If by honing, you mean using a honing rod to true a knife which has an impact burr (bend) along the edge; a honing rod is a faster and more efficient method than stropping -- for most knives.
A few, influential knife "experts," notably Korin, have popularized the idea that "Japanese knives" should never be steeled. That's bullshit. Some knives aren't suitable for truing on a honing rod because they are too asymmetric, too acute, too hard, or otherwise too brittle; and some Japanese knives are quite asymmetric, acute, hard, or (wait for it) otherwise too brittle, and should not be trued. But their Japanese-ness has nothing to do with their suitability. It's strictly a question of whether the tremendous forces generated by along the small contact patch of a honing rod will straighten the burr or break off a piece of the edge.
Steeling an AEB-L or 51200 Artifex is not a problem; I'm not sure about Bohler 390, but given 390's toughness, I doubt steeling it would be a problem either.
Really, really good honing rods are inexpensive.
The only good reasons to true an Artifex by stropping on a flat surface are:
- Screwing around;
- You're really serious about maintaining a polish which the knife won't hold long anyway; and/or
- Your strops are already set up and you feel like it.
You can strop on a lot of surfaces -- including water stones. If you're stropping to true (as opposed to stropping to sharpen and/or polish) there's no compelling reason to charge (use a stropping compound) the surface. If you're going without a charge anything fairly smooth which can be mounted on something hard to hold it flat will do; I favor strips of manilla folder, because it works and because I have a lot of it. You could use shirtboard, leather, newsprint, hard felt, masonite, etc., etc., as effectively. It really doesn't matter, so don't obsess over what's best.
You can also used a charged strop to true. You can even charge the surface of a very fine stone, and strop on that.
One thing you have to watch out for when stropping is pulling a wire. If you draw a wire, you'll have to deburr. Another way to true an edge is "touch up" sharpening on your finest stone. But, alla time same same. If you pull a burr, the Mystic 8 Ball sees deburring in your future. The burr/deburr thing is is one of several reasons a steel is so much more efficient for truing.
The right ways to steel and strop are not intuitively obvious, and while neither is complicated both are a but fussy and both have something of a learning curve. You have a pretty good chance of causing damage (usually minor) if you steel with the wrong rod or use bad technique. Bad stropping tends to be more ineffectual than actually harmful.
If you're after efficient results, get a good steel and learn to use it the right way, using very few strokes with very light pressure. Learn to strop, too. You never know.