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Fine hones: ceramic vs glass vs smooth steel

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I've always used a "standard steel" (rather coarsely ridged) for straightening the edge on German (Henckels four-star) and carbon steel American and French knives, and a 1200 grit ceramic for Western-style Japanese knives (Shun VG-10).  That combination seems to work well and over the years my preference has slowly shifted to using the smoother ceramic on all knives.


But now I'm considering the alternatives and have questions for anyone who has real experience/data:


... is there really a difference in performance between the really fine hones of different materials?


... is there a need of benefit to have more than one type?


... how fine is "fine enough", especially with regard to the steel hones that come in various grades - like the F. Dick line - and is there such a condition as "too smooth" to really do any good?

post #2 of 11

Brian I'm sure your experience has been similar to others.  The more you realign an edge the weaker it gets and the more often requiring realign.


Using a fine ceramic hone removes a bit of material, thus freshening your edge a bit.  I use what is for all practical purposes a very very fine ceramic hone, and I find I can maintain a relatively keen edge 2-3 months between sharpenings with the relatively light duty my relatively soft go-to knife sees, steeling every other week at first or less, and when it requires more than once a week I resharpen.  Towards the end I'm micro-beveling as much as realigning.  I am also profiling the edge a bit.


As I understand the "intelligent" practice in packing plants is to use a packer's steel (which is just a polished steel), but I believe they sharpen every day, steeling through the day as needed (but don't quote me here).


Of course a lot matters as to what kind of edge you're trying to maintain, how polished or how course.  The Ark I use for aligning is also my finishing stone, and at about 10-12K JIS it's a fair polish.  And from what I know of fired ceramics, I'm guessing the finish left by one made of 1200 powders (which if American scale is actually 2000 JIS) is actually considerably finer than what a typical 1200 stone would give.




post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks Rick; good input.  I suppose what my real question is this (which only I can answer, I suppose), "Should I have bothered buying the polished F. Dick steel that is being delivered tomorrow?"  I got curious and bought one after thinking long and hard about it... but with no real knowledge that it will perform any better than what I already have.


Hope your doing OK in the snow; I saw a pic of the main street of my hometown outside of Boston and it was white, deep, and deserted.

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 

p.s.  My Dad was a butcher at a hot dog factory while working his way through college.  He talked of sharpening daily and honing throughout the shift on a piece of rubber hose.  But that was in "the olden days" - middle of the 20th century.

post #5 of 11

The first storm dropped 26" here just South of Boston, the other day I cleaned up about 12, so close to 40" in the course of a week.  Thank Goodness it was all powder and I have a new and bigger blower.  The old one I decommissioned in the fall (small 2-stroke suffering ring-sticking) would have quadrupled than doubled the effort.


Rubber hose, yeah, I can see it pulling an edge straight, has abrasive stuff in it actually too.


So what it really comes down to is the polished steel will keep a polished edge, for a short while, provided you started out that way.  I recall Dick or another supplier advised you could rough them up with anything down to 220 grit sandpaper for some honing effect, but then it seems to me you might as well go to the ceramic unless you're worried about breaking it.  I think that for most folks sharpening preferences and all the polished steel offers nothing and the ceramic steel is the way.




post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 



So the F. Dick polished packers steel arrived yesterday and I had a few minutes to play with it.  When used against a carbon steel carving knife it took a good edge and "polished it" into a really fine edge.  Normally I would use the ceramic and get a fine edge, but my first impression is at the polished steel resulted a finer edge.  Now I'm not regretting buying it.  For a while I thought I'd end up with another redundant piece of equipment but it seems like another good tool in the culinary quiver.  I have yet to try it on VG-10 or hard German stainless steel knives.


I can't imagine much of a difference between polished steel and glass, though, and probably will not be getting a glass rod to prove the point.

post #7 of 11
Very interesting. I would like to know whether that refreshed carbon edge will last. With non-polished smooth steel rods the edge does not last at all and will need new steeling after a very short time.
post #8 of 11

Thanks for the update, I didn't think it would do as much.  Let us know sometime how it works on stainless and the harder stuff.




post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Benuser View Post

Very interesting. I would like to know whether that refreshed carbon edge will last. With non-polished smooth steel rods the edge does not last at all and will need new steeling after a very short time.


I have the same question and will better be able to answer on Monday after some weekend cooking.  I also wonder if it will really refresh the edge when it gives out, or if some level of abrasive will be required.

post #10 of 11

I've got both a ceramic (idahone fine 12") and a smooth, oval F. Dick polished steel. 


I actually use both very little as I prefer to strop if I need a quick touch up. 


Ceramic is the way to go and better than the traditional grooved hones for today's modern steels.  The polish steel is good is you're taking your edges to a high finish polish as the idahone is approx. 1k....using that to realign a freshly polished 5k, 8k, etc edge would be foolish.....


I used it a bunch when I got it, and it works the champ on vintage sabs with that soft carbon steel but it's not anything I think most chefs/ cooks need in their kit.


You would know if you needed's not the secret sauce.

post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
I think you are right - didn't really need it. But its mine now. smile.gif Still pondering if it will have long-term utility or if this was just an experiment. Thanks for your insights.
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