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Well, some knives are very thin, can get very sharp and are fragile, relatively speaking.  Some knives are tougher and still cut pretty well.  You can pick one or the other or have representations of both, stainless, semi-stainless or carbon.

Most folks will have a 210 or 240 gyuto as their primary knife.  You can ad a slicer/sujihiki to that, along with something like a 6" utility/petty, maybe a smaller version as a parer also, and perhaps some sort of filet knife and/or boning knife.  Maybe even a bread knife, or who knows, perhaps even a specialty knife like an Usuba might be especially handy to you.

You indicate that you really don't know what would be best for you, so you really need to describe in adequate detail what your typical prep is like.

As far as sharpening goes, there is free hand with bench stones or using some kind of jig.  All sharpening jigs currently on the market have some drawbacks, would consider the Wicked Edge as the lesser of many evils for a beginner.  Don't consider a power sharpener like a chefs choice if you are going to invest in decent knives.

Rick
 

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I feel the blade profile and geometry are far more important than the handle.

Many professionals are very particular about handles because they put in so many hours on them.  A home cook doesn't need to be so concerned.  Even if you have very big or small hands, though some may argue that.  Well admittedly I'm not the best person to advise here as I have a very relaxed grip and good dexterity so adapt very well.  The only handles I just dislike are the typical NSF knife handles, they just bulge too much in the front and force my hand farther forward than I care for it to be.

Rick
 
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