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Jan 7, 2014 08:59 PM

Cheap handheld sharpener vs a $20 honing steel?

Would this Victorinox $20 honing steel ( ) do a significantly better job at sharpening kitchen knives vs this $2 handheld ceramic ( )?

At the moment I'm using a $10 knife from walmart but might get the popular Victorinox 8-Inch Chef's Knife in the future.

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  1. I really cannot comment much about that $2 ceramic thing, and several reviewers even say they received a different product.

    As for the Victorinox honing steel ($20), it is reasonably priced, but I like to recommend a smooth steel or a ceramic rod instead of these grooved steel.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Why do you feel the smooth steel or ceramic are better? I don't know much about sharpening tools.

      1. re: MaximilianKohler

        I have the Lansky system, crock sticks, an electric Chef's Choice sharpener, etc. Out of all of them a diamond knife sharpening steel is the easiest and most convenient to use. It keeps my knives (a Henckels set) razor sharp. For the average person, I think it's the way to go.

        1. re: Antilope

          Hmm, a diamond coated rod that's cheaper than plain steel rods... interesting.

          1. re: MaximilianKohler

            I've had two similar diamond rods, both fine grit. The diamond coating is very quickly and easily scraped off, leaving you with a smooth steel rod within a year, used once or twice a day. I've just ordered a ceramic rod.

            1. re: DuffyH

              Yes, but the diamond coated steels worked during that year giving you an easily sharpened knife to use. My diamond coated steel has lasted two years and is going strong.

              Any type of ceramic rod I have ever used gets clogged with metal dust within a year and is useless.

              My bottom line is I want a sharp knife to cut a tomato.

              I don't want to have to play with a bunch of knife fan boy gadgets to get that knife sharp.

              1. re: Antilope

                No need to get gadgets. You can pick up a 1000 grit waterstone and that would be enough for most people. Alternatively you could get a fine/extra fine DMT diamond benchstone.

                1. re: Antilope

                  "Any type of ceramic rod I have ever used gets clogged with metal dust within a year and is useless."

                  A little cleanser fixes that up.


                  1. re: knifesavers

                    Doesn't work for me. The fine metal dust (really a metallic powder) clogs the pores of the ceramic (it's porous) and doesn't want to come out. After the ceramic rod is gray with metal dust, it is never the same. Scrub all you want, it's still gray with embedded dust. It's slick and no longer sharpens the knife well.

          2. re: MaximilianKohler

            Many people have a tendency to make mistakes with a grooved steel. It is easy to apply too much force with a grooved steel, and damage the knife edge. It is certainly not an absolute "no-no".

            I think this is a nice section to read from Chad Ward. It is a nice book (An Edge in the Kitchen) if you like to purchase:

            "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.”"



            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Thanks! Very informative. Like it says in that link I have actually experienced that it's getting harder and harder to sharpen my knife with that little V pull-through sharpener.

        2. Hones don't sharpen. If you were to look at a dull knife under magnification you would notice little burrs going this way and that along the slicing edge. A hone aligns them making it easier to use. When you really need to put a new edge on a knife then use a sharpener. Do not forget that if you are using an Asian knife the blade will need a 15 degree angle and a Western knife a 20 degree angle. Besides having electric sharpener I also have a draw through sharpener from Wusthof. They are not expensive and do a good job. I have one for each type of knife.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Candy

            You are correct about the hones: a steel only re-aligns an edge and cannot sharpen a truly dull one. Furthermore, steels won't work well (if at all) on blades that have harder heat treatments in the 62+ HRC range.

            It is a common misconception that degrees per side (e.g. 15 vs. 20) make a knife "Asian" or "Western." Western knives can have a 15 degree or lower angle, and an Asian knife could have a 20 degree or higher angle. The difference between "Asian" and "Western" comes primarily from the different philosophy that Asian (typically Japanese knives specifically) knives are made harder, ground thinner, and use more acute bevels. "Western" knives are associated with the German tradition a la Henckels and Wüsthof with softer steel (that lends to being steeled), a thicker grind, and more obtuse bevels.

            One thing to note is that since you are using an electric sharpener, you will eventually need to thin out the blade behind the edge. Unless you thin the knife as you sharpen it, over time the more you sharpen the thicker the knife becomes behind the edge. This leads to poorer and poorer cutting performance despite having the same angle at the edge.

          2. As others have pointed, a steel is more of a realignment tool where as the ceramic rods also sharpen. The "Idahone 1200 12 inch" is very easy on the blade, pretty popular and around $30.00.

            Most of the inexpensive pull through sharpeners that I have seen do a "Fair" job at best, often remove a lot of metal & the carbide "V" ones can damage the blade. I had an AccuSharp carbide "V" sharpener and it would leave a visible pile of metal on the counter after use. My lawnmower has 3 blades which is all I use it for anymore.

            For ultra cheap cutlery there is a "what ever works, who cares about damaging the blade" argument which kind of makes sense. If you start moving up to Victorinox I would steer clear of them. Go beyond Victorinox to Good German or Japanese knives I would definitely stay clear of cheap pull through sharpeners.

            1. Ok, so I've narrowed it down to these 3:




              The last and most expensive one is the only one that has a smooth side for honing. The other two are medium grit.

              Do you guys think it's worth it to go for the Kyocera?

              13 Replies
              1. re: MaximilianKohler

                kyocera is a ceramics technology company. lansky makes sharpening equipment. both good outfits. ceramic rods do a good job. medium grit sharpens pretty fast, leaves not the sharpest edge but much more than adequate. you can then hone on a ceramic coffee mug but not really necessary. fine grit is better for finishing, otherwise too slow for me. unless you have high end knives the lansky is fine. i used to have a rod and just got another blank from ebay. i just have to set in a handle.

                1. re: MaximilianKohler

                  I like Kyocera reputation, but I think Lanksy and Smith are more than adequate for your normal needs.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    The 1200 ceramic is what Ben Dale (Edge Pro) sells and it looks like a Idahone.

                    1. re: Tom34


                      Are you suggeseting the Edge Pro rods?


                      Or are you saying one of three rods mentioned by the MaximilianKohler looks like the Edge Pro rod?

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        His edge pro kits come with a small 8 inch 1200 ceramic rod which fits nicely in the sharpening kit case......but on his site which you posted he sells the 10 inch & 12 inch with the wooden handle......on a few knife forums people who bought it from him said it was the Idahone 1200.

                        I have an old Wusthof Classic steel that was ok w/the softer German blades but almost useless with the harder Japanese blades. Since the arrival of the 1200 ceramic, the steel collects dust. I do have to state though that I use it to clean up an edge, not sharpen a dull one.

                        1. re: Tom34

                          <Since the arrival of the 1200 ceramic>

                          I cannot find the link to the 1200 ceramic honing rod on Amazon. Are you talking about this Lansky?


                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            No, google "Idahone 1200 ceramic" Chefs knives to go has them for around $30.00.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                I don't know much about the ceramic hones but the Idahone 1200 got very good reviews on knife forums and is priced in about the middle of the pack. It looks identical to the ones Ben sells at Edge Pro and several posters on knife forums said it was.

                                1. re: Tom34

                                  ceramic rods are more sharpening than honing in my experience, though 1200 is pretty fine grit. it would be slow at sharpening. i like medium grit as it ives a nice edge fast.

                                  1. re: divadmas

                                    My old steel worked ok with the Wusthof Classics but did pretty much nothing with the harder Japanese knives.

                                    The 1200 ceramic is very fine but you can still feel it work. I use it ever so lightly in between sharpenings on the Edge Pro.

                                    I might get a medium grit for a quick touch up to steak knives as they take a beating cutting on plates. What number grit is your medium?

                                    1. re: Tom34

                                      i think it is 800 but not sure.
                                      if you feel it work 1200 is probably fine. the cheap steel in many steak knives can be hard to sharpen. and a fine edge will quickly dull again against the hard ceramic of plates.

                                      1. re: divadmas

                                        I actually lucked out several years back and bought 2 doz Mundial 5128-4 non serrated steak knives on closeout (right after they switched to serrated) for under $10.00 ea. They are made from good German steel and hold an edge pretty well. An 800 grit might be just the ticket for them.

                2. In time your ceramic rod will turn grey because it has caked on a layer of steel residue. The best way to remove the steel is to purchase a large pink eraser and rub it along the rod. The steel will be removed quickly and the rod will be ready for use. Be sure to wipe the rod off to remove any rubber particles before using it.