It's been a great day of catching up on threads and searching for everything I can read on sharpening stones and recommendations. (That's a nice way of saying "I did use search first.") After going through it all, I'm not entirely sure I have it all sorted out right in my head or really understand which way to go. (That's a nice way of saying "But I'll ask anyway." :) )
So: What stone should I get?
No, really. Let's start with some background info here.
1. I want to sharpen freehand on stones. I've gotten comfortable with my current setup, enough to not mangle the edge and get a knife much sharper than when I start. However, I'm not sure I'm in the right place for where I want to get to next. I don't particularly care to fuss with rigs and setups - there's something very zen about rubbing a knife on a block of stone - but I'm open if y'all want to convince me.
2. Cost isn't a major constraint but it is an object. So, while I'm not necessarily on a shoestring budget, I'm not out to splurge, either. Bang for the buck is key here.
Today, my sharpening regime consists of a DMT DuoSharp (http://www.dmtsharp.com/sharpeners/bench-stones/duosharp/) - 8", with Red (Fine) and Green (Extra Fine) sides. That, and a Idahone Fine rod for honing/steeling between sharpening. While I'm not the best at holding perfect edges yet, I'm getting there.
After all of today's reading, I'm now considering what's the best stone to pair up against my knives. Unfortunately, they cover a wide range:
* Konosuke HD (which has never touched the diamond plates, for fear of totally borking it)
* Sabatier carbon steel chef's (where I seriously rethink bolsters, pain in my ass to sharpen around)
* Forschner chef
* Henckels Four Star (two man, not one man) chef
* Henckels Five Star paring
* Kyocera ceramic santoku (Kidding. I mean, I own one, but don't plan to sharpen it. Unless you folks have tips.)
I'm able to get good-to-great edge on the German knives, great edge on the Firschner, and good edge on the carbon steel.
Unfortunately, after spending the day reading, I'm not entirely sure how to break this down.
A. Coarse stones (<1000 grit, depending on whatever scale you use) are for profiling a knife, removing lots of metal quickly to give a new bevel. Use with caution, but will eventually be necessary (reshouldering, I think it was called).
B. Medium stones (~1000-4000 grit, if you can call that a useful scale here) are good for refining an edge. Cleaning up some of the trauma of a coarse stone, restoring an edge on a dull-but-not-dead knife, so on.
C. Fine stones (~5k and up) are for polishing an edge. Clean up and smooth out the work of the coarser stones. Depending on who you read, this will transition you from a toothy edge great for sawing/drawing motion to a keen mirrored edge great for push cutting, shaving, and impressing your friends.
Some would say start with the coarse and medium, and add fine only after you get good enough that you want to really polish the edge. Others (I'll cite BDL, and see if I'm right) would say to start with the medium and fine stones, because they'll work well and if I'm bad enough to screw up a knife, I'll do it faster and way more severely on a coarse stone.
Also, I've read enough to think now that some stones prefer softer steels used in the German knives, while others excel more with the harder Japanese steels. (Which may really be Swedish. Useful classifier, nationality.) Unfortunately, I have both ends in the mix.
So: Where do I go from here? India, Arkansas? King, Bester, Norton, Halls? Various Japanese stones I can't often pronounce? A "Green Brick Of Joy"?
I've about reached the capacity, I think, for what I'll learn from more forum reading and Youtube-watching. Time to ask the crew here for more direct advice. And, as I've come here off and on over the years, I generally trust (and see the same way) as folks here more than anyplace else.
Help me, Obi-Wans!