I was planning on purchasing the 5 piece kit but it's on back order. Can I get recommendations to build out a starter set of wet stones? I'm tempted to to go with the Nubatama Ume 1k medium and Nubatama bamboo 6k. My knives consist of soft German steel to blue paper steel. Also, do I need a strop or a sharpening steel or would a 6k stone work for touch up and finish work?
Latte 400, Bester 1200, Rika 5K would be a great combo, but the Rika is OOS. I don't think I've used another synthetic 5K stone since I had the Rika; I used a King 6000 but didn't really like it after getting the Rika, so I can't help out with another 5K stone to recommend.
Jason I like your recommendation (obviously) These two stones came late into the bamboo series, but are excellent both in terms of cost and performance. The 1k Ume medium is a bit softer than the 1k Bamboo gold and is also a good choice.
I've had a chance to use pretty much all of the 5k stones out there and really like the 5k Bamboo - not as hard as the Shapton Pro or GS, not as soft as the 5k Choceras or superstones in general. Does everything a S. Rika does and more (IMO), having tried it a few times too. Feel is somewhat similar, but especially on carbon steel (for example the blue paper steel) is superior. Pretty close on stainless. Personally depending on the steel a 1k to 6k is a big spread and a 5k is IMO a better choice for a 2 stone solution. Also a superb lead in into a higher grit natural polishing stone.
Stropping would be a matter of how refined of an edge you prefer. The 5k would be fine enough for lots of tasks, but I'd strop on a 1.5 micron CBN strop (12k) if you want to go just a bit finer for maintaining your edge.