Hi Mark...you are going to regret asking...!
I am right handed.
For home usage.
I can sharpen on bench stones, a SharpMaker, or my EdgePro (preferred for anything more than touchup)...I also strop all my blades with a 2-stage of a short strop with a stopping paste and a long strop that is bare, both horse leather mounted on a wooden panel.
I was hoping to stay under $200, but I'll consider options that are higher or lower...I only use 3 knives and two of them take up 99% of the usage, so I'd rather go for quality rather than quantity.
Steel-wise I would prefer carbon steel (possibly HSS depending on what it is), certain damascus, or a powder stainless like S35VN, which my Chris Reeves are made from...I'm not interested in ceramic, titanium, or any of the hybrid materials. An air-hardened/nitrogen-hardened steel would be OK as well. I'm not worried if the blade scratches or develops a patina with usage, my top concern is toughness, second is edge retention, third is ease of sharpening, forth is cost, and everything else is a lot less important. But I must admit, I really like damusus steel, steel that shows forging marks and folding layers, and steel that shows composite layers...to me, that gives a blade multiple dimensions and a lot of character given it will be unique from every other piece, so that is something I would love to have.
Handle-wise I like the Western style of having a finger guard on the front and rear of the handle, but would consider traditional Eastern as I constantly hear people say after using it a few months they come to like them a LOT more. I currently have a few Wustoff pieces from the Classic White Micarta collection and I just do not really like them...I originally got it because everyone always says Wustoff is 'the best' and didn't bother to do much research...then you come to realize that's not the case. It's OK, but it is ridiculously thick, unusually heavy, so/so in ergonomics, lackluster in edge retention, and not well-suited to cutting more fragile vegetables. The blade geometry leaves me disappointed, and the steel not being very hard has kept me from doing an edge reset because if I put a paper thin edge on it I know it's going to need to be sharpened virtually every time it is used. I'd like a knife in the 8 inch range that I could use for everything except what I would use a paring knife for and a bread, tomato, and cheese knife for, so I feel a thin blade with really tough steel will be best. So I've started looking at a lot of the Eastern models which have thinner blades and cut with better edge geometry than brute force, as Wustoffs massacre fragile vegetables and softer foods.
I replaced the Wustoff paring knife with a Global GS-38 (Japan origin) which I am very happy with. For the money, I find it to be great and I bought over 5 paring knives before finding the one I liked, which was this.
Looks-wise, I admit I do like pretty knives. I really like damascus and so the Shun Ken Onions and Shun Premier have really caught my eye. I like nice wood. I would probably want to get some sort of display case/rack designed to display the knife and make it easier for access as I use those things daily. I don't put nice knives in the dishwasher and I don't mind if they need to be treated with a food-grade preservative occasionally. While the style has led me to love the Shun Ken Onion and the Premier, I am constantly hearing people who are hardcore into cooking and chef knives saying Konosuke is the knife you can use for everything and that Shun simply does not perform as well nor can it be used as heavily as a Konosuke without fear of damage (especially tip damage)...so my love of looks is great, but my love of quality and performance is greater. Yoshihiro also seems to be popular and I like many of their styles.So here is what has thus far interested me (note not all are the exact size I want but just to illustrate)...
[*]SR-1 Stain-resistant steel Gyuto Chef Knife (I like this because the handle matches my Liberty Flatware Pinehurst set, which is really unusual) - http://www.echefknife.com/sr-1-stain-re ... 180mm.html
[*]VG-10 Hammered Damascus Gyuto - http://www.echefknife.com/hammered-dama ... 180mm.html
[*]Brieto 63 Layers Damascus Gyuto - http://www.echefknife.com/brieto-63-lay ... gyuto.html
[*]Nickel Damascus 33 Layers Gyuto Chef Knife - http://www.echefknife.com/nickel-damasc ... knife.html
[*]Misono UX10 Gyuto - http://www.echefknife.com/misono-ux10-gyuto.html
[*]High-Speed Powdered Steel (FUNMATSU HAISU) Gyuto Chef knife - http://www.echefknife.com/high-speed-po ... 240mm.html
Shun (I think both of these knives with the unusual blades and woods are simply beautiful)
[*]Premier - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003B6 ... GZGHL8F7T8
[*]Ken Onion - http://www.amazon.com/Shun-DM0500W-8-In ... onion+shun
Chris Reeve (as a HUGE CRK fan, this really interests me as Reeve doesn't do anything second-class...but at this price, it's competing with some of the finest Japanese knives on the market so it has some serious competition)
[*]Sikayo - http://www.chrisreeve.com/Sikayo
[*]HD2, HH, #2, and whatever else I can afford
The wood and finish on the Honyaki Wa-Gyuto is IMO one of the prettiest knives I have ever seen and I absolutely love it...I love the SKD blade but the handle is a little plain...I absolutely love the Kono Ginsan and HD2 with the Corian finish is nice as well)
Masamoto (I love their knives but I did not buy them as I've read they recently changed steels and wanted to see what you had to say...)
[*]Anything I can afford...I really like the HC and CT series
[*]I like what they make and love the SwissTool...but I doubt they have anything in this class
[*]They make a new knife set which I like the styling of, but know little about - http://www.andythornal.com/products/ben ... OgodT3AA6g
- I like their knives a lot and I like the style, but it's 440C which, while nothing is wrong with it, is a significantly lower steel than the others mentioned
Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to give you as much information as possible...I'll consider any other brand as well, provided it was made in the US, Japan, the EU, or other countries known for high quality steel products and high quality cutlery workmanship. Thank you so much!