Evolution #3: Reintroducing An Ohishi Water Stone.
Diamond stones are fine, but I continue to reach for that shiny edge, because after all if the edge is shiny, it lasts much longer (or so I think). The finest available diamond stone doesn't get me to shiny, and I still don't like stropping. So I bring out the 8k Ohishi water stone and add it to my routine. Now I have 4 stones to go through to get to sharp again. The 8k, however, doesn't always produce that shiny edge, but my tools are sharp, and the edge seems to hold up well while I work. Still not satisfied with how things look, instead of how the tool feels, I swap the 8k for the 10k stone. Now I'm getting shiny, and the tool feels great too. That reintroduces an old problem: I have to flatten the stone, it requires water, and it makes a mess everywhere with the slurry created when sharpening. I feel like I am at Evolution #1 all over again. Depression sets in. I can't win. I stuck to this approach for 3 months, after which I'd had enough abuse and am again looking for something else.
Evolution #4: Swapping Ohishi For Diamond Paste.
Through research and discussion with friends, I am pointed to 1-micron diamond paste by DMT. That material is approximately the equivalent of an 8-10k stone. You apply it to a piece of flat wood, like Hard Maple or MDF, and you rub the edge of the iron on it to burnish the end. This is not a cheap substance by any means. A small syringe of it will set you back $17.00, though it can last for a month or two. I also notice that the MDF doesn't last very long and tends to bubble up from the paste's moisture. Changing to a hard maple block solves the problem. The resulting edge is sure shiny! The blades are cutting really really well too. The time the edge stays sharp is better, and messy water stones are a thing of the past. Did I reach final success? To refresh the edge I have to get the iron into the sharpening jig to rub the bevel into the paste quickly to burnish it. That is just not convenient, and right now that is what I, unfortunately, have to do anyway since I don't sharpen freehand. I am just not happy with it. Sharpening cuts into my workflow, and I know I can do better, and I grow annoyed. I sharpen less again, it affects my work because my tools don't perform as expected. I stick to this approach for a month and give up.