It might be a stupid question, but can you use any side of the waterstone to sharpen? I got the new King 1.2K as it's cheap and has decent reviews, should keep me learning, but I like the writing on it and I do not want to erase it. Can I use the other side?
Side of the waterstone?
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Trying to preserve the writing is like trying to keep your pencil eraser looking new! It's made to be used, not saved and gazed at. Grind away on that sucker!
Either way is fine. You'll take out and clean your flattening tool(s) less often if you use (and flatten) both sides of the stone.
Not counting moving a lot of metal on a soft, coarse stone... you should get somewhere in the neighborhood of three to five knives before the barest hint of dish.