I, on the other hand, do store mine in water. Otherwise , according to Lee Valley Tools, they must be soaked in water for 10-15 minutes prior to use. In addition, there is the possibility of mineral build up when the stones dry over and over again. I store mine in a large plastic margarine container and distilled water. Works fine.
I use an Edge-Pro which has very small waterstones. They don't have to be soaked or stored in water, and they absord water quickly when you get ready to use them. I don't know about the larger ones though.
In regards to storing them in water, Lee Valley sells a container for waterstones which makes this practical. Also the container has guides to hold the stones in place during use as well as a glass plate to use for lapping. It comes with a lapping compound as well as laminate sheets to protect the glass from wear :
I store mine this way under my desk and they are ready to go when needed. I never have a problem with clogging and they are used on a regular basis (on average once a day). They are lapped to keep them flat and cutting clean.
In regards to carbon vs stainless, plain carbon steels will sharpen much faster than the high carbide stainless steels. However the high alloy carbon steels like A2, D2, M2 and such will take more time as well.
For heavy reprofiling, nothing (short of power equipment) is faster than a coarse waterstone with lapping compound on top of it.
I bought a water stone by some Japanese manufacturer, but never had the patience to use it. I gave it to my son, and he claims he's had some success with it.
Personally, I favor the use of leather strops mounted on wood backing, used with a variety of grit-powders suitable for the task. I have powders in the range of 150-grit to 10000-grit which apply to tasks ranging from edge-shaping to final polish.
Thanks for the responses guys, very helpful. I'll let you know how it goes with the new stone. As with many of us everyone has their own preference as to what is the best way to achieve the "ultimate edge". I have various stones and methods (some work, some don't)but always searching for the next best thing.
Thanks again. Kevin
Yes, you can wet a waterstone down just prior to use if you don't like storing it submerged.
Here are the pluses and minuses of waterstones from my perspective.
Plus - They cut faster than oil-lubricated stones so they make quicker work of the sharpening job. Also they are available in finer grits for people who are into going the last little bit (I use leather for the last little bit myself.)
Minus - They wear very quickly and need to be flattened often. You can use a concave cupped stone for sharpening a pocket knife but to sharpen things like chisels and planer blades, the stone should be flat. Waterstones are a high maintenance product for that reason. That's the price you pay for the speed.
Personally, I use waterstones for sharpening wood working tools from paring chisels to plane blades. I actually flatten the stones everytime I use them on sandpaper so I don't have to deal with heavy duty flattening.
I use power equipment for sharpening knives since I operate a sharpening service and have the equipment but, if I were to sharpen by hand, I would use either a diamond stone like DMT or a clamp type sharpener like Lansky for bevel grinding and a V sharpener for touch up and maintenance. Frankly I would view dealing with waterstones as a hassle for knife sharpening but worth it for things like plane blades. Naturally, 50 different people can find 50 different ways to sharpen a knife effectively. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. Take care.