hell, i've used $200-300 knives that outperform knives 5x as much
ahh I did forget the time it'll take for the knife to be made. I think I will look at some around the 200-300 mark in the mean time.
Konosuke HD was always on my list to try. =D
I hear they cut almost as well as Rodrigues and Carters
In all seriousness, they are a nice knife, but I have one in my home that has gone unused for a while, while my Rodrigue and Carters see daily use.
I know you said you know what you want, and want it to be fairly high end custom, but I still feel Jon's point is valid. Not so much from the standpoint of sharpening and care, but because I don't think you'll have had a chance to develop a feel and preference for the type of cutter you like. IE heavy vs. light, laser vs. thicker spine, how acute the bevel is, how much belly etc. If you bought some less expensive, more readily available knoves, I think you would have a clearer idea. Then....when you number comes up with the custom maker....you'll have a much better idea of your preferences.
PLUS - in this community - with a little effort you can have your cake and eat it too. There is a very active BST section, and it is easy to sell well kept knives. You could try a Konosuke, Gengetsu, Suisin, Takeda - all within your budget - then re-sell them 6 - 12 months from now when the custom guys you mention are ready to take on your project.
A lot of what makes some of us like such and such knives more than those whatever other knives comes down to personal preference. You can't predict in advance what your preferences are until you have a frame of reference.
We all love to get vicarious pleasure from others who get nice knives - hence the strong insistence on photos and/or videos - and you'll end up with a really nice knife if you go the custom route. You just won't ever really know if that's really the one that fits you the best. If you're okay with that ... hey, I don't know if a Ferrari fits me the best out of all the high end sports cars, but I sure would be happy with one! ... then that's okay too.
Get 2 customs. Enjoy them. Use the heck out of them, then add more customs to fill the gaps. I'm sure that if you get the bug these will not be the be all and end all of your hobby.
If you figure out immediately where you want to go, and you really don't want your customs... you always can sell it off on the BST forums. I figure the hit you'll take on price is about equal or slightly more than the price of a good japanese knife. So either way, if you don't need to shell out for an interim knife, i think you're alright.
Another option is to get a carter. you could get a custom from him with a shite handle, and send it off to get dressed up by marko, stefan or mhenry with a new custom handle.
I like Marko's and Pierre's work too, but I haven't the years of experience that some of the pro chefs do with knives.