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Aug 19, 2008 09:54 AM

What's the best sharpening steel?

Who makes the best sharpening steel? I have two, one from Chicago Cutlery, which was never too good and I think is worn out (does that even happen?) and the other is from Haverhills (also ancient). Neither one seems to get any 'bite' anymore, even on a newly sharpened knife.

I've seen newer ones that are diamond, or ceramic, or even one that looks as if it's flat, not round. Which are the advantages/disadvantages of different materials? Which are best for the knives?

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  1. I use ceramic, which are highly recommended, though I've heard good things about diamond too. I have noticed that the ceramic rod discolors gray from the small amount of steel during honing. It's easily cleaned using an abrasive cleanser like bar keepers friend or bon ami. Keep in mind that you are not sharpening the knife with the rod but honing the edge

    1. You also might want to ask on one of the knife forums.

      4 Replies
      1. re: mpalmer6c

        Are there knife forums on Chow? I just googled knife sharpening forums and wound up on a site with Jason and Freddie discussing chainsaw sharpening.

          1. re: chipman

            Yes, I should have been more specific. And, though maybe people will figure it out for themselves, some posters on these forums are talking kitchen tools, others are self-acknowledged "knife nuts" who view them as trophies to show off to their buddies. Check out a thread to see the tenor of the conversation.

            1. re: mpalmer6c

              Yes admitted knife nut here. Not into showing off trophies to anyone but get a thrill from the superior cutting abilities of a super sharp knife and keeping them that way.

      2. i would say go with the diamond, i have basically every type. i have ceramic which is nice i agreee but the flat diamond is nice it seems to help guide the knife bein its flatter. also tthe diamond steel will sharper the blade slightly only if being used on an already sharp knife. i work in a restaurant and usually sharpen my knifes like 2-3 times a week. but with my global knife i can get an extra 2 or 3 days by using the diamond steel.

        1. I love my F. Dick steel. It will cost as much as many fine knives, but having a sharp knife in only a few strokes confirms that it a great investment.

          1. I have been looking at DMT diamond fine 10 and 12 inch knife sharpeners. I noticed this group of questions is older. Wondered if anyone has come up with any new information for a diamond sharpener. I bought a fine one that is a second. I rather get some idea of the best reasonable one to buy that will work with my nice knife collection. I have Henckels, S Professional knives that came with a regular 10 inch honing sharpener in the set, even Forschners knives couple. I looked up the two recommended ones and neither are diamond sharpeners, Adams and another I believe. Anyhow, need some good ideas.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Tinkerbell

              With your knife set get a conventional steel. I have the lot of F Dick steels and they are worth what they cost. The oval or flat ones rock but will not fit in any block. I hang mine.

              Steel rods align and remove minute amounts of metal
              Ceramics do both but remove much more metal
              Diamond doesn't really align because it just rips the folded edge off.

              Find an old rod of each type and scrub them gently with a soft cleanser. Very little comes off a steel, a ceramic used will look gray and once cleaned becomes white again, and diamond rods are usually totally clogged with steel where enormous amounts come off.

              If the knife doesn't respond to a steel or ceramic it is time to hit the stones.


              1. re: Tinkerbell

                I tend to agree with knifesavers.

                If you need some sort of quick and/or portable way to refresh a sharp knife's edge, then either a traditional steel or a ceramic one are likely better choices for your knives, and usually a little more economical. You can use a diamond rod on softer knives like yours, and it will work more or less, but it won't have any major advantages. A diamond rod tends to be best for quickly restoring the 'bite' to harder knives that are already fairly sharp.

                If your knives are dull, a sharpening stone is a better buy. For some reason, people seem to be unwilling to buy sharpening stones but willing to buy abrasive honing rods - they're essentially the same thing, except that sharpening stones are more stable, faster, and flatter. I like synthetic waterstones myself, though your knives will work well with other options like oilstones or DMT too.

                1. re: Tinkerbell

                  I agree with both knifewaves and cowboyardee. I think they both hit the major points.

                  I think it really depends what you want to do with the honing rod. If you only want to realign your Henckels knives, then a smooth/polish steel will work great. If you want a little bit more abrasive, then try the smooth ceramic rod. If you really want a rod that remove metal, then a diamond rod is good.

                  If you don't know for sure, then I would stick with either a smooth steel or a smooth ceramic rod.

                  Like cowboyardee said, it you really want to sharpen the knives, then a sharpening stone is better.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    The rod that came with the set of Professional S set has tiny, tiny groves. Henckels Professional Rod. I did order a flat second diamond rod and it seems great but it is medium diamond. I felt I needed one that is the three fine, medium, and full. The ones I saw have wedges for all three down the 3/4 inch rod Jewel Stick PP123
                    . You do have to learn how to use them. I do have the 130 machine but I have always been afraid to use too much and put away as it can scratch the knives if you do not know what to do when using them. I think someone told me number 2 slot is enough to use. You can tell I did not ask before I bought this so now I am into the Jewel Stick PP123 thinking. Maybe I just need the smooth ceramic rod. I also read where they do not wear out. They just need to be kept clean and do not wear out. I guess this is a bunch of run ons English wise but I have so much on my mind. Maybe we can go segment by segment and rule out or decide yes on.

                    1. re: Tinkerbell

                      Perhaps some clairification on what a steel is supposed to accomplish is in order. For the vast majority of knives a steel is used to realign the knife edge. In simple terms, the knife edge tends to roll as you cut, thus presenting what appears to be a dull edge, think of the edge looking like " J " insetea of " I " and the steel brings it back to " I ", or realigns it with the rest of the blade. A totally smoth steel will do this, but a steel with the small groves, or ridges, will do this with less pressure since the surface that actually is in contact with the knife is less, thus increasing the effective pressure.

                      A ceramic rod does the same thing while also removing a small amount of metal, similar to what this does:

                      A diamond rod is the same approach, but more agressive.

                      If you only need to realign the edge, then a regualr steel, with or without ridges will work just fine. If you really need to "sharpen" the knife, there are better options as stated by cowboy and chem.