I sometimes wonder of we don’t prevent ourselves from developing a skill by our fear of failing. I would say 80% of my students through the years have overstressed about sharpening, to the point that in just seconds it becomes more a white-knuckle experience rather than a flexible interaction that moves in and out of relaxing and correcting by engaging the senses rather than denying them. The ‘in-and-out’ I speak of is an alternating of both mental and physical responses. We listen for cutting on the surface of the stones and look at the video effect from the back and forth movements we make as a burr forms and glints its band of caught light in the flashes. We sense the pressures as we move rhythmically and shift our bodyweight as we might when cycling, not even conscious of those micro movements along the path of presentation.
It comes with practice, that rhythmic pulse. It leaves the question. Should we actually worry about always being square or should we periodically correct our discrepancy from time to time? Does it matter of we are not dead square? The answer generally is not much. The problem is that without some repeated correction we will always give sway to a developing bad habit. Eventually we will stop the bias and continue sharpening at the slight angle. The chisel will still cut well. Steady self correction will produce the muscle memory you need and if occasionally you are out of square, in my view at least, why does it matter? It doesn’t. The important thing is not allow a bad habit to form when it is as easy to establish a good one. Correct yourself consistently but relax in the process. When you relax you increase sensitivity and awareness. Relax, my friends, and it will take over to become a more calming experience for you.