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Jan 6, 2012 04:10 PM

Sharpening Steel

My Girlfriend was nice enough to buy my a Henckel 8" Chef's knife for Christmas but now I'm worried about treating it right!
I wanted to buy a steel, but wasn't sure if I had to spring for the Henckel sharpening steel or if I can get away with a generic brand. The difference is about $60 so it is significant. I really want to treat this blade right and make it last so I'd be willing to spend if I have to, I just want to make sure I'm not paying for a brand name.
It's the twin 4-star Chef's knife.

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  1. Get a ceramic rod. They are inexpensive and will do a better job of retooling your edge. Save money and get a better product. The ceramic has a grit size of about 1200g. Excellent for realignment and lite sharpening. You have to remove metal periodically and this does but a few swipes is a rather gentle sharpening for maintenance if you don't want to go the full sharpening route with stones.

    5 Replies
    1. re: scubadoo97

      Is a ceramic rod something I can find easily? How much do they usually go for? Any particular brand? I'm new to all of this.

        1. re: twyst

          So there's nothing to the idea that ceramic is better for Japanese knives rather than German?

          1. re: Nocontact

            Not quiet the way you wrote it, but I think I know what you meant.

            A ceramic rod is applicable for both Japanese hard steel knives and German knives.
            However, a grooved steel rod is more applicable for German knives than Japanese knives.

            Does this clarify the situation?

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              It does thank you, Who knew this would be so complicated!

    2. A steel is for honing, i.e, realigning the tiny wrinkles that occur on the edge. A sharpening method such as an electric grinder or a stone is for actual sharpening. I find my knives need actual sharpening every 6 to 8 months but I use a steel on them every time I use them. Look for a smooth steel, even a polished one, not one that will abrade the edges and your knives will be happy and last FFE. Check out F. Dick.

      1 Reply
      1. re: tim irvine

        I have grooved steel, ceramic and diamond rods. I have managed to keep my Henkels knives sharp well enough with a grooved steel rod. I only use the diamond when I want to lightly sharpen my very hard Japanese knives, and then I finish with the ceramic. I don't think the ceramic really does any sharpening, only honing, so if it is sharpening that they OP is worried about, ceramic is not the answer.

        Why don't you invest in a cheaper grooved steel rod? As long as it is harder than the Henkels, which is likely, and you learn to use it right, you should be fine. Also, use wood or plastic cutting boards only, and avoid glass at all costs, and probably bamboo as well (dulls the edge, but the bamboo debate rages on). There is also an easy- to-use, and inexpensive, pull through sharpener made by Wusthoff that you can buy, and it does a really nice job of really sharpening German knives, including assuring that you are sharpening at the right angle. I would recommend that highly.

      2. I've had a ceramic rod for many years, but I was never happy with it. It didn't seem to help much maintaining an edge, and certainly couldn't put an edge back on a dull knife. Now I have a steel honing (not sharpening) rod and a waterstone. This is the method that works best for me. I have also taken knives to a professional when necessary. I don't aspire to be an expert in maintaining my knives, merely competent in their care and use.

        1 Reply
        1. re: GH1618

          Like any method of stropping or honing you need to be at the correct angle to get the most from your stroke.

        2. "I wanted to buy a steel, but wasn't sure if I had to spring for the Henckel sharpening steel or if I can get away with a generic brand. "

          First, let me answer your question directly. Unless you pick a very bad one, most generic brand honing steels will work just as well as the Henckels steel for the 4-star Chef's knife.

          Then, let me answer questions which you did not asked.
          If you like a honing rod, then get a ceramic rod or a smooth steel.

          Finally, like tim irvine said, a honing rod is meant to hone a knife -- to straighten the edge, not to sharpen a knife. Even if you get a ceramic or diamond rod, the sharpening speed is very limited.

          13 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I know you like smooth rods, but is there an inexpensive one? The HandAmerican is $65 from ChefKnivesToGo.

            I happen to have two grooved honing rods, the Shun and a Wüsthof, which was included with a block. The Wüsthof has noticeably finer grooves than the Shun, so that's the one I use on my better knives. I am not disputing your preference for a smooth rod, but I am certainly not going to buy one when the Wüsthof seems entirely satisfactory for my purposes.

            1. re: GH1618

              I'd use the one I had but not bear down on it. My 40 year old Sabatier has very faint ridges. My old Sabatier knives are soft enough that if I use the steel too hard I feel it grinding. So just don't push too hard.

              1. re: GH1618

                The argument for a smooth steel is simply because it is less likely to make mistakes. If you already have a grooved steel which works for you, then it is good, just try to use light force.

                There are some slightly cheaper honing steels than the HandAmerican one. I don't know if the HandAmerican one is better or not. Anyway here are a few:



                Personally, I like to go straight to sharpening stones than using honing rods.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  The Mundial is described as "polished cut sharpening steel." Does that make sense?

                  1. re: GH1618

                    :) Good point. Based on the product description, photos and the two users reviews, I believe that this steel is smooth. It is probably a little mistranslation or something. Maybe it meant to be "polished grind" or "polished cut" like diamond and glass...etc:


              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                My point is you just can't keep pushing metal back and forth forever e.g. Honing. You need to remove some steel periodically to maintain a sharp edge

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  I agree. :) Why are you telling me this all of a sudden? Did you miss me? :P

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Maybe because you understand knife maintainance and know what I'm talking about?

                  2. re: scubadoo97

                    Doesn't a steel remove any metal? I have a couple of older knives which have only ever seen a regular steel, and their blades have clearly lost a ton of metal.

                    1. re: Robin Joy

                      Hi Robin,

                      Yes, some steels can remove metal. The grooved ones can act like the "sharpening" carbides in a hand-held sharpener, and actually peel off material. I used this method to sharpen both my son's roomates' knives & my dad's knives, since I didn't bring my sharpening stones with me on that road trip. The edges weren't very pretty, but it was certainly an improvement in cutting performance over the blunt edges they had. After I finished with my dad's knives (about 45 minutes), there was a small pile of shavings on his counter.

                  3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    What is the difference between straightening the edge and sharpening??

                    1. re: Nocontact


                      You may find this video helpful:


                      Because a knife cutting edge is very thin, it can bend. The honing steel can straighten/realign this edge. Eventually, the cutting edge will wear off. At this point, you will need to create a new edge by grinding away metal, and a honing steel will do nothing or next to nothing. I hope this help.

                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      My diamond rod can sharpen my Shuns. It actually does take metal off. I then hone with the ceramic afterward. I have stones, but they take more time and I only do those once or twice a year as a result.

                    3. If I were buying a steel right now, this one look good for 25 dollars:


                      4 Replies
                      1. re: tim irvine

                        Holy crap. A F. Dick polished steel for this price! Great find, Tim.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          That is their packinghouse steel and is typically around that price.

                          I use this primarily...The biggest advantage is my wife will use it also where she wouldn't use a round. win win ;)


                          I also have an old coarse F-Dick, a balkan smooth, ceramic, and a diamond that all have their place.


                          1. re: knifesavers

                            I am not a huge fan of grooved steel, but this one looks very nice. It is expensive though. Very pretty. Hey, any reason why your wife is willing to use this one and not the round one? Does she think this is safer or something?

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              "Because it is flat." She always thinks she was doing something wrong with the round but the flat "feels natural."

                              As long as she uses it, I'm happy. :)