A Sharp Knife is a Safe Knife
A whetstone is natural quarried, or man-made material, shaped into a bar that can be hand held. It has a slightly rough surface that provides enough resistance to effectively whittle away the blade’s edge depending on the amount of applied pressure.
How to use a Whetstone
- Place the whetstone,coarse grit face up, on a hard surface such as a cutting board.
- Place a cup or dish towel between the stone to keep it from sliding around.
- With one hand grasp the handle and hold the edge against the stone point-first with the blade meeting the stone at a 20-degree angle.
- Using moderate pressure slide the blade (its entire length) forward and across the whetstone about 10 times and then flip over and repeat.
- Turn the whetstone over to the fine grit side and repeat the sharpening as you did on the coarse side.
- Always sharpen the blade in the same direction whether it’s front-to-back or back-to-front.
- Keep your whetstone dry (no oil)
A honing steel is a straight metal rod with a handle at its thickest end with the opposite end slightly tapered. Along the rod’s full length are very thin lines that intersect (criss-cross) one another to form an angled grid. This grid pattern provides just enough resistance to smooth out the rough edge left behind by the whetstone.
Often mislabeled as a sharpening steel, a honing steel does not actually sharpen. Instead it is intended to be used to straighten the sharpened edge of a blade where repeated use had eventually pushed it to one side or the other (on a microscopic scale). This was preferred because it brought back the metal to its sharper state much quicker by restoring the existing edge.
While a honing-steel typically consists of a hardened-steel-rod with many tiny grooves scored lengthwise with the handle, it can also be made from a ceramic material specifically intended for sharpening hardened knives or a diamond-steel, which has tiny specks of industrial diamond dust bonded to its surface. Both surfaces are equally effective for sharpening and honing the edges of knives, but they tend to wear away the blades far more than do other kinds of steel.
Note: a honing steel will NOT sharpen your knife’s blade. What it can do is literally moves your blade back into alignment giving it a consistent sharpness the full length of its edge.
Regardless of a Whetstone’s fine grade-side it will still leave the knife’s edge rough and uneven. This is where a sharpening or honing steel comes in. It finishes out the job by smoothing out the blades roughness and evenly bevels the edge.
How to use a honing steel
Hold the sharpening steel point-down with its tip resting firmly on a dry cutting board.
With your free hand hold the blade crossways against the steel with the back of the blade (the part nearest the handle) touching the steel. Pull toward you so you want to start with most of the blade in front of the steel.
Tilt so that its blade meets the shaft of the sharpening steel at a 20-degree angle (approx.). Starting at the bottom of the steel and the butt-end of the blade gently push the blade like you are attempting to slice off a thin layer. Do this 5 times. Then pull the entire blade 5 times toward you along the shaft of the steel covering the entire length of the blade. Repeat the action 4 times, then 3, then 2, then 1 and you’re done.
Note: Honing should be done every 10-50 cuts depending on the cutlery and what foods you use your kitchen knives on.
Knife sharpener Whetstones and honing steel brands to look for:
- Chef’s Choice
- Smith’s Edge
To recap, regardless of what you spend on your knives or what the blades are made of, excluding ceramic, always sharpen your cutlery with a whetstone and follow that up with a honing-steel and your high quality cutlery will remain like new for a lifetime.
Filed under: Kitchen knife sharpening
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