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How to Sharpen & Hone Knives

How to Sharpen & Hone Knives

The Culinary Institute of America


A steel should be used both immediately after sharpening the blade with a stone and also between sharpenings to keep the edges in alignment. The length of the steel’s working surface can range from three inches for a pocket version to over fourteen inches. Hard steel is the traditional material for steels. Other materials, such as glass, ceramic, and diamondimpregnated surfaces, are also available.

Steels come with coarse, medium, and fine grains, and some are magnetic, which helps the blade maintain proper alignment and also collects metal shavings. A guard or hilt between the steel and the handle protects the user, and a ring on the bottom of the handle can be used to hang the steel.

When using a steel, the knife is held almost vertically, with the blade at a 20-degree angle, resting on the inner side of the steel. The blade should be drawn along the entire length of the steel. Keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. Allow yourself plenty of room as you work, andstand with your weight evenly distributed. Hold the steel with your thumb and fingers safely behind the guard.

2. Draw the blade along the steel so that the entire edge touches the steel. Work in the same direction on each side of the blade to keep the edge straight.

3. Be sure to keep the pressure even to avoid wearing away the metal in the center of the edge. Over time, this could produce a curve in the edge. Keep the knife blade at a 20-degree angle to the steel.

4. Use a light touch, stroking evenly and consistently. Lay the blade against the steel; don’t slap it. Listen for a light ringing sound; a heavy grinding sound indicates that too much pressure is being applied.

5. Repeat the stroke on the opposite side of the edge to properly straighten the edge. If a blade requires more than five strokes per side on a steel, it probably should be sharpened on a stone.

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