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How to use a honing steel

A regular honing steel

A regular honing steel (made from steel, without a coating) is used to give a knife that is losing its sharp edge a little bit of its sharpness back. It doesn’t remove any material from the cutting edge but it does make sure that the microscopic metal particles are neatly realigned. As such you can use a honing steel on a daily basis without wearing out your knife.

How to use a honing steel:

1. Finding the right angle

[using a honing steel] The most important thing to keep in mind when you use a honing steel is that you need to find the right angle between the knife and the honing steel. When you look closely at the side of a knife, you will see that the angle of the cutting edge is larger than the angle of the rest of the blade, often between 35 and 40 degrees. (The smaller the angle, the sharper the knife. However, a knife with a smaller angle is also more vulnerable.

It is very important to maintain the right angle when you use a honing steel. If, for instance, the angle is 40 degrees, as is common with most German knives, you need to hold the knife at a 20 degree angle against the honing steel. If the angle is too big you will damage the cutting edge making the knife blunt. If the angle is too small using a honing steel will not be effective and could leave scratches.

2.Maintaining the right angle

What we just explained might sound a bit complicated, but don’t let it discourage you from using a honing steel. Finding and maintaining the right angle between the blade and the honing steel is more a matter of a gut feeling than math.To get a sense of this feeling you could practice using a honing steel with an old or cheap knife, before you try it out with an expensive Chef’s knife.

3. The movement

The images show you the movements you should make to hone your knife. The method with the tip of the blade pointing down is the safest way to use a honing steel, but most chefs hold their honing steel upright because it works best for them.

The best way to describe the movements is to try to cut a thin slice off the honing steel. You only need to use a little bit of pressure, you should, after all, not actually cut a piece off! Make five to ten movements with both sides of the knife but each time only once on each side.