I know the choices can be daunting but the other day I got some decent advice from a good woodworking friend who has been in the business over 40 years. He put this whole sharpening thing in perspective. He said “It’s mostly about technique and purpose. There is no such thing as a perfect all around stone. “
To elaborate on this there is a belief that water stone like the Japanese whet stones provide a good feel and the cutting action is quick. These stones come in a good selection of grits.
Both oil stones and water stones are pretty much the same in regards to how well they can sharpen. The major difference between the two is this: With the oil stone you can use either water or oil but with the wet stone only water can be used because petroleum will degrade the surface quickly. Also many people do not like the mess of an oil stone.
A ceramic sharpening stone is considered a lifetime tool if you take care of it. They are more expensive but in the long run may very well be worth the money.
The list he provided-
Oil stones: Mostly used for woodworking tools like chisels and planes.
Water stones: Used for pocket knives and kitchen cutlery.
Ceramic and diamond: can be used for most purposes if you can afford them.
He suggested that I get at least two sharpening stones that are a minimum of six inches in length and have two different grit sizes one on each side.
He recommended a water stone and an oil stone. I will talk about technique in a later post.