So I've just recently purchased and received a MAC Pro, which so far I am very happy with. It's light and very comfortable to hold. Perhaps most importantly, it is easily the sharpest knife I've ever used in a kitchen. Now I need to figure out how to keep it that way. Looking at my options, and after a lot of reading here and elsewhere, I've decided I'd like to sharpen freehand with stones. I've started to get a pretty decent idea of what I need, but I still have a few questions and a few constraints. And finally: if anything below is mistaken please let me know! I'd rather know I was wrong Caveats: I've never really done this before. I remember sharpening in scouts, but I'm really not certain how well I'll take to it. That combined with a bit of a budget means I really don't want to jump into a $150+ combination set. I'd really like to try to keep it to one stone and a steel for now, and then know what and when I need to expand to later. I'm open to eventually have several quality stones, but I need to try and keep things below $100 for now, then in a couple months add on (I just can't manage $300+ in one month for knife/sharpening gear). The big question is what I need for the immediate future to keep this thing in shape, then what I need to keep it up to par for the next few years over several purchases. Questions: It seems like most people suggest a medium (around 1k) and a fine (I've seen... a lot of numbers here). Which is more vital to maintaining a good working edge in a kitchen? Is a single 1k stone capable of keeping a knife sharp, or do you really need the refinement that a 4k+ puts on it? In that vein: I'm not sure I really understand the difference between a blade that has been sharpened somewhat roughly and stopped on a lower grit versus one that's been polished highly up through the 8k+ stones or a fine strop. That is in part at least my uncertainty. And then there's the steel. I know for sure I'm not getting a grooved steel, but I'm still a little unclear on the ceramic's purpose. It seems the Idahone is really well respected, but what throws me is that it's a ~1200 grit equivalent. Does that mean if I get a 1k stone and a Idahone now I'll be able to keep a decent edge, but that if I start polishing my knife further in the future the first time I steel will just pull that smooth edge off? Finally: what's the opinion on combination stones? A Norton combination is somewhat tempting to start with, but if the general consensus is 'get a decent single grit stone you can start with and then expand later as that will keep you set for years, combo stones have issues' then I don't want to get something I'll quickly outgrow/wear out/replace. As an idea of what I'm currently thinking: either a 1k/6k combination stone and either a Idahone fine rod or smooth steel, or a 1k glasspro and the idahone.