Sharpening the Professional Edge


edge closeup

Keeping your knives sharp and performing well at home is easy. During normal use a knife edge can "roll over" so the cutting edge is no longer leading. This can cause a knife that still has a sharp edge to cut very poorly. In order to correct this and stand the knife edge back up, the two most common methods are honing and stropping.


Honing "rods" or "steels" are not designed to sharpen knives; they are not significantly harder than the blade and don"t remove metal. Rods and steels are designed to correct the shape of an existing edge, aligning it for maximum cutting efficiency. Avoid using diamond steels/rods as they are harder than blade steel and will remove metal, and damage the fine edge I have put on your knives.

When selecting a rod you should always pick one long enough for your knives. Most rods come in sizes of 8", 10", and 12". The longer the rod, the more room you have to touch up your knife and the easier the process will be. An 8" rod may sound long enough to touch up a 10" chef, but in reality honing a knife longer than the honing rod can be tricky. Purchasing a 10" or 12" rod will be a better investment.


An alternative to a steel honing rod is a ceramic rod. Ceramic rods are fantastic and I highly recommend them. White ceramic rods are smooth and will quickly stand an edge up after my sharpening it. The smooth metal steel may be OK for German knives but most Asian knives have more delicate blades or thinner edges so a finer honing rod is needed. I use ceramic rods in my kitchen on both my German and Asian knives with fantastic results. Ceramic rods are fragile so be sure not to drop them as the rods will shatter. In time your ceramic rod will turn grey because it has caked on a layer of steel residue. The best way to remove the steel is to purchase a large pink eraser and rub it along the rod. The steel will be removed quickly and the rod will be ready for use. Be sure to wipe the rod off to remove any rubber particles before using it.

Ceramic rods are available for purchase at the Seattle Edge workshop, or through mail order.


One of the easiest ways to hone a knife on a rod is to point the rod down on a flat surface, creating a 90 degree angle between the rod and the surface. Brace the rod steady with one hand and slide the knife down the rod at roughly a 15 degree angle, starting at the beginning of the edge closest to the handle and sliding down the rod to the tip. When honing, pretend you are slicing off a strip of the rod. Only the edge should be making contact with the rod as it slides towards the end of the hone. Take your time and move slowly; rushing the honing process will only result in mistakes.



Stropping is similar to honing but more subtle. If an edge has rolled and is no longer cutting effectively, use a honing rod, then strop. Stropping also aligns the edge but not as quickly. Once a knife edge has been honed, it may be more efficient but in reality is quite rough. The newly restored edge has small imperfections and the "micro teeth" along the edge are more aggressive. Stropping will help refine the edge and realign the micro teeth. Stropping after honing will make a sharp edge even sharper and allow you to make precise, controlled cuts.

If you don't have a leather strop you don't need to buy one; an old, smooth leather belt will do. Place the belt or strop on a flat surface and put something heavy on one side to anchor it. This will keep the leather from moving while you are stropping. After you have stabilized your strop, place the knife at the weighted end of the leather. Lift the knife up to match the angle of the bevel and slide BACKWARDS slowly with light pressure. Again, take your time. After one pass, switch sides and strop the other side of the blade. Repeat this process five or ten times and your edge should be back in peak condition and ready for use. Be careful!

Edge damage


In time the edge on your knife will break down and wear away to the point that honing and stropping will no longer stand the edge back up. When the edge has worn away or the blade has sustained damage the knife must be professionally sharpened. There is no standard lifespan of an edge. Some knives will hold their edge longer than others due to blade geometry, steel type, maintenance and use. Establishing a new edge and fixing damaged knives can be not only challenging and dangerous to do properly but very time consuming. Blade reprofiling and sharpening should be performed by a skilled professional; luckily you already know your source for world class knife and tool sharpening of all types, Seattle Edge!

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