One of the things I realized while working at the restaurant on Nantucket was how dull my knives were at home. At Fifty-Six everyone's knives were razor sharp, and it made slicing and dicing nearly effortless, albeit dangerous. When I got home I got a stone and spent about an hour sharpening my two knives: an 8" chef's and a 4" paring, both from Henckels. (I have a few other knives, but I find I never use them. These two do the trick for all my home cooking needs.) Today's New York Times looks at knives and the trend for Japanese knives in, When a Knife Is the Gleam in a Cook's Eye.
There's a whole world of useless kitchen gadgetry out there, junk that will clutter your cabinets and ultimately make little difference in the quality of food you cook. But knives are an exception (another exception: pots/pans). Quality knives make all the prep jobs easier because they provide more control and cleaner cuts, and they're a pleasure to use. While they are expensive, they last forever and are a worthwhile investment. I bought my 8" in 1995 and have used it nearly every day since. My 4" was purchased in 1998.
As the gentleman says at the end of the Times article, "You know you've got the right knife when you're getting as much joy from preparing dinner as you are from eating it."