Distinguishing Between Honing and Sharpening

Distinguishing Between Honing and Sharpening

Distinguishing Between
Honing and Sharpening

Ever heard about honing and sharpening when it comes to your knives? A lot of people consider these terms interchangeable, but let us break the bubble of myth today. These are two different terms, and if you want to keep your knives in good condition and want them to last longer, it is important to find out the difference between honing and sharpening and the significance they hold.
Damascus Steel Chef Knife
While constantly working, a knife’s blade starts to deteriorate. And even if you feel the blade is sharp, just losing its edge will also affect the knife’s performance. So in order to get your knife’s alignment back and make it sharp again, you need honing and sharpening. Let's discuss everything in detail about these techniques and what makes them different from each other.

Definition & Purpose


Honing is a crucial maintenance step for keeping kitchen knives sharp and effective. It realigns the microscopic teeth along the blade's edge. This process corrects any bending or folding of the edge that occurs with regular use.

The edge of the knife is gently pushed back into alignment with the help of an honing rod or honing steel. This helps restore its cutting ability without removing significant amounts of metal. The realignment helps the knife to cut more effectively.


Knife sharpening helps restore a knife's blade to its original sharpness by removing material from the edge. Unlike honing, which realigns the blade's edge, sharpening involves grinding the edge against a sharpening stone or similar tool. It helps create a new, razor-like edge that enhances cutting performance.

The frequency of sharpening depends on factors such as knife usage and maintenance. Generally, knives should be sharpened at least once or twice a year for home cooks, while professionals may need to sharpen more frequently. Make sure you avoid over-sharpening, as it can degrade the quality of the blade over time.

Tools Used for Honing and Sharpening


  • Honing Rods (Sharpening Steels):Honing rods are long, cylindrical rods typically made of steel or ceramic. You may find these steel rods included in knife block sets. These sharpening steel rods made of durable hardened steel help maintain the blade's sharpness and realigning the edge of the knives.

  • Ceramic Rods: These rods offer a high level of hardness and can effectively hone ceramic blades. However, ceramic rods and knives are relatively brittle compared to their steel counterparts, so care must be taken to prevent damage during use.


Electric Knife Sharpeners or Pull-through Sharpeners: These tools consist of motorized grinding wheels that sharpen the knife as it's pulled through the sharpening slot. Electric sharpeners often come with adjustable settings for different types of knives and desired sharpness levels.

Sharpening Stones (Whetstones): Sharpening stones, also known as whetstones, are traditional tools used for sharpening knives. They come in various grit levels, ranging from coarse to fine. Coarse grit stones are used for repairing damaged or dull edges, while finer grit stones are used for refining and polishing the edge.

Sharpening Systems: Sharpening systems are comprehensive kits or setups that provide guided and consistent approaches to knife sharpening. They often include a variety of sharpening stones, clamps, angle guides, and other accessories to ensure precise and repeatable results.

Manual Knife Sharpeners: Manual sharpeners come in various designs, such as pull-through sharpeners, sharpening files, or sharpening rods with built-in angle guides. They offer a hands-on approach to sharpening and are generally compact and portable. 



Here are some techniques for honing knives effectively:

  • Choose a honing rod suitable for your knife set. Options include ceramic, diamond, or steel rods. You need to make sure the honing rod is at least two inches longer than the longest knife in your set.

  • Place a cutting board on a flat surface and position the honing rod at a right angle on top of the cutting board for stability.
  • Determine the appropriate honing angle based on your knife type. German knives typically require a twenty-degree angle, while Japanese knives benefit from a ten- to fifteen-degree angle.

  • Hold the knife at the chosen angle with your non-dominant hand and the honing rod with your dominant hand. With light pressure, slide the cutting edge down the honing rod, starting from the heel of the blade to the tip. Ensure the entire edge makes contact with the rod.

  • Switch to the other side of the knife and repeat the sliding motion, maintaining the chosen angle. Ensure you repeat the movement the same number of times on both sides of the knife to maintain balance.

  • After honing, check the sharpness of your knife by attempting to cut a piece of fruit or paper. If it struggles or requires more pressure than usual, it may need further honing. Repeat the honing process as needed until the knife cuts efficiently.


Here's an overview of popular sharpening techniques:

  • Manual Sharpening with a Sharpener

Start with settling the knife into the coarse slot of the sharpener and pull it through slowly and with even pressure. Repeat this step three to six times. Now, settle the knife into the fine slot of the sharpener and pull through slowly once or twice.

  • Electric Sharpener

Make sure you review the instruction manual carefully before beginning. Place the knife into the coarse slot and slowly pull it through. The machine will do the heavy lifting. Now, switch sides and repeat the motion on the other face of the blade. Repeat these steps three to six times. Use the finer slot to repeat steps one through three.

  • Sharpening on Bench Stones

Start with a coarse grit stone and gradually sharpen the blade with finer grit stones by maintaining a consistent angle and applying even pressure. Move on to finer grit stones for a smoother finish.


Remember to choose the appropriate tools and techniques based on your specific knife types and maintenance needs. With regular honing and occasional sharpening, you can prolong the life of your knives and enjoy effortless cutting experiences in the kitchen.

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