. It's not so much of which angle is better. It's more like there is a different purpose for each setting. Of course, with time and use of differnt blade steels and what you use a particular knife for you may decide one or the other is "better". Until then the Sharpmaker is designed for easily maintaining any knife edge. Don't worry about anything else at first. My opinion only.
Item 2: Can't imagine any problem with choils without seeing it.
Etem 3: I think the $20 strop on knivesplus.com would be a wise investment. I owned one and gave it to my son who still uses it. It works great and doesn't require any compound to restore it's abrasive surface. Rub in a few drops of olive oil to revive it. Very good and easy to use strop and probably all you will NEED. But after time, learning and experience you may want something else. Stones can (and will ) get knives razor sharp but it takes practice. I can get a knife edge VERY sharp on stones. Plenty sharp enough for any EDC task. But, after a few strokes on a strop the edge is sharper. Stropping is a different skill and there are different things to consider compared to stones. Everything revolves around edge angle though. BUT, until a knife is very sharp a strop won't help. In reality, the knife needs to be sharp enough for anyone to call it sharp before stropping will be beneficial. Don't worry about a strop until your knives are sharp on stones and you can't get them sharper. Keep working on stones and the knives will get sharper with practice without strops. Strops are a great tool when used properly though in my opinion.
I'm rambling. Get an inexpensive strop (as long as it WORKS) to see how you like them. The one on knivesplus.com is perfect IMO.
I'd recommend the diamond rods first, before the UF rods. The fine grit rods will get your knives VERY VERY sharp. Sharp enough that IMO the UF rods are really not needed. BTW, I love the UF stone.
Get one later.
But the diamond rods are needed sooner for edges that need the extra aggressive work.
You are right about getting more knives.
Don't want that Sharpmaker to sit unused and start feeling neglected.
Once all your knives are sharp, it's time to buy another one.