What Is A Honing Steel | How To Use A Honing Steel Steel

What Is A Sharpening Steel & How To Use A Sharpening Steel

Have you got dull knives? While some people might just throw their dull knives in the bin and buy a new one, this isn’t a wise thing to do! Chances are, your knives can still be spared. You just have to know how to use sharpening steel.

For the uninitiated, one might believe that the purpose of sharpening steel is to sharpen a knife. After all, that’s what the name says. However, the truth is, it is more honing steel than sharpening steel. What it does is that it aligns the edges of the knife, which can get curled over time. In turn, this will restore its peak functionality, making your knives work as good as new ones. It is not the same as sharpening despite what some people might believe. You can read more about sharpening and honing your kitchen knives in this detailed knife sharpening guide.

What Is A Honing Steel?

If you buy a knife set, especially one of the high-end ones, you will most probably receive a sharpening steel. It is a long metal rod with a handle at the other end. It can be diamond-coated or ceramic, depending on the quality. This will be used for honing a knife and not for sharpening, despite the name. You either use a whetstone or an electric knife sharpener if you want to sharpen the blade of your knife.

It is common for sharpening steels to have a carbide composition. It has a diamond dust that is bonded on the surface, giving a tough coating. It has varying carbon levels, which will also be responsible for the rod’s hardness. The main requirement is that the sharpening steel should be harder than the knife’s blade that you will be sharpening. High end knife brands like Cangshan, Dalstrong, Wusthof and others use harder steel alloy in order to prevent chipping.

After a long time of use, the edges of a knife can become blunt. It will fold or bend, and as a result, it cannot easily cut. This stays true for both, single and double beveled knives. Sharpening is not a good solution. If you sharpen the blade, you will remove metals from the knife, which will negatively impact its functionality.

Instead, you should hone the knife, and that is what a sharpening steel is made for. Using a sharpening steel, you will essentially push the blade, allowing it to return to its original position. By bringing back the alignment, you do not need a replacement for your old knives. In the next part of the article, we will show you how to use a honing steel to sharpen your knives. 

A Step-by-Step Guide On How to Use a Honing Steel

To optimize the benefits of sharpening steel and bring your knives back to life, you must know how to use them properly. Fortunately, it does not take an expert to figure out the latter. Here are the steps on how you can hone a knife using sharpening steel.

1. Position The Sharpening Steel

To start, hold the honing steel firmly on the top of a solid surface. Ensure that there is a generous area for your hand to move as you hone the knife later. Next, hold the sharpening steel pointing down and with enough pressure. It should be vertical, and you must hold it firmly in such a way that it will not slide.

Use your non-dominant hand when you are holding the sharpening steel. This means that if you are right-handed, then your left hand must be the one holding the rod.

2. Hold The Knife

Once the sharpening steel is in its position, it’s now time to move to hold the knife. Hold it crossways against the sharpening steel. The back of the knife’s blade should be touching the rod.

As you hold the knife in place, another crucial consideration is the angle. The angle should be anywhere from 15 to 30 degrees, depending on the knife that you will be sharpening. Again, holding at the right angle will let you make the most out of this task.

3. Hone The Knife

Now that you have held both the sharpening steel and the knife in the right places, it’s now time to move to the most critical part – honing. All you have to do is hold blade of the knife while you are pulling the steel rod toward you. While you are moving the knife, try your best to keep it at a consistent angle. As you move the blade, do not apply excessive pressure. Or else, there is a risk that you will be altering the shape of the knife’s edges instead of restoring it. This is a major concern with knives made from softer steel, so ensure that your knife is sufficiently hard and resilient.

After honing one side of the knife, proceed to the other side, if the knife has a double bevel. Learn the differences between single and double beveled knives in this article. Hold the honing steel as you earlier did and maintain the proper angle of the knife. Depending on the extent of the problem, you might need to hone both sides of the knife five to ten times. The duller it is, the longer you will need to hone the blade.

4. Clean The Knife

Once you are done honing the knife, use a clean cloth to wipe the blade. Be careful not to hurt yourself. Next, place it under running water. This will remove the microscopic metal fillings. Finally, test the knife for its sharpness. If you are unsatisfied with how sharp it is, repeat the honing.

How To Maintain Your Knives

How To Maintain Your Knives

Before we end this short guide, allow us to leave you a few insights on how you can maintain the sharpness of your kitchen knives. Premium knives can be expensive, especially traditional Japanese knives. And getting permanently damaged can be heartbreaking. Therefore you must pay heed to how you use them and if they’ll be able to take the wear.

  • Cut only on suitable surfaces. You must choose the right board. Avoid cutting on metals and hard surfaces.
  • Store your knives properly. Keep it out of external elements that can speed up wear. It should have a dedicated spot. Do not keep it along with other kitchen utensils.
  • Wash your knife regularly, but make sure that you do it the right way. For example, do not use a dishwasher.


After reading this short guide, we hope you now know how to use a sharpening steel the right way. As mentioned above, it is technically not a sharpening tool but a honing rod. Nevertheless, it corrects the blunt edges and restores the peak performance of your knife, allowing you to save money in the long run. So, before you throw your knives, reach out for a sharpening steel and see what you can do!

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