I've been searching around and reading a lot on this forum (and others) for a few weeks, and I think I'm beginning to understand what's happening here. I have had only the very worst knives (Farberware), and I've realized that for me to enjoy cooking more I need to get better with a knife, and part of that is having a better knife and keeping it sharp.
I just got a Victorinox 8" chef in the mail, and I want to use it to improve my knife skills and learn how to hone and sharpen. I have no qualms about destroying this knife utterly (I'm convinced that I can't mess it up badly enough to make it perform like my Farberware knife, which is about as sharp as the dull end of the Victorinox). I'm about to buy an Idahone ceramic honing rod. Since my next knife will be a 10" chef, I've decided to go with the 12" hone.
The hard question has been whether to learn to freehand or go with a Chef's Choice sharpener. I'm not interested in the sort of intermediary guide systems. I consider this the beginning of my improvement in the kitchen, and since cooking for the two of us and an eventual family is of long term importance, I think I have the time for the learning curve involved with bench stones. Also, since the knives I'm used to are so very awful, I think I can live with a poor-to-mediocre sharpening job on my Victorinox until my skills improve. If the knife really gets messed up before that happens, I can easily replace it before moving to a nicer knife, given the Victorinox price point.
My precise questions have to do with bench stone size and sharpening technique. Mark in the Chef Knives to Go videos appears to be using a 3" wide stone that's 0.5" high. Are their tangible benefits to stone height and width? I plan to get the Norton India coarse/fine combination stone (I know to hold off on using the coarse side), but the one I was looking at is 8"x2"x1". The next size up is quite long and more expensive, and is still less than 3" wide. Is a 2" width any significant disadvantage? I also plan to get Hall's hard Arkansas, and I have a fairly wide choice in size. I don't have a set budget, but money is definitely an object here. Will I regret paying less for less width? What about height? If I can get by okay on 2" wide Norton, is their any particular need for a 3" wide Hall's? Is there a good reason not to get the Hall's hard Arkansas only 0.5" high, which would also save money? And if I had to choose between 8"x3"x0.5" and 8"x2"x1", does height or width affect performance more? Sorry to ask the same question six different ways, but these are the options I'm looking at.
I intend to follow BDL's suggestions on using the oil stones dry to simplify cleanup. I'll get a brass brush and run the stones through the dishwasher regularly. Do oil stones require flattening? If so, do the methods described by Mark on CKtG work for oil stones (coarse grit sandpaper on a flat surface or maybe someday a diamond plate)? Are there any major differences between Mark's knife sharpening technique on those videos and what one would do on an oil stone (aside from the splash of water)? And using an oil stone "dry" means totally dry, right? Not even a splash of water or drop of oil (I realize I could use a splash, I'm just wondering how dry is meant by "dry")? Would this work on the Hall's as well as the Norton?
Finally, for aesthetic reasons and because fatigue isn't likely to be an issue given the smaller scale of my kitchen tasks, I am pretty sure I will move from Victorinox to German knives. I particularly like F. Dick's 1905 series. So pretty! Is it true that I could sharpen those knives on oil stones, and that I probably wouldn't want to sharpen Japenese knives on oil stones? Could I avoid needing water stones by choosing knives of more or less typical German steels? I'm fairly certain the improved performance of keener, harder, lighter Japanese knives is just not really that important for chopping my daily veggies, whereas the aesthetics of a heavy knife and pretty handle...I don't know, I like that.
Sorry if much of this is collected in other posts; I have tried to keep questions thoroughly answered elsewhere out of this post.
Anyway, advice will be appreciated