Articles & Recipes

What is the Difference Between Honing and Sharpening?

September 29, 2014

Honing vs. Sharpening

Honing is maintaining the edge; sharpening is repairing the edge.

Honing steels are sold in varying degrees of coarseness. They typically range from 9 to 12 inches (23 to 30 cm) in length; your steel should be about 2 inches (5 cm) longer than the knife you are trying to hone. Honing steels are slightly magnetic, so they’ll pick up any particles of metal removed from the knife during honing.


Sharpening should be performed when honing no longer returns the edge to sharpness.

When a honing steel no longer returns a knife’s edge to sharpness, you can try a sharpening steel, such as a ceramic steel or a diamond- coated steel, which removes some metal from the blade, thereby sharpening it. But your best bet is to move on to a true sharpening agent: a pull-through sharpener (good), an electric sharpener (better) or a whetstone (best).


Just as with an automobile, the more care you take to maintain a knife, the less often you have to repair it. And as with a car, repairing a knife is more costly than maintenance, because when sharpening you are removing metal from your knife by grinding it away.


To learn more about knife skills, pick up a copy of ZWILLING J.A. HENCKELS Complete Book of Knife Skills by Jeffrey Elliot and James P DeWan.




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