I am by no means an expert on knives, but as I sit an bask in my latest knife purchase, about to go un package it and wield it in to some salmon that I seasoned and rubbed yesterday and then vacuum sealed to hopefully pull all the goodness into the meat....
I bought my 3 knives at the food store about 20 years ago now. Man it feels weird when you think back on your life and stuff is like 20 and 30 years ago, and i'm just early 40's. Crappy knives, good cook or good chef or some such thing. I still have one, but i feel it's retirement is immanent.
Next batch of knives I got about 6 years ago, after I got married to a really good cook, who is sitting next to me, on the other computer and who dosent know I've bought 4 or 5 knives in the last 7 days...
. These were wood handled chicago cutlery, from a corning revere store that was going out of business. A 8" chef knife, what must be an 8 inch slicing knife and what must be a 6" slicing knife. I absolutely love the rock of the chef's knife. I am playing with the idea of getting a slightly bigger chef's knife with maybe a tad more rock. The large slicing knife I like for slicing veges and stuff, and the 6" is good when what I need to slice isn't so big or, i am using a small cutting board. I know have 4 butcher block boards of various sizes a 12x12 down to maybe a 4x4. I got it so that when my mom comes over and wants to slice a few slices of tomato or cucumber at the table she could do so.
I like the feel of the wood handles and I do keep them oiled... but the better half has a tendency to put them in the bottom of the sink, and then the sink gets full of water. She also has a propensity for putting things in the dish washer.
So... At first she wanted a santaku cause she saw someone on tv with one. SO I got her a large , maybe 7 or 8 inch one and then a 6" cause she has small hands. I am not sure what the handle is made of but it's not steel or wood and its not rubberized. They are cusinart and I got them at marshalls or one of it's brethren stores. She was happy.
Then I helped a friend move, who happen to be a chef. I ran across a what must be a 8" slicing F. Dick knife with a jacked up handle. It's cracked and peeling. Being an electrician, I promptly taped it up with electricians tape and gee I love that knife. I could sword fight with that knife. It just feels good except for the handle. I need to get that handle fixed. I was finding this knife in the sink and dishwasher to much.
SO... I happened upon cusinart SS knives in marshalls again, so now I have a 8" chefs and santaku and a couple of 6" or maybe 4" paring knives that I dont care if they are in the sink or the dishwasher. At least not in terms of the handles. Also got like a 7" serrated knife, cause... it was there and I didnt have such a creature yet and ...
Today I was back at TJ Maxx, really looking for some... salmon rub mix cause I realized I didnt have any when I seasoned the slab of salmon that I am about to work on.. and secretly looking at the cutting boards and these rubber handled knives spoke to me. They said comfortable handle. Should be able to handle being stuck in the sink for limited periods of time, an occasional trip through the dishwasher...let me try this. So I got a 8" slicing and a 7" santaku... cause it has a better handle than the other 4. They are hampton forge and they have a nice weight to them.
Now the point of this is... I havent spent a ton of money, I've gotten to play with and cook with a variety of types of knives, handle materials and sizes.
I think when you are trying to pick a knife you have to consider what kind of handle feels good to you, what size of knife feels good, how you like to cut... be it slice or rock or both and I would say the best way to find out is to buy the best ones that you can at the best bargain and work with them. As you do this you will see what your preferences are and when you feel ready to make the plunge, you go ahead and buy an exspensive piece of culinary cutlery hardware. Or you may find that it dosent need to be so expensive.
But you wont have gobs of expensive knives and you only use 1 or 2 of a set or a brand.
You have gobs of cheaper knives to practice opening cans with and smash garlic with, prune brushes and other such task that people abuse knives with