My waterstones arrived today. They are 800x and 4000x.
Of course, I was very eager to try them out. Goodness, what a difference. I flattened a plane blade back, and that took a little bit of time, but once flat on the 800x, the 4000x did its job with amazing speed.
Then I honed the bevel–in just a few minutes. But the real surprise came when I did the final hone with the green compound on wood. I knew that the edge was pretty sharp, but it didn’t look too shiny. Well, the green compound made the blade shine like nothing I’ve ever done before.
Well, that’s all fine and good. And I did shave off the requisite arm hair. But I really wanted to see how the blade worked, so I put that bad boy back into its type 4 Millers Falls smoothing plane, clamped in a yellow-poplar board, and set the blade for a very fine cut.
Holy crap. Now, granted, I’d been fiddling around with this plane recently, but I did not expect so see shavings so consistent and thin. The blade zipped through like it was almost nothing and left my best surface yet. Even on the part of the board where the grain reversed direction!
I guess it’s so long for Scary Sharp for me–it was a nice cheap way to get started, but even though waterstones are slightly messy, the speed, ease, and consistency of results are really hard to deny.
[edit: I still use sandpaper (Norton 3X, then grit progressions) on a surface plate to initially flatten faces of tools. It’s faster and less error-prone because you don’t have to worry about keeping a stone flat. But I always turn to my waterstones for final sharpening, and I generally don’t use the sandpaper after the initial flattening.]