After a few years away from serious time in the home and restaurant kitchen I am getting back to preparing the occasional dish for a party or meal for a group of friends... and I like tools of the trade, regardless of the trade! My big question for the group - how do you select knives to order without trying them out? I can understand why Shun's are not everyone's favorite, but I am a little weary of ordering knives without trying them out or at least holding them in hand. If there is a brilliant design from JapaneseChefsKnife or some other site with a universally loved handle, I am happy to take a leap of faith, however, just a few minutes with different Shun, Global, Wusthof etc, I definitely found one or two handle designs and weights that I was more comfortable with (and I few that I was not at all keen to use). I will try to provide some typical background info that I see the forum gurus ask in order to help the rest of us along - thank you in advance! Sharpening - I have experience with non-culinary knives (tacticals, utility knives, chisels etc) on a stone, but I have never sharpened Japanese cutlery. Budget - Chef's knife between 150 and 250 (Shun Premier being the favorite I have tried in hand, Hiromoto from JCK being the other I have in mind). I plan to pick up a new block, honing rod (recommendations on a brand or type?), and stone (very open to recommendations here). Looking to add a solid paring knife (no faux damascus appearance required although I don't object to something that looks nice), and a longer (10-12) inch slicer as at some stage. Knife skills - no formal training, no major mishaps, pinch grip, can julienne when called to do. Current kit - nothing I need to keep other than for odds and ends for backup and random tasks around the kitchen or house. Set - not that interested in a set. So my pre-forum discovery set was going to be: Chef's - Shun Premier 8 inch Paring - Shun Premier/Kaji etc (don't like the Shun Classic handle shape or Global weight/feel) Other - block, extra board, honing rod (recommendations?), and stone (recommendations?), and a longer slicer later on. After doing a bit of research here, Mac, Hiromoto, and the Ryusen Blazen all look quite nice.