May be a dumb question, but does a honing steel need to be longer than the knife you use it on or does it not matter?
Honing steel length
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In all honesty I am not looking to spend much. I just need something to maintain the edge on my knives between sharpening.
The specific combo I am looking at is the Forschner 10 inch chef's knife, and the 9 inch steel. This is of course because I am trying to spend as little as possible. But if a 9 inch steel won't work then I will spend the extra.
That said this is all I really need as a home cook. And my local kitchen supply sharpens knives for something like $7 a knife so that is covered.
The steel should be longer than the knife. You should use a length of steel at least 2/3 as long as the knife on every stroke -- with a little left over so you don't run into the handle or run the knife off the edge before you've finished the stroke (which will mess up the blade).
The right size honing rod for a 10" knife is a 12" steel.
Honing a knife on a rod isn't exactly the most difficult thing in the world, but most people do it wrong.
A rod is not a substitute for sharpening stones, or vice versa. With a few exceptions, you shouldn't use an abrasive rod to sharpen (or for any other reason, either). The rod shape creates a very small contact point, and even light pressure puts so much force on the blade that severe high and low spots are inevitable. If you want an aggressive blade, there ae better ways to do it.
While you can (and do) true an edge when you sharpen (properly) on your stones, it's a big time waster compared to just grabbing your steel and taking a couple of swipes at it. That goes double for soft knives like Forschners which go out of true easily and frequently.
The Idahone fine ceramic 12" is an excellent hone, widely available, and under $30.
It is a nice hone. The Idahone is a wee bit nicer but the DMT is much more sturdy. I think you'll really like it.