Sharpening blades is a metalworking activity, and metalworking is what I do, and what I'm used to. At first I automatically gravitated towards diamond stones, because that's what I'm used to. I've got a diamond hone that I've had bouncing around in my toolbox for over a decade. Maybe 15 years, now. Still works great.
So when I got into woodworking I bought diamond stones, and used them, and liked them.
Then I needed something finer, so I bought ceramic stones. Again - something I was used to. I didn't want oil stones (which I'm also used to) because of the mess.
Eventually I got tired of hearing about how great water stones are and how they are the One True Path for sharpening, so I bought a few to try them out.
The following is about what I have, and what I actually use.
Firstly, here are my diamond stones. The small one is a roughing stone, 250 grit, 6"x2". It is rarely used.. it's only needed to fix a chip in a chisel or something like that. The larger stone is double-sided with 600 grit on one face and 1200 grit on the other. This is still my most-used stone, and if I had to have just one this would be THE ONE. These are DMT stones with the drilled sharpening plate, obviously. I like these a lot for plane irons and chisels because the swarf (that's the 'metal dust' that is abraded from the object being sharpened) falls into the 'holes' and doesn't cause scratches in the finish. These are not great for small gouges or small knives or anything else that will poke into the holes and get maimed. For that you want a flat, undrilled plate, which DMT makes as well.
Next comes my first polishing stone. This is a ceramic stone.
I like ceramic stones a lot because they cut fast, and will happily do the job with just a touch of lubricant, which can be anything handy. I use mineral spirits as the lubricant for both the diamond stones and the ceramic stones, because it evaporates and won't cause rust.
Here are the water stones. I've got two 1000 grit Nortons, plus an 8000 grit Norton. The reason I got two 1000 grit stones is so I could use Rob Cosman's method of keeping the stones flat. It works.
And here is my current sharpening jig which I use when grinding the bevel. I do honing by hand, and I'll get to that in a minute, but I like the jig for getting the angle right on the bevel. I use the Veritas Mark II, and I have the cambered roller for lightly cambered blades (smoothing planes).
So what do I actually use? Good question. At first I used the jig on the diamond stones and was happy. The blades weren't really sharp enough at only 1200 grit, but most of the time it was actually just fine. When I needed more sharpness I bought the ceramic 8000 grit stone. It's too small to easily use with the jig, but I used it anyway and it worked.
When I heard the siren call of the water stones I pulled out the VISA card and bought them, took them home, and spent a weekend sharpening everything I owned. At first I liked them. I really did. If you're going to do a serious hours-long sharpening session, they work great. For touch-ups they suck. Why? Mud. They get mud all over everything. It's horrible. And if that wasn't bad enough, I found spots of rust on some of my blades the next day, and also on the bedding surfaces of the planes. I thought I'd wiped them off well enough, but I guess I hadn't. That wasn't a good morning for me. I wasn't happy at all.
At one point I considered using just the 8000 grit water stone, because it doesn't need to be soaked, just spritzed with water. I could use a diamond stone to keep it flat, and just leave the 1000 grit stones in the cupboard. Then I got wise.
I got myself a 'secret weapon'. Yes! Cast a loving eye on this beauty!
What? You expected high-tech? From the hand-tool-only guy? Nope. An elderly Craftsman hand-cranked grinder with a hard felt wheel charged with the green honing compound that Lee Valley sells. Oh, it's... it's just magical. I can take a chisel from the 1200 grit diamond stone, give it a quick hone on the hand grinder, and it is shaving-sharp. I mean, the unwary could shave clear down to the bone in a heartbeat. It's wicked sharp. So once in a blue moon I use the non-rusting-mineral-spirits-lubricated diamond stones with the jig to establish my angles, then I just buff the tool as required on the wheel. No need to remove the wire edge, either... it just 'vanishes'. When it's gone, you're done. You don't touch the back of the blade, you just hone the bevel. This thing works gangbusters for carving knives and whatnot.
Of course, 19 times out of 20 you just need to touch the edge to the wheel again to re-hone it. Re-grinding the bevel is a rare occurrence around here.
I'm considering making a grinder (yes, a powered one) that would have easily replacable wheels so that I could have different firmnesses of felt, or a buffing wheel, or different profiles (for gouges, etc.). I'm still mulling over the design.