I'm a home user, not a professional chef, so take what I say as you will.
I don't know all that you are sharpening, but I much prefer bench/table/sink-top stones over hand-held ones. There is a technique to learn about keeping the angle consistent as you sharpen, and I don't have the skills of Takeda-san, by any stretch.
I personally think that starting on stones that are "less forgiving" than many of the entry-level kits provide allow you to learn a lot more quickly. I'm a fan of Shapton Glass Stones as well as the Nubatama stones. Something like the Nubatama set
would be a killer set-up for most people. It's pricey though. "Natural" stones are on my list too, but opening that Pandora's Box can probably wait for most -- though I do
really, really like the Meara for either "finishing" or second-to-last stone for kitchen knives -- It would be somewhere in the 2000-8000 range, but leaves a killer edge on everything I've tried it on; very sharp yet still nicely "toothy" in its feel.
You could also go with the Shapton Glass Stone set
, adding a stone holder and a flattening plate (like the Atoma 140
, or the DMT). I did quite well in the kitchen with a wide range of steels with Shapton Glass Stones in 2k and 6k. I am assuming the 1k and 4k would be another good pair to start with.
I have heard of some good results with some of the combo stones. I'm not a huge fan of the King, but others may have better input.
What do you get with other stones? A different "feel" when sharpening, subtly different edge characteristics, different longevity (stones wear), changes in the way the sharpened edge looks,
different prep rituals ("Spash-and-go" is nice for many as you can just grab the stone and use it, without soaking it first), nothing huge.
On the yanagiba, while single-bevel knives look
like they would be easy to sharpen, they can be deceiving. I would say that keeping
an edge on one isn't too bad, but as soon as you have any edge defects, there is a lot of metal to remove to move the edge back even a tiny bit. If you do need to do repair work on a single-bevel knife, that would be a good time to consider sending it off to one of the professionals -- there is a list in the Sharpener's Corner section of these forums. Keep it away from bones and "sharpening steels" of any sort, and you probably can take care of it yourself.