John, the short answer is Norton waterstones are good. The long answer is you may not need the whole set.
I use several methods, including scary sharp for initial work [100-400 grit]. From there I can go three ways, oil stones, Norton water, and shapton pro. They work differently, give different feedback to your hands, and give different results. If you want to do freehand honing, the Nortons are least forgiving of a slip. They also require the most frequent flattening. There are some who think you can do very well with 1K and then 8K, without stopping at 4K on the way. That's my shapton configuration, and I like it. My Norton is 4K/8K combo.
I haven't used a Norton 220 or 1K, but my experience with a prior 220 waterstone is that I'd not use one again. It dished really fast, wore down even faster, and has been replaced by a slab of 3/8" glass with some sandpaper, which works way better.
Depending on what I'm doing, I may use any of the three set ups, but the Norton 4K/8K is my least favorite. They all give excellent results though. I picked up my oil stones at garage and estate sales for next to nothing. Flattened them, cleaned them, and made cases. YMMV of course. The Shaptons are pricey, but seem to hold up a lot better than the Nortons.
Bottom line - $150 for the setup you showed is not a bad price. You could get equal results for much less though. I'd urge you to try the various techniques if you can before jumping in for so much money, and one system.
Fine Woodworking recently had a very nice article about water stones.
Last edited by ken werner; 04-05-2012 at 01:40 PM.
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