Sharpening a knife, although seemingly straightforward, is a fine art. It’s about precision, patience, and knowledge. Whether you’re a kitchen aficionado, a professional chef, or a casual cook, mastering the use of a sharpening steel point down to hone knives can be a game changer. Why so?

Well, a well-honed knife is not only a joy to work with, but it’s also safer. The less pressure you apply, the more control you have. Working with serrated knives can seem intimidating, but with honing steel, maintaining the cutting edge is a cinch. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll unpack the mystery of using a honing steel, making it as easy as chopping onions – hopefully with fewer tears.

Now, let’s delve into it. From selecting the appropriate honing steel to the essential post-honing steps, this guide is your ticket to the world of flawless knife sharpening. Not only will we guide you step-by-step, but we’ll also provide you with the rationale behind each action. We believe that understanding the why makes the how much more doable and effective.

Preparing To Use A Honing Steel

Preparation is the key to any successful endeavor, and using honing steel is no exception. Applying light pressure during the process is essential for a successful outcome.

Selection of the Appropriate Honing Steel

The first step is, of course, selecting the right honing steel for your needs.

Material considerations

Honing steels come in different materials – steel, ceramic, and diamond. Your choice depends on your knife’s hardness and how much honing it requires. For example, sharpening stones such as diamond or ceramic rods remove more material, making them suitable for extremely dull knives.

Length considerations

The rule of thumb is to select a honing steel that’s at least as long as the knives you intend to hone. To maintain a proper angle, generally, a 12-inch rod works for most kitchen knives. However, for longer knives, such as a chef’s knife, opt for a longer rod for a seamless stroke.

Evaluating the hardness of the knife blade

Knife hardness, measured on the Rockwell scale, determines the type of honing steel suitable. Softer steel knives (HRC 52-56) can use any honing rod, while harder steel knives (HRC 57 and above) perform best with ceramic or diamond rods.

Setting Up a Safe Environment

Knife honing involves potential risks, and establishing a safe environment is paramount.

Appropriate work surface

A non-slip, stable surface is ideal. Consider using a cutting board with a damp cloth underneath to prevent it from moving during the honing process.

Protective gear

Safety should always come first. Protective gloves made from cut-resistant materials are a good investment.

Proper knife handling

Always handle your knife by the handle, not the blade. When not in use, place it flat on the surface with the blade facing away from you.

The Process Of Honing

With the appropriate setup in place, it’s time to delve into the actual honing process. The goal here is to keep your knives sharp and ready for any culinary challenge.

Proper Grip And Posture

Understanding how to hold both your knife and honing steel correctly will ensure effectiveness and safety.

Holding the honing steel

Hold the honing steel in your non-dominant hand with a firm grip, keeping your fingers behind the guard to prevent accidental cuts.

Holding the knife

In your dominant hand, hold the knife by the handle, keeping your fingers away from the blade.

Ideal body and hand posture during honing

Keep your body relaxed and posture straight. Maintain a 90-degree angle between your forearm and the upper arm of your knife-holding hand.

Honing Angle And Technique

Precision is paramount in this step. Understanding the right angle and technique can make a world of difference to your blade’s edge. Here’s where your sharpening stone can make a real difference.

Determining the correct honing angle

Typically, a 20-degree angle is ideal for most kitchen knives. However, Japanese knives often require a 15-degree angle. To get the angle right, imagine the angle at which two clock hands stand at ten and two.

Movement technique for honing

Slide the knife down the honing steel, moving from the base of the blade to the tip in a sweeping motion. Repeat this on both sides of the blade to maintain a balanced edge.

Honing the knife’s edge uniformly

Consistency is key. Ensure that you hone both sides of your knife equally to maintain a balanced, sharp edge.

H3: Frequency Of Honing

Understanding how often to hone can extend the life of your knife and keep it at peak performance.

Understanding when your knife needs honing

If your knife is struggling to cut through soft vegetables or feels dull, it’s time to hone. An adequately maintained knife should only need honing every two to three uses.

The impacts of frequent vs. infrequent honing

Frequent honing maintains a keen edge, preventing the knife from becoming overly dull. In contrast, infrequent honing can result in a dull blade, requiring more intensive sharpening.

Guidelines for different types of knives

Different knives require different honing frequencies. For instance, a chef’s knife needs honing more often due to its versatile use, while a bread knife requires less frequent honing.

Post-Honing Steps

Post-honing, a few simple steps will ensure your knife and honing steel remain in top shape.

Testing The Knife’s Sharpness

Before returning the knife to use, it’s important to test its sharpness.

Paper test

Hold a sheet of paper upright and try slicing through it with your honed knife. A sharp knife will cut through easily, while a dull knife will struggle.

Tomato test

This test involves trying to slice a ripe tomato. A well-honed knife will easily cut through the skin and flesh without squashing the tomato.

Safety considerations during sharpness testing

Ensure your fingers are well clear of the testing path. Always cut away from your body.

Cleaning The Knife And Honing Steel

After honing, cleaning is necessary to remove any metal filings and maintain hygiene.

Appropriate cleaning techniques

Rinse both the knife and the honing steel under warm water. Use a soft cloth with a bit of dish soap for stubborn residue.

Drying and storage to prevent rust

Dry both the knife and honing steel thoroughly to prevent rust. Store them in a dry place, ideally in a knife block or magnetic strip.


In conclusion, learning to use honing steel can significantly improve your kitchen experience. Not only will it ensure your knives last longer, but it’ll also make your cooking safer and more enjoyable. Like any skill, it may take a little practice to get the hang of it, but with this comprehensive guide, you’re well on your way to becoming a honing expert.


Eliza is a culinary maven with an undeniable passion for the art of cooking and a deep understanding of all things kitchen-related. She is a renowned kitchen expert and a source of inspiration for aspiring chefs around the world. With years of hands-on experience and a knack for creating delectable masterpieces, she has established herself as a leading authority in the culinary industry.

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