Phil Kinsler replies: I use four water stones from 500-8000 grit. I then use a leather strop with polishing compound or a piece of hard maple with 1 or ½ micron diamond paste.
Bill Taylor replies: Don’t forget the value of stropping. Strop frequently after you get sharp. Make it a habit. Think cheap—what could be cheaper and cleaner than leather and stropping compound? Remember leather has a grain so only go in one direction.
Dan Faia replies: When someone is starting out, I would recommend using oil stones. They are hard and durable, and will remain flat for a long time with proper use.
Water stones are fantastic for their speed and high polish but require more maintenance than oil stones.
The great cutting advantage of water stones can also be a downside. If the water stones are not kept flat, they can quickly do damage to the tools being sharpened.
Diamond stones are another alternative. They don’t require lubrication (some folks use water), they remain flat, and are available in many grits. The downside of diamond stones is their lifespan and possible uneven wear with improper use.
Elliot Savitzky replies: I first learned to sharpen my blades with oil stones. I gradually upgraded both my stones—diamond and Japanese water stones and my chisels. I believed that the fault was the stones and the quality of my chisels until I realized that the fault was truly with me.
I have since fallen back to my oil stones and learned how to sharpen my chisels and plane irons properly. I first joint the edges and hollow grind them to about a 28 1/2° angle, then sharpen and hone them on a succession of medium Arkansas, soft India and then black hard Arkansas stones for final honing.
I don’t finish with a strop as black Arkansas leaves a nice polish. I use cheap mineral oil for lubrication as this is the same thing as the Norton oil but less the additive they use in it.
Garrett Hack Replies: Buy a set of quality waterstones from Lie-Nielsen, Lee Valley or similar seller. I happen to like the Shapton stones and use a 2000, 5000 and 8000. A 600 grit diamond plate is a useful starting place for well worn edges.
Steve Costain replies: I am slowly moving to diamond stones. The Norton water stones are a good value.