Chris, I think you're overrating the edge holding capability of the Aritsugu A. If you sharpen any other good Japanese knife after every shift or every other shift, you're going to sharpen an A after every shift or every other shift.
It will maintain a little extra sharpness at the end of the period perhaps, but it won't buy you an extra day. Plus, the knife is an ENORMOUS PITA to profile.
Plus, Sabbah (who may have left for all we know) didn't say anything about wa-handled knives. I know Aritsugu makes a yo A, but if I'm not mistaken all the buzz is about the wa. Anyway, the current flavor of the month for this type of tough, tool steel knife is the Kikuichi TKC which is yo, doesn't need nearly as much work going in, is better finished, stays as sharp as long, and supported by both Kikuichi (who has some US presence) and Chef Knives To Go.
Basically, if you want a knife to do crowbar work, your best range of choices is in crowbar type knives. That's why people who use light knives for most of their work keep a heavy duty knife for pineapples, thick skinned gourds, cutting through chicken bones, and other things which are very hard, have a lot of tough fiber, or cause the edge to slam hard against the board. At the risk of repetition the usual choices are to use something fairly heavy duty through both prep and service, or the two knife setup just mentioned.
Since Japanese made knives aren't all that prevalent, the most common thing is to use something very durable and... well... crowbaresque, like a typical, stainless, German knife for everything. But once you've started become addicted to smoking crack using Japanese edges, there's no going back.
The biggest problem with one knife for prep is that most of prep is mirepoix, potatoes, herbs, and other mise; the things for which a light sharp knife is ideal. And for the heavy duty stuff, the strategy isn't nearly as much the hardness of the knife alloy, as using appropriate edge bevels and an appropriately heavy knife with enough spine. Actually a softer steel with more obtuse bevels hold up better than a harder one -- because even though it needs regular steeling, you don't have to worry about chipping.
My current practice (as an ex-pro) is to use a 10" Sabatier au carbone for everything but the heavy duty stuff, and use another au carbone for that. It's the same, except that it's 12" (thicker spine) and gets a completey different edge. The extra weight and length are nice, but it's the edge that makes the difference. My 10" knife is tough enough for me to force it through the tough stuff, but it needs too much steeling and re-sharpening, because the edges are sharpened to angles that won't hold up to that sort of abuse.
But that's just one way of looking at the problem -- and maybe not the best for Sabbah. You don't necessarily need a heavy duty knife; I know a few guys who either used to or still go through a service using nothing but their "laser" (very thin and light) wa-gyutos. It's a lot about what you cut, and how often you're willing to sharpen. Those guys are all "every day" sharpeners.
Also, you may misunderstand how a knife gets used during prep as opposed to during service. There's usually not much difference unless you're on some sort of special station on the line where all or nearly all you do is slice. Even then, you're more likely to use a slicer during prep for "boucher," "poisson," and other trimming and portioning then you are for carving BOH. Unless you're making a lot of cuts, it's faster to just use your chef's.
Rule of thumb: If you don't like a slicer as your main knife during prep you won't like it on the line either.
Anyway, nice to have someone to talk to who knows something while we wait for Sabbah's return.
Come back, Shane.
Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/24/10 at 6:47pm