As many of you are aware, I've been using a DMT aligner to hold those angles for me, along with the small 1x4" stones that come with the kit. Frankly, I've been long reluctant to mess about with a non-guided method. But one of those youtube video links posted by cowboy or someone, showed this guy in Japan doing just rapidfire sharpening of a ceramic knife on sandpaper, along with before/after extreme closeups of the edge - finally made me think "gee how hard could this really be".
Today, I decided to experiment and freehand my Tosagata Santoku. The primary bevel was getting pretty dirty from that patina that they can get (white carbon steel with iron cladding). So I decided to try polishing that up. First, I used the 1200 then the 8000 to fully reprofile the primary bevel (stones held dead flat against the primary). This area is about 1" wide or so, perhaps slightly more. This also really shined up that big primary bevel area, nearly to a mirror but not quite. There was a really cool video of a guy in Japan doing that to a Murray Carter and the results where fantastic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4--HID.... My primary isn't a mirror like his but I now think that I could also easily get there with some polishing pastes or abrasive films and stropping, but I don't own any of those as of yet.
Then just put on a secondary / microbevel by simply holding the stone at a slight angle and using very light motions. I discovered that this VERY rapidly brought up a burr with the 1200, and then was easy to finish it off with the 8000 grit. I have to say that this resulted in quite possibly some of the sharpest edges that I've done to date. I honestly have no idea what the angle is but it's certainly acute.
I had to touch up a bit near the tip, after some paper shred tests. A few min later, direct push-cuts (no linear movement) of paper were easily accomplished along the entire edge. The blade readily bit into the paper just anywhere and shredded right through with just gentle movements and the weight of the blade. I'm impressed.
Summary ... If I can do this ... anybody can. Don't fear the freehand!