I decided to go with structured abrasives rather than conventional silicon carbide or other closed coat sandpaper. The Norax/Trizact abrasives are just so much more predictable, long lasting, and in general better that I think it's worth the extra cost. OTOH, I did just blow about half my budget on them. I may lose money on this workshop. Which is OK with me, just so long as I don't lose my shirt.
I've finished the prototype of the "Gaijin's Guide" style sanding setup. Looks ok, works great. I'll need to buy a metric assload (ok, 24) 4" C-clamps for the event, some more string gloves, and something for seating, but other than the house still being a mess, things are going according to plan. see http://www.dfoggknives.com/SandingBlock.htm for a vague idea of what I'm talking about.
Grabbed one of the tantos that has an OK hamon but needs re-polishing and started in last night. Using the X100 (about 180 grit) abrasive it took a couple of hours to do one side, but now the bevel is correct (slightly curved evenly over the width of the primary bevel), there's no odd scratchs, it's mirror smooth, and the lines are nice and crisp. Tonight I'll do the other side, then it's only 6 grits to go before I'm done! The base polish takes the longest time, since it's your one opportunity to get all the lines right, all the waves and dips out, and so on. If your base polish isn't dead on, you'll never get the blade just right.
I hope the workshop attendees understand, this isn't a "sit in a workshop and walk out with a knife" type deal. I'll walk them through the initial claying up of the blade, I'll do the heat-treatment, I'm giving them the abrasives and polishing setup, but it's up to them to spend the hours of polishing.
I guess, in a way, knifemaking has to be an obsession to do it like this. The method I'm using, and that I'm going to have them use, is probably the best way to winnow out the chaf, the folk doing it on a lark. If you love knifemaking, love knives, you won't mind spending hours carefully shaping and polishing the blade. Sure, high-powered, high speed grinders will do the job faster, but not better, and with a much higher chance of failure.
I've always maintained that someone's first knife should be made slowly, using only hand tools. It's not masochism, it's the way I made my first few knives, and it really gives you insight into how steel works, what a knife should looks like, and how fine a polish you can get. I'm providing abrasive up to 3000 grit, which will give a mirror finish, and if anyone who attends the workshop hits that level, I'll show them how to get an even finer finsh -- but it will take them days to weeks at minimum to reach that level of finish if they're doing it properly.
Those who stay the course will be rewarded with a knife that is a true beauty to behold. Those that don't . . . will leave the workshop with a knife with a visible hamon (Once they knock off the oxidation from the heat treatment I'll etch the blade enough for them to see the hamon. How far they want to take it after that is up to them.)
We shall see.