Thank you for all the feedback guys. I have been retraining myself to sharpen freehand over the past week or so. My grandfathers lessons from almost 40 years ago finally came back to me. It took a ton of paper sheets, but I am finally getting nice results now. I am looking to keep things as simple/tidy as possible because of my small shop doesnt lend enough room for a real sharpening station. Seeing the varied responses you all posted, I think my best avenue will be to experiment for a while until I settle on what feels best.
The sigma stones are "scary fast", I have a King combination stone and the sigmas are at least twice as fast as it. I haven't tried the norton's but folks say they're somewhere in the middle. The sigmas also remove skin scary quick if you let a finger drag on the stone (even the 10k one), odd thing is it doesn't really hurt until you see the blood streaks and then the raw nerve burn kicks in
I have a set and use them a lot, although I do find the water to be a pain. If you decide to go that route get a bottle of "HoneRite Gold" to add to the water - magically anti rust (no idea how it works but really does somehow ).
If you decide to go with oil stones (I use a the black arkansas at the bench dry, and just scrub it with water once every couple of weeks) knifemerchant.com has a really good deal (see below for my to much money comment its all relative) on the halls stones in the 12"x3" size (which is HUGE and hard to find): http://www.knifemerchant.com/product...categoryID=285 You can actually use "oil" stones with water as well, if you use oil once though they are pretty much oil stones forever after (yeah yeah boiling, soap, etc...). I like the black oil stone for tune ups since its dry and I don't stress leaving it in my work area.
In general I'd agree you have the right idea, the sandpaper works pretty well; stick with it for a while until you decide you have to much money . I mostly switched to the combination water stones for initial sharpening/maintenance and the oil stone for intermediates because I found the sandpaper somewhat slow and I got annoyed at having to replace it all the time.
My current regime is something like:
- water stones for initial sharpening and edge reshaping/cleanup.
- leather strop + LV green compound for extra sharp (when I care)
Repeat until I get a nick or decide to reset the bevel:
- leather strop
- intermittent black arkansas (every ?third? stropping or when it looks a smidge rough) to cleanup the edge