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Sharpening Steel

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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.
Thanks!

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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: Nocontact

        http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002...

        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:

                http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-Honi...

                http://www.amazon.com/Mundial-1301-10...

                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:

                    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Waterford-Cle...

              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

                      Nocontact,

                      You may find this video helpful:

                      http://youtu.be/lRUYAgrsoLw

                      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:

                      http://www.madcowcutlery.com/store/pc...

                      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 ;)

                          http://www.knifemerchant.com/product....

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

                          Jim

                          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. :)

                              Jim

                      2. O how I love Da Google!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: tim irvine

                          You don't like Netscape?

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            There is a cartoon strip called Pearls Before Swine. There are several crocodiles that seem to have Cajun accents. They could be finalists for the Darwin awards. They talk about Da Google as if were some sort of scary being, which it may well be.

                        2. Congratulations on your new knife! May it bring you many many years of happy cooking!

                          Honestly, I can't recommend that you buy a steel at all. Instead, just learn to strop your edges - this can easily be done with a scrap of cardboard or leather. And you'll pull the knife back, edge trailing to re-align the edge. This is a much more reliable way of honing your edges.

                          You can also use very mild abrasive pastes while stropping to not merely realign the edge but also help to maintain it. Chromium Oxide is one of many commonly used abrasive pastes. You could also use 3M abrasive films, which are made in a wide variety of grits from fairly abrasive to extremely fine.

                          But ... you'll still need some kind of sharpening system, unless you wish to have it done professionally. I'd say do it yourself. It's not all that hard and very satisfying. Bottom line, you'll need to choose between a freehand method, or a guided method

                          This will really help you out: http://sharpeningmadeeasy.com/.

                          Incidentially, I use a DMT Aligner and like it very much. The kit is only $40. The x-fine (1200 grit - green) alone would do a great job of maintaining your current edge. You don't need the xx-fine per se but I like having that - it's tan and 8000 grit.

                          I hope this helps!

                          J.

                          1. One thing you must remember about a ceramic item whether it be a knife or a steel is that ceramic is great until you drop it on the floor and you watch as your wonderful steel, or in my case knife shatters into a gazzillion pieces. I would stick with the tried and true steel rod. Just my opnion.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: flyguy420

                              Agree on the ceramic knife but ceramic rods are dirt cheap and work really well if you use them correctly

                              1. re: flyguy420

                                Somewhat, but I think it is much easier to drop a knife than a rod. You spend 1/1000th of the time holding a rod than a knife. Also, the rod is round and not thin.

                                1. re: flyguy420

                                  A lot of things will break. That's no reason to avoid getting something, if it's useful. I've had my ceramic rod about 30 years, and it's still intact. I keep it in the original box and don't use it much. I've broken quite a few things since buying that.

                                2. The only one I've found locally was global model that was 120$!!!! A little unreasonable.

                                  33 Replies
                                  1. re: Nocontact

                                    A lot of brand name honing steel can be very expensive. So what are you looking for at this point? A regular honing steel? A polish honing steel? A diamond rod? A ceramic rod?

                                    1. re: Nocontact

                                      and where are you located? I know in toronto restaurant supply stores have the global for $120, but you can get decent ceramic rods for a fraction of that in china town

                                      1. re: TeRReT

                                        Anyone have any experience with borosilicate/glass rods? I was thinking of picking one up for work,but they;re pretty spendy($90.00 or so)

                                        1. re: petek

                                          I had this site saved a few year ago when investigating glass rods

                                          http://www.tracysworkshop.com/p-15896...

                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                            "I had this site saved a few year ago when investigating glass rods"

                                            Thanks scubadoo! Someone else(Dave Martell) suggested buying a glass rod from a supply co and making my own honing rod,so I'm gonna try to source one locally.

                                        2. re: TeRReT

                                          That one was from Chinatown in Toronto! Tap phong trading co.

                                        3. re: Nocontact

                                          Have you tried Amazon.com? They have great deals on knives and if you are going to have the knife for a long time, money should be no object. I have used alot of knives in my career as a chef and the Global 8" by far is one of the best I have used in a long time. This again is a personal thing and you should hold the knife before actually purchasing this item.

                                          1. re: flyguy420

                                            http://www.amazon.ca/Edgeware-9-Inch-...

                                            Any thoughts on this model?

                                            1. re: Nocontact

                                              Did you end up getting the oval ceramic?

                                              I use a grooved steel oval from T&T at about the same price, and it works well.

                                              1. re: jayt90

                                                I did, I bought one from Amazon. I have no idea how it's working unfortunately because I'm not sure that my knife is as sharp as it could be. I'll continue to use it though and see how it works out.

                                                1. re: Nocontact

                                                  I hope that it works out well for you. In the long run, you will still need a sharpener - or choose to have it professionally done. Have you had the opportunity to read that sharpening web site? It's a good primer on the subject.

                                                  To see how sharp your knife is, give it the old "paper test". Can your knife do clean "push cuts" of thin paper - and do so along it's entire edge? Or perhaps only in certain places? Push cutting is cutting straight through the paper without linear movement. You can also test slowly dragging the blade through while also bringing it downwards, to find where it is sharper and where it is less sharp - and thereby where it needs honing and/or sharpening.

                                                  After a good sharpening, your Henckles will have NO difficulty doing pure push cuts with no effort - right down through thin paper with ease. So, keep around some unneeded Sunday circulars, junk mail, etc - so that you've got stuff to test out your edges.

                                                  I'm pretty decent at sharpening. Even still I do this regularly. There are times when I think that I've "done it right" ... but the paper test really tells me where any additional touch-ups are needed.

                                                  I hope this helps!

                                                  1. re: jkling17

                                                    It does seem to get through paper pretty easily, certainly not using effort. Don't really know what you mean by push cuts though.
                                                    I do notice that it may need to be sharpened again, even though I had it done once already professionally because it's not too impressive on tomato skin. It's weird though, when I pull the knife back it slices clean, but when I do a forward push cut it doesn't seem as smooth.

                                                    1. re: Nocontact

                                                      Sorry. Let me try this again. A push cut is literally a cut made by pushing the blade through - Without Slicing (slicing means the blade will be moving either away from you or towards you WHILE you are cutting. With a pure push cut, the edge will not be dragged forwards or backwards - it will just be a pure vertical action, A sharp knife will do paper push cuts along the ENTIRE edge, tip to back. Ergo ... a "push cut". Another good example of push cuts is when we use a razor to shave our face, legs, etc. Those are all push cuts, as opposed to slicing.

                                                      But ... Slow paper Slicing is also a good test, starting at the back and slowly drawing it back towards to you to the tip - to see where the paper is very cleanly parting - and where it might be getting a bit hung up on tiny imperfections along the edge - like a bit of a serrated feel.

                                                      >> It's weird though, when I pull the knife back it slices clean, but when I do a forward push cut it doesn't seem as smooth.

                                                      Yes, this happens. At a very minute level, the grain of the secondary bevel (the true cutting edge), may be aligned more in one direction than another. So there can be a bit more "natural drag" going one way vs. the other. This is perfectly normal. IF, however, you wished to reverse which way was "sharper" - to better match your comfort level for using the knife - then you could ensure that the cutting edge was sharpened accordingly.

                                                      >> I do notice that it may need to be sharpened again, even though I had it done once already professionally.

                                                      It's really quite easy to learn how to do this yourself. If you are a bit anxious, as I was, about being able to hold the proper angles yourself - then just get a nice simple guide to hold those angles for you. It couldn't be much easier, and this will also sharpen up all your other knives as well.

                                                      1. re: Nocontact

                                                        Nocontact,

                                                        "Don't really know what you mean by push cuts though."

                                                        Don't worry too much about push cutting a paper. Many factory knives and even many professionally sharpened knives do not get to attain this level of sharpness. Most people test the knives by slicing paper with a drawing motion. If the knife is sharper, then it can cut by just pushing the knife straight down (without moving the edge forward or backward).

                                                        "when I pull the knife back it slices clean, but when I do a forward push cut it doesn't seem as smooth."

                                                        That is just because the way you hold your knife. Nothing to it. Most people when they slice a paper have the tip higher than the heel. In this slightly tilted position, it is easier to pull and slice instead of push and slice. This is because when you push and slide, you can ramming the knife edge and pushing the paper away.

                                                        Try this. Try to hold the knife the opposite way with the knife tip lower than the knife heel -- basically have the knife tip slightly pointing down. Now, you will find it is easier to push slice than pull slice.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          Oh sorry, I wasn't clear. When I wrote "when I pull the knife back it slices clean, but when I do a forward push cut it doesn't seem as smooth." I meant on a tomato or something, not on the paper.
                                                          But getting back to the paper, yeah, I do need to slice it to get through, pushing alone aint gonna do it.

                                                          1. re: Nocontact

                                                            I don't get a really smooth push cut though paper until I give a few passes on my strop. But after that it push cuts easily the length of the blade. That little bit of refinement from the strop makes a big difference for me.

                                                            I've been told the better you are with stones the less benefit you should get with stropping. I guess I need to get better with stones

                                                            1. re: Nocontact

                                                              I agree with scubadoo. If you strop your knife edge (say on leather), then you may see your knife cut better. All in all, knives slicing paper is good enough for most people. Knives push cutting paper is just one more step on top of that. Of course, there are many other tests like sharpening your beard:

                                                              http://youtu.be/KsUw4CmDwfA?t=2m

                                                              Cutting paper in mid air:

                                                              http://youtu.be/4--HIDogrc8?t=9m51s

                                                              Cutting phonebook:

                                                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yzeg1H...

                                                              http://www.chow.com/photos/714200

                                                              ....etc..etc.

                                                              1. re: Nocontact

                                                                >> But getting back to the paper, yeah, I do need to slice it to get through, pushing alone aint gonna do it.

                                                                Hi Nocontact - ok so it's time to give that knife a bit of loving care. Stropping will really help you out and it is EASY and Cheap. You could use the cover of a phone book, back of a legal pad, piece of cardboard, old leather belt, etc.

                                                                I found a very nice video that will take all the mystery out of it. And he details options for stropping with metal polish, which will all at once, Hone, Sharpen, and Polish. All for about $5.

                                                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReUEjN.... Please take just a few minutes and watch it from 3:20 onwards. He does a really nice job of demonstrating how easy it is.

                                                                He uses leather at 3:20, cardboard at 7:25, and then cardboard with metal polish. At 10:40 he starts push cutting paper with ease.

                                                                Metal polish is readily available all over. Home Depot, Lowes will have it. But also every auto parts store. Regardless, it will be very cheap - about $5-7. Think of it as a very gentle form of honing, sharpening and polishing. Frankly, if you do this, your edges will probably end up even sharper than my edges.

                                                                If you use polish - just make sure that you give the knife a good cleaning to remove all polish residue, before you use it for prepping.

                                                                Food should fear your Henckles .... make it so!

                                                          2. re: jkling17

                                                            "So, keep around some unneeded Sunday circulars, junk mail, etc"

                                                            Ha ha ha. Apparently, all of us do the same thing.

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              Food should fear your Henckles .... make it so HAHA, this is what I'm hoping for!
                                                              I may try and grab some metal polish today. I have some cardboard lying around so I'll try it and see what happens! Thanks so much for this, I'm looking forward to trying it out.

                                                              1. re: Nocontact

                                                                We swung into Walmart today and there were a bunch of choices. I went with Turtle Wax Polishing Compound and scratch remover. They have a mild and more aggressive version - I went with the mild one, figuring that it's better to err on the side of caution. For $2.50 ... how can I really go wrong?

                                                                The polish itself is white so I figure that if the cardboard develops a bit of "grey / silver residue" that this has GOT to be metal coming off the edge and therefore must be working.

                                                                Again - just be super careful to wash it thoroughly before using it - I'm pretty sure that none of these things are meant to be ingested and that also includes very traditional knife buffing agents like chromium oxide!

                                                                1. re: Nocontact

                                                                  Ok, I admit to being even more confused now, but I'm beginning to think the knife sharpening I had done @ Tosho wasn't up to par. The reason I'm saying this is that my knife most certainly won't cut the hair on my arm, not even close and the fact that while stropping, I hear a discernible sound going on one side, but no sound at all doing the other which leads me to believe that one side is folder over. It cuts through paper pretty well but by the heel it catches a little.....
                                                                  Stropping did seem to sharpen it up a little though so I'll probably stick with that too.

                                                                  1. re: Nocontact

                                                                    Almost sounds like they left a burr. Cut into a cork if you have one. It may pull a burr off if present, then strop

                                                                    1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                      I already went back once for that very issue......Argh!

                                                                    2. re: Nocontact

                                                                      I agree with Scubadoo and you. It sounds like the edge has been folded over. Either Tosho did not do a good job, or the knife edge folded after. It is not unusual for Henckels knife edge to fold over after some usages. Afterall, this is why people use honing steels for these knives.

                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                        The stroping certainly has been helping, it seems to be helping restore the edge which is great. I actually knicked my thumb last night and was so happy!

                                                                        1. re: Nocontact

                                                                          " actually knicked my thumb last night and was so happy!"

                                                                          :D

                                                                          So may we know how your stropped your knives? Did you do a good old stropping on plain leather? Or did you go fancy and stropped on diamond sprayed leather?

                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                            Went old school with a leather belt. That vid posted in this thread showed me that was all I needed. Like I said, seems to be working and it's SO easy to do!

                                                                            1. re: Nocontact

                                                                              Cool. I also strop on a regular leather belt.

                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                Do you just go by feel or do you do a certain number of strokes each side?

                                                                                1. re: Nocontact

                                                                                  I usually only strop after sharpening. I usually do the fewest number of strokes (2-per side) and test the knives against a paper by push cutting. If it works, then I stop. If not, I do a few more strokes to see if it helps.

                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                    Interesting, so you don't think stroping just after using the knife is a good idea?

                                                                                    1. re: Nocontact

                                                                                      I used to do it, but I don't any more.

                                                    2. In a work environment my knife bag is usually packed away in a corner, under a counter, or on top of a reach-in cooler. I like to use this folding smooth steel one from Razor Edge Systems because it can fit in my pocket making it easy get to it when I'm on the line prepping.

                                                      http://www.razoredgesystems.com/produ...