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Jan 21, 2009 12:39 PM

Where can I buy a smooth honing rod?

I'm trying to find a smooth honing rod -- either steel or glass, and having zero luck. I have spent literally hours with Google trying to track one down... Found a single one on some site and they wrote back after I ordered and said they didn't really have it in stock and "might" be able to get one in several months. Can anyone give me a link to an online store that actually sells these things?

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  1. Why not use a "regular" one? When you say smooth, I assume you mean one that doesn't have pronounced ridges? I've seen glass ones before but they are still somewhat textured - almost sand blasted. Can't quite remember where I saw it but if you've searched all over Google, your guess is as good as mine.

    16 Replies
    1. re: HaagenDazs

      The "regular" ones are grooved and can ding up the edge a bit. There is no risk of messing up a perfectly smooth edge with a smooth steel -- it will only do one thing, which is realign any "roll" that the metal has taken... At least, so I've read. As mentioned, I can't actually seem to find one for sale so this might be myth :-)

      What is not myth is that the grooved ones can and do ding up the edge -- I can actually see the difference with my naked eye if I sharpen my knives on my waterstones, then run one on the butcher steel (steel that came with a block set of Henckles knives). The result is that areas of the blade become "toothy" (i.e., micro-serrated). It's possible that I'm using the steel incorrectly, but I don't think so...

      1. re: davis_sq_pro

        Boy, I'm glad to see that someone else has experienced the same thing with knives honed on a grooved steel. I also get those minuscule divots on my knife edge and was wondering if it was my imagination. Now I know - it's my cheapo ridged steel!

        Along those lines, can anyone confirm or deny that this is accurate?

        "A metal sharpening steel should never be used with Japanese knives made with traditional hard carbon steel or hard alloy steels as this will not sharpen the edge only chip it."

        Saw it on an eBay auction for a Hiromoto knife (I own one of the lower-end ones), and I wonder if that applies to smooth steel steels as well as to grooved ones.

        1. re: happy_c

          You could double check on Japanese knife sites, I believe steels have not been traditionally used in Japan. Instead they use wet fine grade stones (2000 or finer grit).

      2. re: HaagenDazs

        Because a regular one is a file, and it's not really a good idea to take a sharp edge to a file?

        F. Dick make several. I see them for sale at amazon.

        1. re: dscheidt

          Perfect, thanks. Seems that the secret word was "polished", whereas I was searching for "smooth" and "mirror", the two terms I see all over most knife sharpening forums.

          1. re: davis_sq_pro

            You do know to use one edge trailing, not edge leading?

            1. re: dscheidt

              Not sure what you mean. Do you mean to "drag" the knife backward, like when stropping?

              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                Yes. And light pressure; the area of the steel is much smaller than you may be used to, and so the pressure on the knife is higher than it would be on a strop or a stone.

                1. re: dscheidt

                  Thanks, I'll give that a try. I'm using near-zero pressure on the strop after watching Dave Martell's DVD (

          1. re: 3MTA3

            No, not ceramic. I don't want to "sharpen", I want to "hone".

            1. re: davis_sq_pro

              a ceramic rod does not sharpen, it merely aligns the edge, kindly.

              1. re: chuckl

                I've never seen a ceramic rod that doesn't have a grit rating. If it has any grit, it is going to remove material.

                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                  wrong, the grits are very fine and it takes off less metal than any metal rod, which is why manufacturers like Shun recommend them

                  1. re: chuckl

                    It's a file. It removes metal. A polished steel rod doesn't.

                    1. re: chuckl

                      Ceramics are significantly better than grooved steel rods BUT a ceramic will remove some metal. When I use one and I do use a light touch there is a small microbevel made with the ceramic rod when seen under magnification if the angle is more obtuse than the original angle. Look my 8000 grit Shapton Glass stone removes metal and my 30,000 grit leather strop loaded with chromium oxide removes metal as it polishes. So how can a 1200 grit ceramic not remove metal.

                      Look, removing metal is not such a bad thing as long as it's controlled and the edge is refined and not roughed up with microserration like with a standard grooved steel.

                      For a smooth honing rod a brass rod found in many hardware stores will work as a smooth honing steel. As long as the surface is smooth and without defects or nicks. You can also find Pyrex or borosilicate rods used for crafts that will work nicely as a smooth steel for realigning the edge

          2. Use the back of another knife. There was a company that sold smooth steels, sorry can't remember the name, but doesn't matter. They seem to have closed.
            If I can remember the name I will come back.

            1 Reply
            1. re: billieboy

              This is too sensible! Use the same quality and hardness to realign any rolled edge?? Who would buy a steel if they knew that? LOL you're right; I've seen old footage where a chef is doing this, but usually with two knives of similar size. Many kitchens did not have that luxury.

            2. This is not the site I mentioned in my last post, but they have a polished steel made by Forschner (who knew?) About half way down the page.


              1 Reply
              1. re: billieboy

                Thanks; I ordered an F. Dick one just a while ago on dscheidt's recommendation. I actually have been using the back of another knife but it just doesn't feel like the safest thing in the world. I prefer a dedicated tool for the job.

              2. You might find this helpful, from Chad Ward, whose book, An Edge in the Kitchen, is probably the best book on knives for the home cook
                Here’s the link to this informative post


                Types of Steels

                Knife steels come in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavors. There are round steels, oval steels, grooved steels, smooth steels, diamond steels and ceramic “steels.” If you purchased a set of knives, it probably came with a round, grooved steel. Be very careful with this beast. Kitchen knives are reasonably tough and resist chipping fairly well, but a grooved steel can really put that to the test. The grooves in the steel create tiny points of contact with the edge. A smaller contact area makes for greater pressure on the edge. Used lightly, a grooved steel can realign the edge of your knife, though it does it fairly aggressively. Used with too heavy a hand, however, a grooved steel will act as a file and take microscopic chips out of your edge. Your edge will feel sharp because it is now, in effect, serrated, but it won’t last very long.

                Coarse diamond steels fall into the same category, though they’ll generally leave a finer edge than grooved steels. They should still be used with caution and a very light hand.

                Smooth steels are several steps above either grooved or diamond steels. A smooth steel will gently push the metal of the edge back into alignment. It will take longer than with a grooved or diamond steel, but you don’t run the risk of damaging your edge. A smooth steel is very easy to use and fairly forgiving of sloppy angles.

                A step above even smooth steels are fine grit ceramic and very fine diamond steels. According to Cliff Stamp, “A smooth steel just pushes the edge back into alignment, leaving the weakened metal there, which will actually relax back into being deformed in its own time without any use. The ceramic will remove some of the weakened steel while also aligning the edge. The edge will be more stable and stay sharp for much longer. There is more metal removed with the ceramic and diamond rods, but you are looking at between 100 to 1000 sharpenings to remove one millimeter of metal from the edge of the knife depending on the edge angle and the grit of the ceramic or diamond hone – this is years of constant use. In general, the lifetime of most knives tends to be dominated by the occasional accidental damage that forces heavy honing.”

                2 Replies
                1. re: chuckl

                  I agree that in theory it seems nice to remove some metal, but there are complications:

                  First of all, since you're removing metal the ceramic is very unforgiving when it comes to incorrect angles, especially if you're a bit too acute -- you could wind up cutting off part of your edge and actually dulling your blade.

                  Second issue is that the grits on the ceramic steels aren't that fine. I haven't seen one with greater than a 2000 grit. I sharpen my knives on a series of stones up to 16000 grit, then polish them using an extremely fine stropping powder. Doing all of that is, admittedly, probably overkill; but to do all of that and then put them on a 2000 grit steel is insane and/or idiotic -- I might as well have stopped at 2000 grit on the stones.

                  So if you're careful with your angles and are not the kind of person who messes around with water stones on a regular basis, a ceramic rod might be the best choice. But one size certainly does not fit all.

                  1. re: chuckl

                    I've gotten my best sharpening supplies from Ragweedforge.


                    He doesn't list a grit for his ceramic sticks, but I'm sure the owner will be happy to discuss their use with you. I particularly like the stick for putting a final touch on the Scandinavian grind (single wide bevel) knives that he sells. With these knives I run the stick along the bevel, in full contact.

                  2. It's not glass, but HandAmerican's Butcher Steel has two smooth sides and two sides with micro-fine grooves (maybe for a cheap softer steel 'backup' knife you might use for some tasks). I don't own it and can't personally attest to its quality, but I've seen many good mentions of this particular model.