We received some Henckles knifes at our wedding shower, and though I have a sharpening steel, I've always worried I'm not really sharpening them as good as I can. Everything I've read has said to keep it at a 30 degree angle and hell if I know what a 30 degree angle is when I'm pulling it along the steel. I just signed up for a trial issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine and the November/December issue confirmed my suspicions. A sharpening steel doesn't sharpen--it's a tuneup device. As it reads, "As you cut with a sharp knife, the edge of the blade can get knocked out of alignment. The knife may seem dull, but its edge is simply misaligned. Running the knife blade over the steel repositions that edge. But you can't reshape a blade that's rounded and worn down--that's when you need a sharpener to cut away metal and restore the 20-degree angle of each side of the edge."
Once again, Cook's Illustrated, you have persuaded me to buy something I never would have considered! I bought the Chef'sChoice 310 sharpener on sale at Kohl's. It retails for $74.99. It's an electric sharpener. You first have to re-condition the blade in the first set of sharpeners, and then run the blade through the final set. From that point on, you just run it through the final set for maintenance.
In any case, my knives most definitely are sharper since I ran them through and it's good investment to keep my knives in good shape!