Learning to sharpen a knife by feel makes sure your knives last longer and are easier (and safer) to use -- even more so than an automatic sharpener, which can grind your knives down and shorten their life. This method, from sharpening master Peter Nowlan, is a solid "four pressure" system you can learn at home.
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Learning to use a whetstone is the best thing you can do for your knives, especially nice ones, but learning how can be tricky. Luckily, this (very detailed) guide from KnifePlanet teaches you how, from start to finish, and includes a simple method for making sure you've sharpened enough to make a difference.