Can you use a sharpening steel too much?
I've heard to use it about every time you are done with the knife. Is this too much? What are your recommendations?
sharpening steel is a bit of a misnomer, since you're not really sharpening (which implies taking steel off the edge). What you're doing with a rod (preferably ceramic), is honing and adjusting the edge. A knife can feel dull even when it's not if it doesn't have a properly aligned and honed edge. Giving it a few swipes on the rod using proper technique doesn't hurt, but if your technique isn't good you can actually detract from the edge.
Yes you can. Grooved steels and even ceramic rods will take metal off. A grooved metal steel is more aggressive than the typical ceramic which has about a 1200 grit surface. I can assure you that the dark streaks on my ceramic rod are not dirt. It's metal. Use a very light touch. A smooth glass rod is the least aggressive
Rather than go into a lot of detail, here's a pretty good outline that should help you..
Additionally, both the "steel" and the ceramic rods to remove metal - but only a very minute amount. If you have a dull knife with no recoverable edge neither the steel nor the ceramic rod will restore the edge - unless you have a lifetime to spend rubbing the dull edge on them. As chuckl pointed out, the steel and the ceramic rod (and similar devices) are intended to maintain and edge, not create a new one.
Many supermarket meat departments have a service (which they don't advertise widely) and will sharpen your knives for free. You wrap the knife in a special sleeve and deliver it to them; they in turn sharpen it and give it back to you. Some do a pretty good job, others do a poor job and force me to spend the time sharpening my own. But it may be worth your time to ask around and see what's available in your area.
Here are a few tips:
You can NOTuse an ordinary sharpening steel with knives that have very hard steel, like fine Japanese knives. The knife blade is harder than the steel and the steel will just mess it up. You CAN use ceramic rods or diamond rods with all steel knives.
The trick to using diamond and ceramic rods - or an ordinary steel on ordinary softer steel knives - is
1. The pressure of the knife on the steel must be very very light!
2. Run the knife over the steel at the same angle as the edge of the knife.
I usually use a steel before I use a knife, not after, because I want it to be sharp while I'm using it. Generally I use the steel freehand, holding it out in front of me in my left (non-dominant) hand, sweeping the blade from the butt to the tip on alternating sides, usually about six times a side. I like to feel a little spring pressure against the steel and a bit of a ringing sound, and when it feels smooth on both sides, I'm done. I don't see any reason to do it more than necessary, once you've got the blade just right.
Yes, I'm moving the blade toward my body, but I've only knicked one of my left fingers once in many years of doing this, when I was sharpening a particularly long slicing knife that I hadn't sharpened many times before. If you're uncomfortable about this, another method that some people use is to rest the tip of the steel on a wooden cutting board, and move the blade with the same motion away from the body, always with the sharp edge of the blade moving forward.
I sharpen with a flat two-sided oilstone every few months or so, more often for knives I use frequently, less often for knives I don't use so much. The ideal angle for most culinary knives is 22.5 degrees, which is easier to find by eye than one might imagine--half a 45-degree angle, which is half a 90-degree angle. The knife should always move forward in the direction of the blade. Pulling the knife backward or moving it in circles on the stone will feather the edge. I do it freehand, but there are guides for holding a precise angle made by Gatco that some people like.
I don't like any kind of electric or rolling knife sharpener. They're all knife eaters.