The Steel bar tool many think of as a sharpening steel is actually a honing steel. So what’s the difference between honing and sharpening?
To know the difference, we first need to know why and how knives get dull. When a knife gets dull, the sharp edge has been lost and/or the blade’s edge is no longer aligned properly due to use. Even if the blade is still sharp, just losing that alignment means that it won’t cut through food properly.
So how do we get that sharp edge and alignment back? Here’s where honing and sharpening come in:
- Honing: A honing steel basically pushes the edge of the knife back to the center and straightens it. It corrects the edge without shaving off much, if any, of the blade’s material. Honing doesn’t actually sharpen the knife, but if done properly, the knife will seem sharper because the blade is now in the proper position. Honing should be done often — some even hone before each use.
- Sharpening: Sharpening, on the other hand, is a process where bits of the blade are ground and shaved off to produce a new, sharp edge. It can be done using a water stone, whetstone, or electric knife sharpener. Sharpening can be done less frequently than honing — just a few times a year depending on how much use the knife gets.