Pros: long, shatter resistant
Cons: not quite refined enough for a finished edge
Jende has provided me, via Cheftalk, their White Ceramic Steel for review. From their YouTube channel, I learned this white one is about 1200 grit, and they sell a black version that is 1500 grit. At the time of writing, each retails at $39.
Picking it up for the first time, it has a hefty, quality feel to it. The brushed steel and plastic handle is weighted and feels good in hand. The transitions between materials is smooth. The guard is oval so it stays wherever you place it. No rolling off the counter and falling on its own.
Maybe the most important feature of this ceramic steel is that it is 'shatter resistant'; breakage is a common complaint with ceramic rods. The tip is rubber, and it seems the rod is inserted into some rubber in the handle for vibration absorption. I wouldn't drop it, but I don't feel a need to place it on the counter gingerly either.
Here it is next to my old OXO sharpening steel. The oxo is 9.5” long, so I'd place the usable length of this one at about 10”, not including the rubber tip. I don't have a ruler but I'd guess it's about 3/4” diameter. It weighs 401 g, almost as much as my chinese cleaver.
I don't measure sharpening angles or take microscope pictures of edges. The only test I care about is cutting food. My goal was to try this rod on different steels and hardness. I started with a Suien VC Cleaver, my main knife, carbon steel 63ish HRC. It's been a while since a touch up sharpening and it struggled a bit on tomato skin. Normally at this point, I strop on a finishing stone and it comes back to life. Instead, I used the ceramic rod just to see how it would perform.
It's important to remember that the length of knife that is in contact with the rod is much less than the 3” width of a stone. I already use light pressure on a finishing stone, so the proportional amount here means LIGHT CONTACT. I did 3 strokes on each side. It didn't chip my knife! The edge it left is what I'd call 'toothy'. That's good for some things but not for others. I prefer more refinement. From the Jende website, the black rod is meant for 'finishing' and this one is for more aggressive sharpening.
Next, I tried on my CCK cleaver, which is a softer carbon steel, I'm not sure exactly how hard. I'd guess 57-58 HRC. It has been sitting unused for a few weeks, so it could use some work I'm sure.
I did 3 strokes a side and didn't like how it was cutting. I did another 3 with slightly more pressure. It's a learning curve to find out how much pressure to use on these. The second half of the onion cut better, but not as effortless as I am used to. It cut, but needed some more pushing than normal. Overall, it feels like the edge you get off a 1000 grit stone.
I tried this steel on a dull stainless steel Henckels knife and as expected, it's better but not good. I think it can maintain bevels that are already set, but you're better off using stones if the knife is all the way dull.
In my own collection, I can see the type of edge left by this ceramic rod useful for two kinds of knives
-boning knives where I want a toothy edge
-Vintage carbon steel: forgecrafts, sabatiers, etc.
If you read the knife forum here on ChefTalk, I talk about sharpening on stones, a lot. Mostly, I tell people to learn to use stones. I sharpen my own knives on a series of waterstones and I don't see ceramic rods as a replacement for sharpening in the same way that brushing your teeth is not a replacement for bi-annual dental cleaning.
For me, the ceramic sharpening rod is for when I don't have my stones. Off site catering, bbq competitions, someones house, etc. Dragging water stones around isn't that fun. They don't fit nicely in my knife case like this:
The other problem is that even splash and go stones need time to dry slowly and evenly before you can put them back in the box. Sometimes you need to freshen up your edge RIGHT NOW and get through your prep. That's where I see this being most useful. Another scenario is for the home cook who has no interest in sharpening or sharpening gear. They would rather have someone else do it, but in between sharpenings, a ceramic rod can keep their knife serviceable. It's a familiar form factor and it's more or less how celebrity chefs tell people to maintain their knives.
If you are in the market for a ceramic sharpening steel/rod, I think these are priced competitively to the Idahone and are more robust with the break resistant features.