There are quite a few ways to sharpen knives. Not one of them is perfect. They all have trade offs. Choosing the best one for your needs depends on better understanding the systems and your needs.
You said you bought some Sabatier knives. Unfortunately "Sabatier," in and of itself, doesn't convey a lot of information. Sabatier is an umbrella term for a lot of different companies making a wide range of knives. It would help to know which Sabatier -- "K-Sabatier," "Elephant Sabatier," "V Sabatier," to name a few; whether your knives are stainless or carbon; and whether they're modern, vintage, antique or NOS.
even stephen wrote that knives need to be sharpened to different angles. That's sometimes true and sometimes not. The joker in your deck is the cleaver. If it's going to get heavy use on tough items, like hacking through bones, it probably should be sharpened to a more acute angle than your other two knives. If I were sharpening your knives on my stones, I'd profile all three of them, sharpen the cleaver to a 22.5/30deg double bevel; thin the other two slightly, sharpen them to a 15deg flat 50/50 bevel, then maybe
strop-stroke in a little convexity. At this point, your eyes are probably rolling up and you're thinking this whole thing is hopelessly technical. Actually, it's not that bad.
The major types of sharpening systems are:
1. Free hand stones **
2. Rod guided stones *
3. V hone sticks **
4. Sharpening steels
5. Electric sharpeners ****
6. Other gizmos
7. Sharpening services
1. Freehand Stones: You've had some experience with freehanding, and so far anyway, you aren't comfortable. The major obstacle to learning to freehand is simply lack of confidence. With a little explanation, the right stones, and plenty of practice almost anyone can learn to do a good job. So, I guess I disagree with foodpump a little. The step from good to very good requires a little dedication and a very good set of stones -- which don't come cheap. That step might also be the place where serious theory comes in.
A good, basic sharpening set is made up of four services. One, coarse to profile and repair. Two, medium coarse to start the sharpening process (raising a wire). Three, medium fine to finish the sharpening process (refine the wire, break it off). Four, a fine surface to polish the face of the bevel. Some sharpeners take this to a fifth, extreme polish level. Now, obviously the first part of a "little explanation," starts with, "WTF is a wire?" But let's save that and most of the finer points for the time you decide freehanding is worth it.
In the meantime, take a look at: eG Forums -> Knife Maintenance and Sharpening
even stephen's recommendation, the "tri-hone," is a system of three sharpening stones to be used free hand. These babies used to be in every commercial kitchen. I learned to sharpen on a Norton 11 incher at my first restaurant job. Let me link you to a video of someone using one: Learn to Sharpen a Knife using a Sharpening Stone
You may also want to poke around the Sharpening Supplies site, there's a lot of good information there. If you do decide you want to freehand, let's talk some more and see if we can't get you set up with what's right for you.
For your knives, a tri-hone going from coarse India (or medium crystolon) to hard Arkansas would probably be about right. Norton makes the best box. Hall's is the best value. It's possible to spend hundreds of dollars on stones, but the right (if you go this way) tri-hone for you, the Hall's Professional 8" Wet Hone, runs under $50.
2. Rod Guided Systems: These are a "tool" and "jig" system for using stones. They allow the user to choose the exact angle at which he wants to sharpen and get repeatable strokes. There are a few systems out there, the best for home users is the EdgePro Apex. I've got to say that although it's very good, it's also a certain amount of trouble and oriented towards the knife hobbyist who's too fussy to freehand or does so many knives that holding an angle is painful. In other words, rod guides are OCD. Also, things get a little complicated with certain areas of knife geometry, especially around the tip. At the end of the day though, you can get a darn near perfect edge. Great system for the right person, but not cheap. $175 for the Deluxe Kit at Knife Outlet.
3. V Hones: These mostly use ceramic sticks. The leaders of the pack are the Spyderco Sharp Maker, and the Idahone. They're reasonably priced, and easy to use. All you have to do is hold the knife perpendicular to the floor and pull it across the sticks.
Unfortunately, they won't do the rough work you need to get your knives shaped right or repair them; and they won't put the kind of ultimate edge on you want for cutting micro-brunois or boning out four dozen chicken thighs in fifteen minutes flat. Even the good systems only supply two levels of sharpening -- medium coarse and medium fine. They're excellent for routine maintenance to a "good enough" level. I really like them for the home cook who doesn't want to go through the BS necessary to learn stones. In your case, one of these might be the best choice. If, you can't establish an initial edge after 70 or 80 strokes on the rough stick, and your arm starts falling off, you can pay to have that done. $50ish.
4. Sharpening Steels: I'm including steel, ceramic and diamond steels in this group, but differentiating from "honing" steels. Eyes rolling up again? Be patient. Knives are sharpened to a V. When the point of the V wears down to a dull U, material needs to be removed from the edge and the bottom of the V restored. This is sometimes called sharpening. The sharp V bottom is a little bit weak and has a tendency to bend as well as dull. Straightening it out is sometimes called honing. However, there's no consistency in using the terms. If it's important to know what someone's talking about, you have to ask.
At any rate, almost all knives should be regularly honed on a steel. For your knives any decent, fine steel will do (a medium, coarse or diamond will "sharpen" and remove too much material). I recommend the wood handled Forschner as a decent looking good performer. Check it out at Cutlery and More.Getting back to "sharpening" steels. Nope. Stop. Don't. Danger, Will Robinson. Danger.
Some people love them, more people ruin their knives. Requires more skill than freehand stones to hold the right angle. Furthermore, it's a one surface system, and will leave you with a very toothy edge. You might as well use a Chantry.
5. Electrics: There are a few good ones out there, but only one that has anything to do with your knives and situation, and that's the Chef's Choice. The Chef's Choice sharpens to a long lasting and reasonably keen double bevel.
A lot of knife guys will tell you that you can really screw up your knives. However, Chef's Choice improved their blade guide so that if you pay even minimal attention, no problem. What I don't like is that you have two choices for the final angle, and both of them are too obtuse for my tastes (around 20/25), but almost certainly not yours (it's an edge that's difficult to hurt). It's a sharp edge, but not one that [I]just falls[I] through an onion, and not one that's conducive to very fine work -- the proverbial micro-brunois. Another problem is that the design of the machine won't let you sharpen knives with bolsters (probably like your chef's and utility) all the way to the back of the blade. After many years that can cause a slight notching at the point the wheels first contact the steel.
Not the best choice for the working pro. Not for someone who's really into knives, especially their own very expensive collection. And not for anyone with a lot of different knives with differing requirements. Who then? Other knife geeks hate me for saying this, but: For most home cooks that can afford it, the Chef's Choice 130 is the best solution. No anxiety, heap much convenience -- which means it will get used. Can you go $150?
6. Gizmos: These are mostly manual pull-throughs. Compared to the other good choices, none of them come close to meeting your needs. Even the best of those suitable for permanent kitchen duty fit under the rubric of "better than nothing." Of this sorry lot, the best are probably the Chef's Choice and those marketed by major knife manufacturers like Wusthof, Henckels and Global/Minosharp. A lot of the others will rip your knives to shreds. If you don't mind turning your knives into something that feels like a cross-cut saw, check out the Chantry.
7. Sharpening Services: Any good custom butcher shop can hook you up. Unfortunately the prices have gotten too high for most home cooks, even though your knives are near the bottom of the price sheet -- around $8 in big cities; also there's often a several day turnaround which is very inconvenient if you only have one good chef's knife.