Chicago Cutlery stopped making professional butchers' knives in the mid seventies, after a change of ownership. For a few years they continued to make some good knives (and some bad ones as well), but now make nothing but garbage. Stay away.
All of the stones to which Marty refers appear to be what are called "oil stones." They're called oil stones, because old school sharpeners used honing oil as a medium to float away swarf on that type of dense, insoluble stone. Swarf is a mix of metal filings from the knife itself, and whatever else comes off the stone. Nowadays, people use a variety of liquids including honing oil, water, soapy water, etc., or sharpen dry.
The purpose of a liquid is float the swarf off the stone and keep it from clogging up the stone's pores. It is not to "lubricate them" in the sense of reducing friction; indeed, reducing friction would be counter-productive.
Using oil stones dry -- including but not limited to those sold by The Razor's Edge -- makes them faster and more efficient; but they require more frequent cleaning as well. Oil stones used with appropriate liquids actually load more slowly than those used dried; but the clogging is more pernicious.
Well meaning people often put cooking oil in the "bath" which is part of an oil-stone "sharpening station." Cooking oils turn to glue and make the stones very difficult to clean. Some people cut their honing oil with mineral spirits, making it very light and easy to clean. In any case, if you use a brass brush, scouring powder, and own a dishwasher -- you can get just about anything clean as new.
Japanese type water stones are generally faster and more efficient than any oil stone, but it depends on the knife alloy. Speed (e.g., "faster") is a big deal with stones, especially for beginners -- as more strokes ("slower") means a greater probability for rounding over, high spots, and other forms of error.
If the middle of the stone doesn't see more action than the very ends, you're not sharpening correctly. With enough use, all stones dish (hollow in the middle) eventually. A very flat surface is very important, so eventually all stones will need flattening. But some stones dish quicker than others. A good, hard, oil stone may take a decade or two or even three, while some very good but very soft water stones benefit from flattening before every sharpening.
Flattening isn't particularly difficult, but it's a good idea to know what you're getting into. If your knives will sharpen well on either type of stone, the extra maintenance of flattening water stones may lead you to oil stones; or the extra maintenance involved with cleaning oil stones, may take you to water stones. Generally though, your knives will make the choice.
We can talk about the geometry if you like, but edge guides are inherently very problematic for long knives. Consequently I don't encourage their use for kitchen knives at all, and feel its better to learn to hold an angle "freehand." But I'm not the god of sharpening. Some people like them quite a bit, and my opinion doesn't make them wrong.
If you find the idea of "freehanding" frightening, there are other methods just as or almost as good; perhaps one or several would be better for you. I can't say. Understanding there is no "best" way, you try to choose one which will work for you.
John Juranitch, the Razor Edge guy, was a huge influence in my almost fifty year long sharpening journey; and I still (mostly) sharpen dry when I use my oil stone kit (one of four complete sharpening kits). By all means read his book if you have an interest in old-school sharpening and knives, but be aware the craft and the equipment to do it has evolved quite a bit over the years. If you want to see some of the equipment Marty's writing about, as well as other Juranitch related stuff, visit Razor Edge Systems
for a click-about.
BDLEdited by boar_d_laze - 10/3/11 at 2:39pm