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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?


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  1. 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.

    1. 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

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1 Reply
          1. re: werewolf

            I was taught to use a slightly more obtuse angle than the one finished on the stone when steeling on the ceramic rod. In effect you are creating a very small primary microbevel.

          2. 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.

            1. If you use a full hilt to tip stroke and hold a very consistant angle,you won't "oversteel" the knife. I have seen a lot of cooks use a quick back and forth stroke,one handed, that rolls the angle and does not go full length. After a couple years that knife will be concave and near useless. A SMOOTH steel will GLAZE the edge, basically smears all the tiny grooves the stone left, that reduces drag and makes the knife feel sharper. I often use the backside of another knife as a smooth steel. A ridged steel is a file. The reason you don't use a ridged steel on the premium Japanese knives is they are a harder steel than the steel is and they can gouge into those ridges if your angle is just a bit off. That may cause chipping. A knife with a Rockwell hardness of 61 can take a finer edge than one with a Rockwell of 56 but the harder steel is TOUGHER. and quite chip resistant by comparison. Ceramic and Diamond dust "steels" are best for very hard knives.

              Generally, The stone is what sharpens best,and steeling mostly takes the tiny waves and rollovers out, while slightly sharpening.

              It's IDEAL to learn to steel with EACH hand and with a quick-full stroke,snap of the wrist. Stroke away from you and away from anyone or anything you might not want to slash at. As you get experience you will feel and hear when it's right.

              1. As to a microbevel or "working edge"......

                I want to use a coarse or medium stone to lay down the most acute angle I can without the knife just skimming over the stone. That's way sharper than the stock 22 degress typical of most European Knives. I don't measure a specific angle but I'd say I put about a 15-17 degree angle on my Forschner,and a bit steeper on my smaller Kershaw/Kai clad 7". I then use the fine stone to do a "working edge" which should be about 2-3 degrees less acute. The increased taper of the primary bevel makes each sharpening quicker and reduces drag. The Working edge is what the steel can sustain in it's role. My slicer gets a somewhat more acute edge as it's job is low impact. Steeling is polishing the working edge, keeping it straight, low friction.

                1. What about carbon steel? I have a couple of beautiful old carbon steel knives that I've recently had sharpened. They rock. What's the best way to keep up that edge? Steel or stone?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: macchiabug

                    Smooth steel to realign the edge, stone to sharpen.

                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      Scuba, exactly correct. Plain and simple. Use a smooth hard steel every time you use any knife. Consider the "steel " to be the other half of the knife. Use the steel religiously and you'll need the stone rarely.

                      1. re: chautauquan1

                        Depends on the knife. Softer German steel, maybe. Harder Japanese steel preforms differently and in my opinion benefit from more frequent time on stones. Steeling just doesn't cut it. Not advocating frequent coarse stones but frequent higher grit sharpening has it's place. I do strop often but use a balsa wood strop with an ultra fine compound instead of a steel. Gives me more control to strop at the correct angle

                        1. re: scubadoo97

                          Agree. Steeling is largely beneficial for softer steel knives. Steeling/honing a Japanese knife frequent will likely dull the knife quickly and therefore require more frequent knife sharpening.

                        2. re: chautauquan1

                          The main purpose of steeling/ honing is to re-align an edge that has bent or rolled-over. This happens easily on knives that are tempered on the soft side (std. German knives), and why many recommend steeling them – before each use. Although steeling does make a bent edge usable again, and delays the need to be re-sharpened, bending & re-aligning an edge weakens it. Eventually, the edge becomes more and more unstable…it maybe sharp, but deforms faster than normal.

                          I’ve yet to experience a bent edge with hard tempered knives (Japanese, ceramic, etc.), so I believe steeling them provides little benefits and does more harm (will dull, can chip) than good. I prefer to maintain mine with a strop or finish stone.

                      2. re: macchiabug

                        macchiabug, For a carbon steel blade, it is not either/or, but both. Many professional cooks believe that carbon steel blades take a better edge than blades fashioned from harder alloys, which is why they are beloved of the French. But carbon steel blades need to be sharpened more frequently than stainless steel blades. As John Borg writes, "Carbon steel has the advantage over stainless when it comes to sharpening; they take a razor sharp edge with ease." http://knifemerchant.com/products.asp...

                        Honing, however, should be practiced frequently with any knife blade made from any kind of metal. With a carbon steel blade, you can hone the edge with most any honing steel, but avoid the so-called sharpening steels; for actual sharpening, you use the stone. For honing blades that have been fashioned from steels that have greater hardness, you need a higher quality honing steel, like a Friedr. Dick, but not necessarily a ceramic or diamond-coated honing rod. A lot of chefs pay attention to the opinions of a prolific on-line personality whose screen name is "boar_d_laze," and here is a posting of his that is poignant to your question: http://www.foodieforums.com/vbulletin...

                        BTW, you may have guessed that rerem's first Jul 12, 2008 posting above contains a typo, which is apparent from context. When rerem wrote, "A knife with a Rockwell hardness of 61 can take a finer edge than one with a Rockwell of 56 but the harder steel is TOUGHER.," rerem clearly meant to write, "...but the RoH 56 steel is TOUGHER."