“And. Here. We. Go!” –The Joker (Heath Ledger)
My current preference is for waterstones, only two grits 800 and 8000 for flat plane blades and chisels. I favor the “ruler trick” to make a small back bevel so I don’t have to fool about with flattening backs of vintage plane blades, or even new ones for that mater. For my chisels, I’ve got some with flat backs and a few with “ruler trick” backs. So far, no major difference in function of operating qualities. YMMV. I tend to use my water stones free-hand.
For curved blades and carving chisels and whatnot I have been using oilstones in flat and shaped configurations. All work just fine for me.
For damaged blades that do require grinding I previously used a standard 6″ grinder but have since switched to a hand-crank grinder. Not so much because of the “slow speed can’t blue steel” myth — it isn’t a myth, it will blue it lickey-split,, but because the hand-crank is so much smaller and easier to store. Frankly, I have no problem grinding on a standard fast grinder. It is all about a good, well dressed, coarse stone, light touch and PAYING ATTENTION! For special cases, I’ll make a “fid” of the right shape and use sandpaper to do the rough “grinding” work.
All that said, about 3 months ago I did purchase a coarse, medium and fine diamond stone to investigate the convex bevel “method” and to evaluate the diamond plates as a suitable method to place into the shop at my local woodworking guild (more below). It works. That’s the short answer. I plan to continue experimenting with the method for at least another 3 months before I decide if I want to make the switch to full time diamond stones. Also I already used a strop so that step is really no different for me.
Disclaimer & disclosure : I am the current President of the Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild. Our current membership is hovering around 500 and we offer to our members a fully equipped shop. I take some teasing for working mostly with handtools but that is primarily because I don’t care for the noise and mess at home of all the power equipment. So this also means it falls to me and a few others to help set up our shop space for handtool work. Thus, evaluating a couple brands of continuous diamond plates. Given the propensity of our members to NOT SHARPEN tools (lazy, but I digress) but rather just stuff them back in the rack I want sharpening equipment available to them that requires minimum maintenance. So waterstones are right out. Diamond plates or oil stones are pretty much the only possible solution for an semi-public shop hand sharpening solution. I’m leaning toward the diamond stones as the least troublesome. And I’m not going to recommend that the KCWG provide jigs as the long term problems outweigh the short term hassle of learning to work free hand.