As a preliminary:
While an Idahone "V" stick set is an excellent two stage "steel," it won't do that much in terms of sharpening your knives -- and won't take the MAC anywhere near where it should be. Sharpening is something you should re-think.
If you're going to stay with the Idahone as your only sharpening solution, don't bother buying more MACs.
You seem to have read all of the many good reasons why it would profit you to purchase your remaining knives individually rather than as a set. If you want to be argued back to your senses, there are plenty of other people to do it.
As you approach your final choice try to exercise as much discrimination as possible in terms of choosing types and sizes which will best suit your cooking. More knives are not necessarily better if they aren't the knives you want.
I wouldn't spend a cent on a santoku, an 8" slicer, a serrated sandwich or tomato knife, etc., but you may think they're stepping stones on the path to happiness. Since you'll be the one living with the knives, let's go with the idea that whatever you want you should have.
High End German Knives vs One Mid-High Japanese Series:
With the exception of MAC, your choices fall in mid to very high end Germany categories categories. In truth, they have more in common than defferent. They are typified by perfect fit and finish, excellent handles, excellent corrosion resistance, and mediocre (at best) edge taking and holding characteristics. Don't let my "rankings" distract you from their similarities.
MAC Pros are great all around knives with excellent edge taking characteristics, nicely but not as beautifully made and finished, good corrosion resistance, etc.
There are several other Japanese lines with more or less traditional western styles and handles, like the MACs.
Misono Moly are nice, and have a pretty good selection of shapes too. That is, you could easily fill out a block with matching handles.
Masahiro makes a new line which is very nice indeed, but probably more than you want to spend. FWIW, you can get a block set.
Miyabi Masamoto Fusion 600 -- Also expensive, actually made by Henckels in Japan, and supported by Henckels worldwide. A very good thing. VG-10, but Henckels calls it something else. Excellent knives, but very hard to track down.
There are other Japanese makers -- some of whose names begin with a letter other than "m" -- which may have enough selections in a given stainless line to fill out a block. Unfortunately, the data bank in the block of wood I call my brain isn't organized that way. Maybe more will come to mind as and if we continue the discussion.
Ranking Your Choices:
- MAC Pro -- Not only are these not sold as a set, but some profiles are simply not available in the Pro line and will force you to drop down to Superior and exercise some selection. For what it's worth, the 10.5" Superior bread knife is incredibly good.
- Misono Moly -- These are at the high-end of Japanese entry level, one step below MAC Pro. Much better than any of the Germans. Misonos like MACs have particluarly good handles as Japanese "yo" knives go; as good or better than your European choices. Good F&F for the class, but not as good as those made in Germany. Much better alloy -- it used to be VG-1, but since Takefu discontinued it, thery're probably made with VG-2. Hardened to around 57-58RCH.
- Masahiro -- VG-10. Nicely made. Expensive.
- Miyabi Masamoto Fusion -- Great stuff, but currently vaporware.
- Messermeister -- Profiles have a slight French influence compared to the other German makers', a good thing in my book. X55CrMoV15 is a little bit better alloy than you'll find in the other knives, and made slightly harder. In my opinion, the benefits are more theoretical than actual.
- Forschner Forged Pro -- Very well made. Although Forschner (aka Victorinox) is a Swiss company, the forged knives are actually made in Germany. Traditional German styling. Same alloy as the Wusthof. If you like regular German knives like Wusthof and Henckels, Forschners are every bit as good but less money -- a definite value leader. I'd choose them over the Wusthofs for their price. But if you really like the Ikon handling and styling...
- Wusthof Ikon -- Impeccably finished. Prestige name. Indifferent performers. X50CrMoV15.
- F. Dick -- Dick makes some very good knives. This particular line is not their best. Made from X45CrMoV15, which by definition, is not "high carbon." Edges will roll up even more easily than the other Germans and will require extra steeling to stay sharp. Otherwise, another good German.
If you're going to buy a set from one of the European makers, let styling and price be your guide. There's not enough performance difference to choose between them. I only ranked them because you asked.
All knives dull, and one dull knife is pretty much the same as another. Dull.
If you don't care enough about sharpness to make and keep knives sharp beyond the Idahone's level -- don't bother with the Japanese knives. It's not that you wouldn't be worthy of the knives or anything like that, just that they're a lot of money and their only advantage relative to the Germans is sharpness.
Hope this helps,
Edited by boar_d_laze - 8/15/10 at 5:45pm