It's not the amount of time Roger. Usually I can get a very fine edge with several passes.
I would respectfully disagree with Rob about flatness. For a chisel, yes 100%, but for a plane, you can use the ruler trick [google it if unfamiliar] to put a tiny back bevel on a plane iron and dramatically reduce your flattening effort. I'd forget about using the wire edge as a criterion for sharpening.
The best advice I can give you is to seek someone who hones well, and ask him/her to show you how they do it.
I agree with your keeper about the bald spots. The best test I know for sharpness is to cut across the end grain of soft wood. If you can raise a cohesive shaving and leave a smooth surface, you're good.
Last edited by ken werner; 07-31-2012 at 03:17 PM.
If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.