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Are honing rods worth the money?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

I just purchased my first nice knife, a Masahero MV and want to take care of it so I am looking to purchase some sharpening supplies.  Probably should've ordered these with the knife, but thats alright.  I'm looking at CKtG and seeing that I have two options for about $130.

 

I can either get their 5 piece kit which includes 3 stones, a magnifying glass and a de-burrer or I can get two stones (probably a 1200 and a 5,000) and a honing rod (The Idahone 12").  I'm wondering which of these two options is a better bet?  I keep reading random things about honing rods being bad for japanese knives but I'm sure thats overstated. 

 

Which option is a better purchase?

post #2 of 13
a ceramic honing rod would help keeping the edge straight but stones are your best bet to keep them sharp. sharpening is an inevitable thing when it comes to knives. a ceramic rod would only delay the inevitable, but it all depends on the frequency of use and your knife skills all in all on how long any knife that you would own, when to sharpen them.
post #3 of 13

If you don't want to get the three stone set and the Idahone now, get the Bester 1200 and the Suehiro Rika 5000 and the Idahone.  On a new knife, you won't be using the 500 to do any reprofiling for quite some time.  Personally, I'd get the set and the Idahone (all of which I do have).  Metal honing rods can be hard on the harder steel in Japanese knifes, but ceramic rods work well.  You do want a hone to straighten your edge on a regular basis between sharpening. I run my knives over my Idahone each time before I use them.  Basically only 2 strokes per side.  See BDL's nice write up on using a hone -  http://www.cookfoodgood.com/?p=551

 

You might check out his other articles on sharpening at his blog as well.  Useful stuff.
 

post #4 of 13

Here's what I understand about honing vs. sharpening.

 

Honing (or sharpening steels) are used to maintain an edge.  They straighten the microscopic teeth on the blade.  Honing regularly will extend the life of the edge, and extend the time between sharpenings.

 

Sharpening involves repairing the edge, i.e. removing and reshaping the metal. 

 

J-knives often use harder steel than other knives.  A hone must be harder than the metal blade it's honing.  Therefore, many J-knives need to be honed on a ceramic (i.e. hard) rod.  Softer metals (e.g. typical German knives) may be okay to be honed on a metal honing rod or sharpening steel, provided that the honing material is harder than the blade.

post #5 of 13

Short Answer:

The Masahiro MV comes from the factory with extremely asymmetrical edge geometry.  If you want to keep the asymmetry, you're better off not steeling the knife on a rod hone at all.  

 

More:

Sorry, but there are a lot of rules you'll need to make sense of this.  Let's start with [ahem] a few.

  • All steel is an alloy made from iron and iron.  Some steels are formulated with other elements as well in order to create or enhance specific properties.
  • In general terms, two of the most important properties "tough" and "strong."  Others include grain, stain-resistance, etc.
  • Tough steel alloys bend more easily than strong steels. 
  • Strong steels break more easily than tough steels. 
  • Stronger steels tend to be harder than tough steels. 
  • A tough steel will tend to bend rather than break, and vice versa.
  • "Balanced" steels are more or less equally tough and hard. 
  • Very hard steels tend to be very strong and not well balanced. 
  • Tough and balanced steel alloys are better candidates for steeling, than very hard steels. 

 

Moving along: 

  • Even though it's conventional wisdom, truing on a rod hone (aka steeling) does NOT work by "aligning the teeth." The actual process is simpler in the sense that the out of whack burr on a fine edge (i.e., not serrated) acts more like a single piece of metal than it does as a series of teeth; but more complicated in the sense that the nature of sharpening steel alloys, wear, and steeling itself DO create micro-serrations along the edge; rather,

 

  • Think of it as a single piece of steel suffering from a "bending burr," created by "impact" and the picture will be clearer.  When the knife cuts through tough fibers and/or hits the board (as with ordinary chopping), the thin steel "behind the edge" bends. 

 

 

And: 

  • Rod hones, by nature, have a very small contact patch with the knife.

 

That means:

  • A rod hone creates a lot of force which means that if the edge is either very weak or otherwise prone to breaking, it will break (aka "chip") easily when steeled;
  • Asymmetric edges tend to be very weak; and
  • The MV has a very asymmetric edge.

 

FWIW:

  • Many, high-end Japanese knives are made from steel which is well balanced, and not particularly strong or hard; and
  • The Masahiro MV is one of those.  More specifically, it's blade alloy is just a skosh stronger and harder than (for instance) Wusthof's; but
  • There's that asymmetry thing. 

 

QED:

  • Don't use a steel if you want to keep your MV's asymmetry;
  • The best ways to true an asymmetric knife are by
  • (a) Stropping on a relatively wide and otherwise appropriate surface, such as a thin piece of leather mounted to something hard, a manila folder or newspaper on a hard counter, etc.; or
  • (b) By "touching up" on an ultra-fine stone. 

 

Finally:

This is one of those tiny things which takes a lot of background to understand.  If you're interested in going farther, or -- perhaps -- confused because my explanations are confusing, ask questions.

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 12/3/12 at 9:40am
post #6 of 13
Dear BDL,
In which respect do you think an asymmetric edge is weak? I've got the impression my asymmetric edges encounter much less friction than the symmetric ones, and will stay longer, but are more sensitive to abuse, especially from lateral forces. Regards Bernard
post #7 of 13

Asymmetric edges aren't weak in general, but they don't stand up to steeling well. 

 

Steeling trues an impact burr by bending it -- with what you called "lateral pressure -- back and forth until the burr is (first) even, (then, second) straightened.  In essence, this is the same thing as "chasing" a burr and causes metal fatigue at the crease along which the burr bends.  Bending the burr back and forth causes the metal to fatigue.  That's a good thing when you're chasing the burr in order to deburr as part of the sharpening process; but a less good thing if all you want to do is true the edge because the metal will tend to break or tear along the crease. 

 

Highly asymmetric edges have inherently acute included angles, which means there's not much metal at that crease, which means that they fatigue -- everything else being equal -- more easily than more symmetric edges.  Further, the vector of stress which goes through the blade doesn't travel "straight," but is more complimentary to the sharpening bevel than to the back bevel. 

 

The force applied to the blade when truing is a product of the pressure.  That is, unit of mass per unit area.  Because rod hones have such small contact patches, the force exerted is much higher than when equal pressure is exerted using a method with a larger contact patch -- such as a strop or bench stone. 

 

But as already said an asymmetric edge is not well suited to repeated bending, and the greater the force, the greater the fatigue.   And because the vector of force is not straight across, when the metal does fatigue to the point of breaking the break does not create a fine, narrow edge.

 

QED.

 

Hope this helps,

BDL

post #8 of 13
Thanks for the clarification, BDL.
post #9 of 13
I'm only a student, but I would be lost without my honing rod. It's that little bit of extra sharpening right before you're doing mise en place (although already mention you will eventually need to take it to the stones). They are definitely worth the purchase, but if you're only new, don't go out and buy a high end rod, because there is no doubt you will ruin it very quickly. Once you have good motion with a rod, you can spring for smoething high end. I am currently saving my pennies to purchase a Global Diamond Honing Rod.
post #10 of 13
The Global diamond rod will destroy almost immediately any edge. It's very coarse and aggressive, more than a J400 stone. Its only function could be to instantly remove fatigued steel. And for that purpose it's quite expensive.
If you're looking for a rod, have a fine ceramic one.
What kind of knives do you use?
post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathan Kreider View Post

I'm only a student, but I would be lost without my honing rod. It's that little bit of extra sharpening right before you're doing mise en place (although already mention you will eventually need to take it to the stones). They are definitely worth the purchase, but if you're only new, don't go out and buy a high end rod, because there is no doubt you will ruin it very quickly. Once you have good motion with a rod, you can spring for smoething high end. I am currently saving my pennies to purchase a Global Diamond Honing Rod.

 

 

 

For the record: 

As Benuser said, using a "Global Diamond Honing Rod" is one of the worst things you can do to a knife. 

 

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 12/8/12 at 5:26am
post #12 of 13
Well then go with a ceramic rod. I never realised diamond rod's would actually do damage to your blade! Just don't drop the honing rod if you go ceramic, ever.
post #13 of 13
The design of the Black MAC is shock absorbing.
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