Your stroke can be straight or circular, from "hilt to tip" OR "tip to hilt," whichever is more comfortable. If you're using a small portable sharpener, stroke the blade in nearly a straight direction. Remember to always cut into the stone and never pull or drag your edge backwards. The blade edge should face in the same direction as your stroke. So, you're essentially moving the metal away from the edge. We recommend the circular stroke as it helps you maintain your angle instead of having to find it every time you lift the knife from the stone.
Speaking of building muscle memory, here is a good exercise for you, a confidence builder: Paint the edge of your knife and bevel with a Sharpie and sharpen the knife at an angle that results in the removal of that Sharpie. In many cases it will be close to the 20 deg angle anyway. When you have achieved success, repeat the process and do that ten times. Now flip the blade over and do it on the other side, you don’t need to use much pressure here, just a little. You want to get to the point where you can place the knife at the SRA “Sharpie Removal Angle” the first time, every time.
It will be tempting to raise the angle here to get to the edge quickly, that is not the way to go. Re-paint the edge/bevel if necessary and try again. You can flip the knife prior to burr formation and work on the opposite side. Repeatedly feel for the burr with your thumb by running it very gently down the blade and over the edge, if the burr is there it will be very obvious, you need to create the burr along the entire length of the blade. Once you have done that, (you have accomplished what most people will never try) but besides that, you have to do the same to the other side of the blade.
Put the pointed, narrow end of the sharpener up against the open end of the gut hook. The narrow, pointed end of the sharpener should face in toward the thickness of the blade, away from the edge of the gut hook. Match the angle of the sharpener to the original edge angle. This will maintain the correct sharpening angle and prevent you from getting cut by the blade tip. Hold the same angle when sharpening each side of the gut hook.
I can personally verify that this will get your knives very sharp. I will spare you all the gory details, but the picture is of the instructions the ER sent me home with after stopping the bleeding and patching me up. I have to say, that’s not what I had in mind regarding “Thanksgiving tips”. So: not only will knives slide easily through spinach, but they will go through finger and fingernail like a hot knife through butter after being sharpened by this whetstone. Very clean, straight cut. Impressive, really. Just take it slow and don’t be a moron like me.
My first set of sharpening stones so I have nothing to compare them to. For $50, though, great price to get into the world of sharpening. Stones are great and easy to use. Was able to put hair shaving edges on knives. Took a couple of knives to feel comfortable and better with the process and how to sharpen, but the stones you get work great. Here's the secret though. Get the green leather stoping block as well. As great as the stone are, I have found that stroping the knife after the fact is what really brings out that razor edge. And after using the knife, stroping it again, will restore and keep it razor sharp. Hope you enjoy it as much as I am.