To get started on right foot, you'd do well to stop for a short moment and consider what you're about to do when you set yourself to sharpen a knife. Cliff has done a nice video and there are related discussions as well on his web site: http://www.cliffstamp.com/knives/forum/read.php?7,6571
. I'll summarize some points as I've (hopefully
) understood them:
Cutting away the weakened metal, i.e. de-stressing the edge, is crucial to the longevity of the sharpened blade. For some reason, people are prone to avoid taking this step, maybe thinking on saving time and precious steel? This of course is a virtual saving at best, as it'll lead to more frequent sharpenings by ruining the edge retention.
Shaping is the easy part and if you're not too particular about the appearance (scratches and so fort) of your blades, you can do it fast free hand. Just follow the reflected light disappearing every now and then and stop when you can't see a reflection. While you're at it, and especially if you have a coarse stone, why not drop the edge angle considerably as well during the shaping? It'll improve cutting performance dramatically and speed up the coming sharpening sessions.
With regard to Sharpmaker, I find it most useful in apexing / microbeveling the shaped edge, making it easier to hold a constant angle when it's most needed. In this phase you don't need to do very many swipes, as the thickness of the metal at the edge is already somewhere around 20 microns. Deburring (shouldn't be much of that, ideally) and back sharpening steps (minimizing the micro bevel width) are easily doable as well with the sharpmaker, even if you might have a psychological barrier in holding the knife at odd angles (to the vertical plane). I wish there'd be a sharpmaker base that would allow infinite edge angle adjustments, but as it is, we'll make do with what we have.
I've had great success following Cliff's methodology and I trust you'll have great fun with the Sharpmaker! One more thing: be carefull with the corners lest you weaken the blade! It's terribly easy to press hard enough with the corners to bend the edge back and fort, and that is going to lead to a very short lived performance.