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Honing Question

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

So, I'm confused about honing.  Specifically, I'm confused about the direction the blade should be taken across the steel.


First of all, as I understand it, a knife needs to be honed because the edge of the blade "rolls" or bends over, like this:


Honing the knife is supposed to straighten that edge.  When it's rolled like this, the knife is still sharp, it's just that the edge is pointing in the wrong direction (or directions).


According to multiple sources, the proper use of a honing steel involves drawing the blade down over the steel, edge first.  That would look like this:

knife2.jpgThis creates pressure on the edge like this: knife3.jpg


Now, this is where I get confused.  I don't understand how drawing the blade this way is supposed to straighten the rolled edge.  It seems like this would cause the rolled edge to become MORE deformed.


It would make more sense to me to reverse the direction of the force by using this method:

knife4.jpgThis creates pressure on the edge like this: knife5.jpg


This pressure very clearly would roll the edge back to the proper position.


So, help me out knife fans... am I missing something?  Let me know what you think.  Thanks!



post #2 of 5
Thread Starter 

Is it safe to say that you all are stumped by this question?


Do any of you have any experience using a steel the "wrong" way? What results did you have?


Thanks for your help!



post #3 of 5

This video explains it pretty well. Was at a friends house today and their knives are pretty lousy. After not being able to even cut a red bell pepper with a 8" chefs knife I said screw it and grabbed the steel out of the drawer. I did about 8 strokes on each side and the very dull knife was cutting with little pressure on peppers and the onions went quick. Figured if I am going to screw up a knife it may as well be someone else's but I nailed it on the first time. My friend picked it up and got a cut from it as she was not used to it being sharp. Edge did not last long but another 6 strokes on each side again and it was sharp. Amazing how this knife that I could drag across my hand will now go to the bone in a few short seconds. It got so sharp that just laying it on a roma tomato and pulling with no pressure it went right through.

post #4 of 5

Not stumped by the question.  Just missed it.


You're taking the illustrations too literally and don't understand the nature of metal "burrs."  When you steel the side of the knife that has the burr, the burr curls away from the steel and forms on the other side.  For the purposes of truing a knife, you want to steel as gently as possible (but not "no pressure), with as few strokes as necessary so as not to create too long a burr ("wire edge"), or to weaken the seam between burr and (unbending) edge. 


If, at some point, the end of the burr forms a curl which really rolls over and can't be straightened, it needs to be ground off with an abrasive.  This grinding happens naturally as part of the ordinary sharpening process.  As a matter of fact, creating a burr and bending it back and forth from side to side (called "chasing the burr"), until it's completely "fatigued" it at the seam, and finally removing it is a very powerful and common method of sharpening.   I often use one of my steels to help chase the burr and quicken the process.


Steeling not only trues, there are other "consequences" as well.  Most steels will create some "tooth" on the edge as well.  Toothiness can act as a stand in for sharpness for a little while, but is not the same thing.  A knife which has been steeled too coarsely and/or too often will not hold its edge for very long -- one of the signs the knife needs real sharpening instead of steeling.  Most cooks and knives work best with a combination of steeling and sharpening.  One is not the same as the other, and neither are they substitutes -- at least for the typical, "better" European and American knives you find in most enthusiastic cooks' homes. 



Edited by boar_d_laze - 10/18/11 at 2:10pm
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks BDL for your thorough response.  Clearly "sharpness" of a knife is not as simple of a concept as one might think.  I'm going to do some more reading and research and hopefully wrap my brain around the whole thing.


Thanks for your help!



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