A couple of weeks ago I was sharing with Manu and Vigdis my approach to preparation and sharpening of chisels and plane blades. We have been working on the flattening of the back and sharpening on both flat and cambered blades. Manu brought an old Stanley no. 3 and Vigdis a no. 4 with a Ron Hock replacement blade. The initial preparation has been pure joy: the manufacturer's grinding is so precise that almost no effort is needed to bring the blade to optimum performance.
He have discussed japanese water stones and diamond stones, methods for checking flatness, sharpening guides, etc.
I had the chance to test the Narex chisels made in Czech Republic, I believe. I was surprised by the fine grinding and flatness of the back, which allowed for a quick and effortless preparation. The side bevels don't get quite to the edge, but close. Regarding the handle, I'd like a finer finish (there are some sanding marks left) but unlike the lacquered ones, it has a natural and pleasant feel.
To resume: a nice tool to begin with, well ground and reasonably priced. I don't know what kind of steel is used, but I suspect that it is well away from low grade chrome-vanadium types. If premium brands like Lie-Nielsen, Veritas, Blue Spruce, Barr Quarton or Ashley Iles are out of budget, this is a sensible choice.
A japanese water stone must be flat in its width and across its length. I have never come across one that was left in this condition by the manufacturer. To me, the best way to flattening is using sandpaper on a rectified granite plate.
We wrapped it around building a bench hook - and excellent exercise to learn the use of bench and block planes. We also have gone through making our own dowels. This exercise is usually done in pine, but this time european oak was used.