Doesn't the metals on the japanese knives help the paring knives just as much as the chef's knives? I tend to use my chef's knives more often than my paring knives. I currently have a faberware forged 3 1/2" paring knife I got from BB&B. It's adequate, but I want something that would perform better.
You've got a real "yes, no, maybe" there.
Paring knives and chef's knives lead very different lives. Paring knives get used for opening plastic and cardboard packages, cutting string, cutting tape, and all sorts of things that chef's knives never see. On the other hand, they're not bounced off the board as much. They're typically not used to make the same sort of fine cuts, chef's knives are. Because the paring blades are so narrow, they get sharpened down to toothpicks rarther more quickly than chef's knives do. So, for all of those reasons it makes sense to go with something cheap but still sharpenable and usable.
Farberware are made from a really lousy alloy. Forschners for all their low price are made from the same very durable alloy used by most German makers for their high-end lines, X50CrMoV15.
Most people like Forschner a lot more than Farberware. But if you don't a Forschner Rosewood paring knife runs around $10 and it's no big deal to replace it with something better. I have a couple of chef friends who buy Forschner Fibrox serrated parers by the case for their kitchens and just throw them away when they get dull. (Fibrox -- serrated or fine -- are only $5, but the handles aren't nearly as nice in the hand.)
If the cheaper Mac mth-80 is just as good as the mkb-85, then there doesn't seem to be any reason to get the mkb-85.
Keeping my own prejudices out of it... If that's the choice, you might as well save the money.
Essentially, the longer the chef's knives (up to 10") the better? I have plenty of room to use my knives, but my hands are small compare to most people I know. I usually wear size medium gloves. I would say I'm average with knife skills, and I use the pinch grip.
For most good cooks, the 9-1/2" - 10-1/2" range is best. Longer knives don't require you to lift the handle as high when you "rock chop," and they seem to hold on to sharpness longer. If you're the sort of cook who chops big handfuls of things at a time (few home cooks do), extra length is significantly more productive.
If your choice is between the 8" and the 9-1/2" knives, go with the longer.
The limiting size issue is the cutting board. Longer knives like bigger boards. A good board is important in any case. If you don't have one already, might as well get an appropriate one now.
Hand size doesn't matter much, and neither does height.
A pinch grip is a beginning. The most important part to making long knives handle intuitively (besides some practice) is learning to keep your knife in line with your forearm. That way the tip of even a very long knife will always point where your eyes tell it to go without a bunch of swinging your elbow around.
Improving your grip will make a big difference in all of your knife-hand, knife handling skills. Offhand skills are another thing.
I plan to have these knives sharpened by a professional. I don't think I'll need to sharpen them that often since I will [only use them] 2-3 times a week. I have already found some that know what they are doing. Eventually I will sharpen the knives myself after I have learned how to freehand.
Using your knives that infrequently, you can get away with sharpening (or having them sharpened) two or three times a year. You'll need to use a "steel" in between sharpenings. If your longest frequently used knife is 8" you can get away with a 10" steel, if it's 9-1/2" or longer, you'll want a 12" steel. The Idahone fine ceramic is particularly good and also reasonably priced. The DMT CS2 (ceramic, NOT diamond), is very good and practically unbreakable -- but it often comes rough from the factory and might need some sanding.
Keep track of how much you spend on a professional sharpener and compare it to the cost of an Edge Pro Apex. The EP doesn't take much time or effort to learn to do a great job. While I'm not sure that I'd call freehanding enjoyable, it is satisfying; and a basic kit is relatively inexpensive.
Edited by boar_d_laze - 10/19/10 at 1:28pm