Thanks to those who chimed in on my Katana handle thread. As noted in there, I've ordered the Hattori HD 240mm Gyuto and Kagayaki VG-10 150mm Petty. In terms of keeping them sharp, to put it bluntly (hardy har!), I don't want to screw them up. I'm an absolute and complete neophyte in this field - I've never sharpened anything. Cooking is basically the extent of "working with my hands" for me. I'm no hobbyist, "toolie", or even all that handy. I'm a self-employed lawyer who loves to cook who wants good quality sharp knives and who doesn't want to screw up a relatively expensive new purchase. So, that being said, I'd like to try very hard to take care of these lovely new blades. I do have some older knives that I can work on first to learn the basic skills. My sources for stones/systems in Vancouver will probably be e-tailer order or locally at "House of Knives" where they would recommend the Shun 1000/6000 combo stone for $125 CAD...or $80 on Amazon. Elsewhere brick and mortar wise? No idea...Paul's Finest has a collection of Naniwa SS and Chosera stones, as well as Wusthof and the Edge Pro system. Cost-wise, it appears that the Edge Pro Apex #3 and #4 come in at between $230 - $260 CAD (jives pretty close to CKTG pricing). The stone grits are up to 1000, which Paul says is about equivalent to 3000 in the Japanese stones and then the #4 comes with additional higher grit "polish tapes" that attach to an aluminum plate, so I assume they're limited in the number of times they can be used. Paul also sells the Naniwa SS in a 3 pack on sale for $175 (400, 1000, 5000 with a free guide) or the Chosera in the same grits for $256 (and they also come with the guide and Nagura 600grit mud/slurry/cleaning stones...whatever those are). Aside from having more "control" and being more of a "purist" - is there any advantage to spending almost the same amount of money on the Naniwa stones? Am I less likely to ruin the Damascus look of my HD if I use the Apex? (I've read a number of comments from freehanders about scratching the Damascus, which is something that I'm a bit scared of...from an aesthetic standpoint - it's like scratching your new BMW and saying "eh, it still drives the same"). If I do use the Apex, will I be able to achieve a similar level of success with getting truly sharp blades? Alternatively, is it more reasonable to open it up to ordering a different (i.e. more value oriented i.e. cheaper) set of stones from CKTG or another e-tailer and going the freehand route that way? If so, based on these knives, what would you recommend? Note that I also intend on getting an Idahone ceramic rod (not sure which one, but I assume it should be the "fine" one) for regular maintenance. Finally, for perspective, I really don't mind learning how to freehand sharpen but I also don't feel like it's a driving force or something that I "need" to do as I really only have so much free time (and that's not much, if that helps put it into perspective). But I am completely willing. Okay, I think I gave all of the relevant information. Given the above, I'd really appreciate any thoughts anyone might have. Thanks!