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can you ruin a knife..

as someone who has never used a knife steel, is it possible to somehow do it wrong and damage the knife

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  1. AFAIK, you're not gonna "damage" your edge to a large degree. You may re-align the edge burr or even remove it altogether ... but to damage the edge would take a fair bit of steeling.

    That's my guess. I would just check out the various guides to using a steel/sharpening a knife that can be found on teh intarweb ... eGullet had a good one there.

    As long as you give it a good go you will be doing more good than bad is all I can say.

    Have fun.

    Oh, check out this product. I looooooove mine and when I looked it up on Amazon it's rated very highly.


    I picked it up from Paul's Finest a long time ago and it's still working great. I don't use my steels anymore. Worth every freakin' penny.

    Keep in mind that it's for honing your edge ... not grinding a new edge, which you should do once in awhile depending on how often you use your knife, how much you abuse it etc ...

    3 Replies
    1. re: bill_n_opus

      hey Bill good info and it looks like you are also in Van city, have you ever seen it in store here, and do you remember what you paid

      1. re: vandan

        I haven't seen it around locally ... but then again, I haven't really looked for it. I wonder if House of Knives carries or can order it? Probably any cutlery vendor can order if you really want it. I would just order from Amazon myself and ship it to a package acceptace company like TSB Shipping or The Letter Carrier in Point Roberts, for example. (Since Amazon probably won't ship to CAD addresses for this product).

        Amazon.com now offers included no charge shipping when you order over 25 bucks, which isn't hard to do. TSB charges 3 bucks ro handle and then you drive it over the border.

    2. yes, you can ruin a knife if you have no idea what you're doing. If you don't keep the grind angles at least somewhat close to the original, you'll blunt your knife.

      A gizmo like the one referenced above will help you make sure the edge are good.

      But if it's dull, just bite the bullet and take it in to a good knife shop and have it done. Just got my beloved and beat-up Wusthof chef's knife redone -- they put a new point on it, and removed all the dings from nearly a decade of hard daily use. It's like brand new, and it cost me less than $10. (I'd dropped it, and I had the choice -- jump back and let it fall on the ceramic tile point-first, or stand there and let it fall point-first on my foot. I opted for the bloodless choice.)

      1 Reply
      1. re: sunshine842

        Yike. Sorry -- just reread it and saw the word "steel" -- so to edit my above post after the fact...

        You probably can't ruin the edge on your knife with a steel -- but you can make enough of a mess of it to wish you hadn't done it.

        Find a video online, or go into your favourite kitchen-supply store and have them show you the correct way to use a steel.

        This is a great one:


        Alton Brown's Food Network Minute "Happiness is a Sharp Knife"

      2. Why are you using the steel? If you are realigning the edge on soft blades, then go for it. Try to keep a consistent angle and practice until you get it right. It's pretty hard to mess up so bad on a soft blade that you actually damage it.

        If you are using a thin hard blade, you won't "re-align" the edge and won't sharpen it. You can take chunks out of the edge though if you do it wrong.

        If your knife is dull, sharpen it. ;-)

        1. Yes. Absolutely you can ruin the knife edge and makes it more dull than before. Will it be a irreversible damage? No. You can always fix it.

          I also agree with Sid Post. It really depends on the knives you use. You can steel a knife like Wusthof, and Henckels. You should not steel a knife like Shun and Tojiro.

          3 Replies
            1. re: vandan

              Globals aren't the hardest Japanese knives but, they are pretty hard. I would not and have not used a knife steel on mine. It doesn't suffer edge deformation, only dulling. When it is dull, it is time to sharpen it.

              1. re: vandan

                Global knives may be ok. Global knives are not as hard as Shun and Tojiro. Shun Classic knives are 61 HRC hardness and I think Tojiro is 60 or 61 HRC. Global knives I believe are 58 HRC (someone please correct me). Anyway, I would not steel a knife with hardness get around HRC 59-60.

                I believe reading somewhere that many Wusthof knives are HRC 56, but the Wusthof Ikon is at HRC 58. So, Wusthof Ikon knives also become these boarderline knives

            2. anyone know if you should or should not sharpen a bread knife, and if so with what?

              3 Replies
              1. re: smartie

                Yes and no. Depending who you talk to. It is difficult to sharpen a bread knife on your own. So, either send it out to professionals or just buy a new inexpensive one.

                  1. re: smartie

                    Depends to some extent which type of serratins it has. The most common look like a bunch of ( rotated 90 degrees to the right, but some are just the opposite, rotate 90 degrees to the left, we have one of each. The more common one could be sharpened with a ceramic rod of the proper diameter and light honing along the edge. But unless you have been cutting beer cans with it, it should cut bread for a very very long time without needing to be sharpened.

                  2. In theory steeling is to reallign the cutting edge not to sharpen. The metal tends to relax and as it does it's no longer in allignment with the rest of the knife. If you continue to cut with a bent over edge, you will continue to push the edge further and further over making the knife very dull. The steel keeps this from happening by putting pressure on the edge and pushing it back into allignment.

                    If you steel at too low of an angle you do nothing, if you steel once or twice at too high an angle you push the edge too far, but you can push it back when you steel the other side of the knife. I wouldn't say you can't hurt the knife, but you'd have to work at it. The worst thing that could happen is you will have to have it resharpened. The best thing is you will have a sharp knife.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mikie


                      I'm pretty sure if you've been cutting beer cans with it, you don't need to worry about ruining it while trying to sharpen it - seems the "ruining" part would already be a done deal!


                    2. I think it depends on what you mean by a "knife steel."

                      There are other knife experts here who may disagree, but I find the standard grooved "knife steels" to be useless. The purpose of steeling a knife is not to sharpen it, but (as other have said) to straighten the edge. For this purpose, the best thing is a *smooth* steel rod. The ridges on a grooved steel will just tend to take tiny chunks out of your edge (particularly on harder steels).

                      For someone who doesn't tend to actually sharpen knives very often, the grooved steel may give an appearance of "sharpening" because of the microserrations it creates in the edge. But those will wear quickly with heavy use and might then require more frequent sharpening.

                      If you actually want a "steel" to take a bit off the edge, I'd personally recommend a ceramic rod instead of a grooved steel, since that will smooth off the edge and take a tiny layer of metal off rather than ripping across the edge as a grooved steel does.

                      All of this said -- you can't cause permanent damage with a knife steel. The worst case scenario is that you'll need to get your knives sharpened. A more probable scenario is that you temporarily improve the performance of your knives but slightly decrease the lifetime of the edge, which will then require earlier sharpening.

                      16 Replies
                      1. re: athanasius

                        i was advised ceramic for my japanese knives and steel for my german ones, make sense??

                        1. re: vandan

                          Well, as mentioned by others, Japanese knives tend to be harder and thus steeling with a grooved steel will tend to fracture the edge more, usually on a microscopic level, but it could lead to actual visible chips.

                          As for German ones, personally I still don't see the point in a grooved steel. I use a smooth steel if I want to hone them and ceramic if I want to take a tiny bit off the edge. It also depends on the bevel on your German knives. Factory edges tend to be fairly wide on German knives, so the roughness on a grooved steel won't be much of a problem. But if you sharpen those German knives to a finer edge (which I personally do), you could potentially chip or weaken that edge pretty easily with a grooved steel.

                          To my mind, the only thing a grooved steel does is create microserrations -- tiny chips in the edge -- which make a softer steel (German) knife seem sharper and perform better in the short term. But in the long term, those tiny chips will weaken the edge more quickly and require more frequent actual sharpening.

                          So, it's not really a question of whether it's good or not to use a grooved steel on softer knives. It depends on how frequently you use your knives and how frequently you sharpen them. The short-term gain in performance from a grooved steel might be useful for some people. But I don't see why you couldn't use ceramic on both Japanese and German knives

                          But perhaps others here have different opinions....

                          1. re: athanasius

                            ok another question here, was at ikea today and they had a ceramic steel for $9, much less than other places i have checked with, would it do the trick, compared to one that is 3 times the price?

                            1. re: vandan

                              Honestly, I don't know -- I haven't researched a great variety of ceramic rods for this purpose. They should come with a grit rating (like sandpaper) that tells you how fine the surface roughness is. You could compare the two rods that way, to some extent, but the ratings sometimes seem to vary a bit (at least for sharpening stones) from manufacturer to manufacturer.

                              I would think even a fairly coarse ceramic rod would still be much smoother than even a relatively fine grooved steel. But I don't have enough experience with different brands to know.

                              1. re: athanasius

                                makes sense anyone else have any thoughts on this?

                                1. re: athanasius

                                  "I would think even a fairly coarse ceramic rod would still be much smoother than even a relatively fine grooved steel. But I don't have enough experience with different brands to know."

                                  Agree. I think the concern for a grooved steel is that it can provide too much pressure (psi, or pascal) on the knife edge and literally chips the knife edge when too much force is used.

                                2. re: vandan

                                  vandan: First, your $9 Ikea crock stick is probably just fine. Such sticks are usually in the RC 80s in hardness, and will work on all steel knives. True butcher's steels are usually in the RC 60-65 range, which makes them basically useless on knives of the same or higher Rockwell.

                                  You and the rest of us amateur givers of opinion would do well to read what real experts have to say on the subject of steeling. See, e.g., http://zknives.com/knives/articles/ws... FYI

                                  I would also be remiss if I did not mention stropping or polishing, subjects that aren't raised much here on CH. Whatever you do to sharpen, or steel with an abrasive steel, you are almost always going to create a foil edge to some degree. Most times you can feel the foil with your fingernail. That foil edge, unless removed, is going to bend over under lateral pressure and give the impression that you have to steel more or resharpen. What most folks don't understand is that this foil edge CAN'T be sharpened away (because it forms by growing IN the direction you're sharpening)--it usually needs to be stropped or buffed off. What the foil CAN do when it is steeled is bend back and forth, breaking off in places and being bent BOTH ways on different places on the edge--making your edge a microscopic mess that steeling can make worse.

                                  I don't steel much at all anymore. I touch up my knives on a slow butcher's belt sharpener using a very fine grit belt that is worn out for honest stock removal work. After that, I run a 8" sewn muslin wheel with a bit of white chrome rouge at 3600 RPM OFF the edge; you hold the blade at about a 60-degree angle to the wheel and give just a tiny bit of pressure--the foil just disappears. If you don't have a buffer and rouge, you can just strop the newly-sharpened edge on the cardboard back of a legal or other tablet--there's just enough abrasive in the smooth cardboard to take the foil off. You will be surprised how close that simple 2-step process comes to HOURS funiculating with parades of stones and steels. Theoretical purists and surgeons might say I'm using microsaws not knives, but they draw blood just like a microtome.

                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    Thanks, Kaleokahu for the link.

                                    I'll admit to being a bit of an amateur in the knife-sharpening department -- I don't aspire to "scary sharp." (I keep a few knives reasonably sharp in the kitchen; my wife won't touch them because they're too sharp and scare her... but compared to OCD sharpening folks, my knives aren't anything special.)

                                    I understand the value of stropping/polishing, though for taking the foil/burr off, can't one also do that with a couple very light strokes with a ceramic rod at a slightly wider angle than the edge? I know it won't quite result in the edge quality of proper stropping, but won't it do pretty much the same thing?

                                    1. re: athanasius

                                      athanasius: "[C]an't one also do that with a couple very light strokes with a ceramic rod at a slightly wider angle than the edge?"

                                      My experience is, yes you can, but you might not be able to tell whether you've removed the foil or just aligned it well with your edge (visualize a supersharp yet EXTREMELY thin and floppy edge just waiting to get bent over again). I will say that with a dead flat platen on the belt machine and a steel that sparks easily, you can sometimes just kiss the "foil side" and it then feels and cuts like a stropped edge. If that's indeed the case, you should also be able to do it with your crock stick.

                                      "...but won't it do pretty much the same thing?" As the above WAG should convey, I think the answer is yes in a functional sense (if you're lucky). But running your blade edge ONto your stick is different from what you're doing when stropping or buffing--there you're running the blade OFF the strop/wheel/stick/whatever. Try that wider angle and kiss the edge BACKWARD on your crockstick and see what happens.

                                      FAIR WARNING: DO NOT EVER EVER EVER EVER run a buffer edge ON. It WILL catch and you WILL be seeing your own severed fingers or toes to the ER.

                                    2. re: kaleokahu

                                      I clicked on the link you provided above, wow, this guy is really anti groved steel. May have something to do with his appearant facination with Japanese knives, but that's the first I've read about how horible a groved steel is. It sounded as grave a sin as using a glass cutting board. He had some interesting opinions on sharpening for sure and a lot of good advice. Other internet sharpening articles I've read suggested using a groved steel gently. This guy made it seem like you might as well use a wood rasp to hone your blade. I have a very worn steel and soft German knives, oh well.

                                      1. re: mikie

                                        Mikie: Yes, you're right about his strong opinions about grooved steels. Personally, I think you need to know the relative hardnesses of blade and steel, the angle you lick at, the edge bevels you have and pressure before you can say "Good" or "Bad". The guys that worked the kill floor and boning rooms in my dad's slaughterhouse steeled with both grooved and smooth steels, mostly using older, thick, soft, flat or convex ground Forschner knives (unlike the thin hollow-grinds used today), and they never steeled with any real pressure--they call it "licking" for a reason.

                                        It's a good site for no other reason than the guy at least tries to substantiate what he says with microscope photos. He's clearly a narrow-angle, brittle steel fetishist, though.

                                        Re: soft German knives... In all the years I've been making and using knives, I have never understood why people think the higher the RC the better or sharper the knife. IMHO, hardness falls far down the line of important attributes.

                                    3. re: vandan

                                      Most ceramic steels average around 1200 grit. I've seen very inexpensive ones from some knife mags that come to the house. The one that came with my EdgePro is pretty inexpensive.

                                  2. re: vandan

                                    Agree with athanasius. Grooved steels are difficult to use. Use a ceramic or a smooth steel for your German knives instead of a grooved steel. Here from Chad Ward:

                                    "That metal rod thingie that came with your knife set is called a steel or honing rod. Unless you purchased your steel separately, you probably ended up with a medium grooved steel. That’s okay, but a finely grooved steel is better. A completely smooth steel or high grit ceramic honing rod is even better still."


                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      I dnon;t know for a fact, but was under the impression that a groved steel provided more psi on the knife edge than a smooth steel, with less pressure being exerted. I suppose if you pressed too hard the groved steel might be more agressive, but again it the intent is you don't have to push hard to get the edge back in line. This may only apply to the European knifes and not the harder Japanese knives.

                                      I usually use my Grandfather's F. Dick steel and it's very lightly groved, probably from use.

                                      1. re: mikie

                                        Mikie -

                                        I think you're probably right about grooved steel being faster and easier to get an edge aligned with less work. I was in part responding to the OP, which asked whether it was possible to damage a knife by poor steeling.

                                        If used at the proper angle with the right pressure, a grooved steel could be useful for softer knives (as I said), but I think it'd be easier to do damage with a grooved steel if done at the wrong angle or with the wrong technique or on the wrong knives.

                                        1. re: mikie


                                          You are correct of course. If used correctly, any grooved steel works fine. It is just that it is easier to make a mistake with a grooved steel than a smooth steel, especially for a novice. Also, as you have pointed out there are deep grooved steels and light groved steels. Chad Ward prefer a finely grooved steel.