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Honing Rods

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

A thought just then occurred to me I'd never thought before.


While reality is more nuanced, the sound-bite version of the story I use is that sharpening (with a stone or belt grinder or wheel or whatever) removes metal and creates a new edge, while a honing rod aligns the teeth of the existing edge to reset it without removing metal.


I cleaned up my Idahone ceramic rod this afternoon with a bit of BKF to remove the gray marks from the rod.


It just occurred to me - that gray is in fact metal transferred from the knife to the rod, right? So I am taking off a minute amount of metal? Which means, among other things, I need to pay much closer attention to the angle I hold the knife against the rod. (It's close to what I sharpen at, but I'm not nearly as careful.)

post #2 of 3

With respect and affection,


The idea that a honing rod "resetting" or "'aligning' the teeth" is conventional wisdom and widely believed -- and no penalty for thinking the same thing everyone does -- but it's BS. 


Honing rods and do a lot of things, but not that.  The correct use of a honing rod is to straighten a "bending" (aka "impact") burr. 


Teeth are incidental to a knife's edge.  If the edge is coarse, it will appear serrated if the edge is fine there will be very fine micro-serrations -- because NOTHING, no matter how well polished is ever completely smooth.  However, fine edged knives are not saws, and although both tools cut they do not work according to the same principles. 


A fine edge creates opens a very narrow cut, then wedges the cut open with its wedge shaped geometry, making the narrowest possible kerf. 


However, saw teeth are not aligned, they are "set" so they do not align and create a kerf wide enough for the saw to follow.


There are some serrated knives which are actually saws, and there are some knife geometries (e.g., wavy edges) which combine the two principles of cutting to one degree or another.  However, not only are they not the subject here, they cannot be honed on a rod.  QED.



Edited by boar_d_laze - 7/20/13 at 8:03am
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 

Thanks, BDL. I'll file that away with "searing seals in the juices" and "percolators make good strong coffee", then.


That all makes sense (and I know saw teeth are a different beast than fine edge teeth, but I learned the word "kerf" today). What it makes me reconsider is how frequently to hone.


If I infer about a bending or impact burr, it's a result of, say, the normal contact between the knife and the board. I've never felt a burr like this the same way I feel a burr when sharpening on a stone, but that's not to say it isn't there. Unchecked, it follows that it would become more and more pronounced over time until the knife is dulled.


But under "normal" home use (not professional prep, more like a couple of onions and some tomatoes), I might not need to hone at the start of *every* day's prep for dinner. Depends on how fast the act of honing is affecting the knife edge vs. the act of using the knife affecting the edge. Thoughts?



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