I've been sharpening my own pocket knives with varying degrees of success with different systems since I was a kid. Though I've grown to like my Lansky 5 stone set, it's not suited very well to the large kitchen knives
I've spent time on the 'net and this site trying to gather info, but of course the sheer volume of information can be daunting.
If money were no object, I'd go straight for an Edge Pro system and never look back. However, since I have to deal with reality and a budget, I figure taking the time to master sharpening by free-hand (my weakness) is certainly worth it in the long run in terms of cost and versatility. The question then becomes what stones to start with. I know many people recommend water stones, but I have some experience with oil stones and don't mind them. Plus, they're reasonably cheap.
My small stable of kitchen knives includes 2 old carbon steel Sabatiers, a few Forschners and various cheep-o grocery store stainless knives that are used for sharpening practice, puncturing tin cans and little else. In that light, what do you fine folks think of these set-ups as a reasonable starter set given I'm just a home cook who wants sharp everyday knives? They seem to be good "bang for the buck" options.
Kit 1: Unspecified Norton 8x2 Course/Fine India combi-stone and Norton 8x2 Soft/Hard Arkansas Combi/stone plus oil. Both in wooden cases. $59.99 + shipping. Sharpening Supplies Seems like a great value.
Kit 2: Norton IB8 8x2x3/4, Course/Fine India combi-stone plus a Norton IM50 (SIMCS8 plus sharpening station ) 8x2x3/4 Medium India / Soft Arkansas combi-stone. I believe both stones would fit the plastic sharpening station that also includes a cheap plastic guide and a can of "sharpening oil" (expensive lamp oil). $79.90, free shipping. Cutlery and More
Kit 3: One of the following individual Norton 8x3x1/2 stones in their own plastic cases, plus a can of that overpriced oil - Coarse Crysolon, Medium India, Fine India, Soft Arkansas. $99.99, free shipping. Sharpening Supplies
Or is the two combi-stone (220/1000 & 4000/8000 ) Norton water stone + flattening stone kit from Sharpening Supplies enough of a performance jump to be worth it at $134.99?
<edit to add> Or what about a Norton IB8 India Course/Fine Plus a Hall's Soft Ark? And what of Norton vs. Halls Arkansas stones? Heck, now I'm confusing myself. Am I nuts for not starting out with water stones? I planned on trying the water stones wet anyway. A set of Naniwa Super stones in 220, 1000 and 3000 seem like and admirable start as well.
Add to any of the above an Idahone ceramic hone to complete the kit.
I'm not brand loyal to Norton in any way, but they do have a known reputation and buying either "kit" from their respective vendors saves a bit on shipping, driving around, etc. I'm open to any suggestions about the above or any other ideas. Just keep in mind that I'm not likely to suddenly buy high end Japanese cutlery any time soon and can't justify spending hundreds of dollars on stones for "Best in budget class" and heirloom carbon knives. I'm quite happy with the stamped steel Forschners and old K-Sabs and will likely expand my kit over time with other high value knives.
Edited by Phreon - 1/21/11 at 4:00pm