sharpening and caring for your kitchen knives

The Sharpening Cycle

kramer stainless damascus chef knife_10No matter how much moola you paid for your favorite cooks knife and no matter how incredibly well you treat it, it is still, someday, going to get dull. It’s the very nature of the knife sharpening cycle. Bob Kramer Stainless Damascus Chef Knife selling for $450? Going to get dull. There’s no avoiding it. Pure physics. Fine cutting edges must wear down. Super-tempered steel, while very hard and very tough, is not eternal. So don’t bemoan or live in denial, but learn what you can do.

Honing will prolong the sharpness of your kitchen knife and avoid having to sharpen it more than necessary.
And what you can do, with a little bit of effort and dedication, is to learn how to hone. Honing will prolong the sharpness of your kitchen knife and avoid having to sharpen it any more than absolutely necessary. Which is what you want, because, ironically enough, sharpening itself is an act of destruction. Every time you sharpen, some of the metal on the blade is ground off, never to be seen again. So, the less you sharpen, the longer you maintain your knife’s pristine condition. Thus, the only way to sharpen less, and still enjoy a sharp knife, is to hone regularly. That’s how the sharpening cycle works.

WHAT IS HONING? Honing (or steeling) is a nondestructive technique that simply pushes the microscopic-sized teeth that make up the edge of a knife back into alignment. Through use (and misuse), the teeth get folded over, this way and that, which makes the knife duller. But it’s not truly dull—it just needs to be honed. (For more on honing, see my articles What’s a Honing Steel? and How to Hone a Knife.)

Here’s a super high-quality honing steel to go along with your high-end Bob Kramer knife :)

 

The illustration below helps explain more about the relationship between honing and sharpening by taking you through one sharpening cycle.

sharpening cycle

Honing and sharpening, though not the same, complement each other. Doing both will allow you to keep your kitchen knives maximum sharp with minimum wear. And, just for the record, unless you have oodles of time or a real passion for it, I don’t recommend doing your own knife sharpening. Stick to honing and you will be doing plenty!

(Illustration courtesy of Mark Rabinow.)

7 Comments
  1. Wow, so you’re really grinding away some of the knife. I never got it before…

    • i didn’t realize that either, i need to hone my honing skills.

  2. Yes, indeed! That’s why you should sharpen as little as possible. And the only way you can do that and still have a sharp knife is to HONE/STEEL.

  3. This is great! I never fully understood the distinction between honing and sharpening until now:)

  4. Good articles. Too bad there are no videos on honing technique!

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An Edge in the Kitchen
by Chad Ward

Mastering Knife Skills
by Norman Weinstein

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