When between projects and with a little time to play in the shop but not enough time or energy to tackle one of the many builds in the queue I will usually spend it either cleaning the shop or tool maintenance. The worst is when most of the tools are sharp and the shop is in near working condition then I gravitate to the really boring "what if's" such as: "Are water stones really better than oil?". "What about diamonds?" Or even better, "Natural vs. man made?".
You know where this is going. Over the last few days I've had limited time in the shop but enough to get in trouble with the "what if's". I've used oil stones as my primary sharpening medium for most of my life. I've made runs at most of the other ways but without fail when adding up all the advantages and disadvantages vs. other ways Ark oil stones work better for me. Of course, as always, YMMV.
The last few days follow the script. It started when I wanted to take another look at sharpening Veritas PM on Ark oil stones vs. water stones as referenced yesterday. Today I decided to play with some O1 chisels on Shampton's vs. Ark stones.
The common thread is almost all water stones will give a very nice polish even at the courser grits, oil not so much not even on oil polishing stones. To get a polish if that is your objective, at least when I'm doing it, requires going to a strop charged with one of the compounds. While I like to see a well polished iron, that really is not the objective, what I want is a edge that is "sharp" (whatever sharp is) and will last pass the first touch of wood.
I've found the scratch pattern is more important than polish and I think that is where most man made stones lose. I've seen very polished irons, irons that will blind you they are so shinny but with deep scratches on the back and bevel. Most of the time natural stones will give a better scratch pattern.
The real test is not visual but how does the iron cut wood, that of course is subjective. I've yet to find any stone that gives a better working edge than oil stones. It could be because I know Ark oil stones better than water stones or I may be full of whatever and/or just do not know how to get the best out of water stones. Both are very likely.
Bottom line, Ark stones still rule my sharpening bench with Atoma diamond stones for grinding.