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Knife sharpening & maintenance

Honing steel: for the finishing touch

You cannot sharpen your knives with a regular honing steel. You use a honing steel to give a knife that is losing its sharp edge a little bit of its sharpness back. Honing steels are often used to simply keep your knife in shape.

A honing steel works best when used on soft types of steel. In each case, the honing steel should be harder than the knife itself. However, don’t confuse the honing steel with a sharpening steel. After all, those tools are made to lightly sharpen your knife.

What does a honing steel do?

You can’t avoid it, over time each knife will become blunt when you use it. Little burrs emerge on the blade. However, burrs cannot be seen by the naked eye, so we are not referring to ‘holes’ in your knife. A honing steel, which should be harder than the knife, folds these burrs back. As such your knife will become sharper. A truly blunt knife will not become sharper when you use a honing steel. After all, you can only use a sharpening stone or ceramic sharpening rod to do that.

How do you use a honing steel?

The honing steels should always be larger than the knife you wish to sharpen. For this reason the steels come in many sizes. The tip of the knife should be held at the tip of the honing steel and ‘sharpened’ from that position. The blade is facing you. Always make sure that you use a 20 degree sharpening angle for European knives and a smaller angle (up to 15 degrees) for Asian knives. Now all you have to do is move the blade towards you while (from the same angle) you move the blade over the honing steel. Repeat this at the base of the honing steel to work on the other side.

How you do keep your honing steel in great shape?

When you use them on a daily basis you can always move your knives over a honing steel. However, the result is that the steel will get a dark colour. Fortunately you can easily clean your steel using a paper towel and a couple of drops of olive or sunflower oil. And don’t forget: honing steels are susceptible to wear and tear, so even these tools need to be replaced after some time.