Hi again BB,
There are as many ways to do this task as there are woodworkers and I always felt that whatever works for you is good enough. My suggestion is that you try both ways and see how it effects the work process and the finished stock.
I don’t own any water stones and have kept away from them because of the ongoing maintenance, mess, and the fact that they appear to wear away at a pretty high rate. Any of you folks that want to send me some free water stones to try are welcome to do so and I will be glad to review them with an open mind. I have a combination of abrasive papers, bench grinders, diamond stones, oil stones, slips and stones(files) which I use for a variety of purposes. I separate my “sharpening” into “shaping” and true sharpening. Heavy cambering, establishing primary bevels, flattening chisel and plane backs, and similar operations fit into the “shaping” category so I won’t explain how I do that since it does not address your question.
After any shaping that is necessary, I normally use a 600 grit diamond stone to establish the secondary bevel and to start any micro cambering I might decide to do. I also use the same stone on the tool backs after flattening. I then work the same surfaces with a 1200 grit diamond stone after which I strop them by hand on a piece of MDF charged with fine (green) polishing compound. Depending on the tool, I may strop the tool on a powered disk of charged MDF at the drill press. I also have a powered cotton wheel strop for carving tools and molding plane blades. Every effort is made to avoid rounding the backs, particularly backs of chisels. Very small chisels, small molding and joinery plane and combination plane blade are normally worked on a fine (approximately 2000 grit) oil stone because of the holes in my fine diamond stone, and then stropped.
You can normally restore the edge to pretty good condition by simply stropping it if done as a matter of routine and the blade hasn’t been nicked along the way. I know that there is a trend toward super fine plane edges and wispy, light-and-fluffy shavings that seem to float away in the breeze, but quite often the work calls for hogging off very thick shavings that crunch underfoot like dry twigs. The finished surface is really what matters and what gets you there should be good enough. The woodworkers of old in this country normally used natural oil stones, without stropping, and they did pretty good work. That doesn’t mean that other methods or standards are bad, just different ( they didn’t use diamond stones either) so if other folks like to do things differently, then more power to them. I don’t automatically do the ruler trick for back bevels either but I do use it sometimes if I am using an old blade with pits in the back and need to get the edge past the pits. Even at that, I normally don’t sweat a few minor nicks in scrub, fore, or true jack plane work since the finish surfaces are worked with other planes later anyway.