Favorite knife steels.
My favorites are (in order) carbon steel, Japanese VG-10, American S35.
Carbon steel will rust if you are not careful and will tarnish no matter what you do, but for taking an edge and holding it, I think it has not yet been surpassed. However, there are some stainless steels that are coming up fast. think the VG-10 easily takes a great edge but doesn't hold it quite so long as S35. It also costs less.
For carbon steel, I like the Tosagata knives from japanwoodworker.com. Relatively inexpensive and very traditional.
For VG-10 I like the Shun line, but there are others available.
For S35 I like the ones from NewWestKnifeWorks .com, but they are expensive.
I sharpen my own knives, about twice a year. I maintain them with a ceramic honing rod between uses.