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Honing vs. Sharpening: How to Hone & Sharpen a Knife - Perkin Knives

Whether you're in the kitchen or out in the great outdoors, keeping your kitchen (or any other) knives always sharp is a skill that is easy to learn with the right tools and techniques.This article shall explore how to hone and sharpen a knife. Regular knife maintenance is key to keeping a knife sharp, so hone it regularly and sharpen it as needed to keep it performing at its best.

What is Honing?

Honing is the process of realigning and maintaining the edge of a professional sharpening service blade, typically done using honing steel. Over time, the edge of a blade can become misaligned or bent, making it dull and ineffective. Honing straightens the blade's edge, making it sharper and more efficient.

What is Sharpening?

Sharpening removes material from a blade's edge to create a new, sharp edge. Sharpening is necessary when a blade has become dull, chipped, or damaged. The sharpening process involves using a sharpening stone or similar tool to grind away the blade's dull edge and create a new, sharp edge.

How to Hone a Knife

For honing a knife, you'll need honing steel, a long, narrow rod made of steel or ceramic to hone a knife. Begin by holding the honing steel vertically in your non-dominant hand, then place the knife blade at the top of the honing steel at a 15-20 degree angle. Maintaining this angle, slowly draw the edge down the honing steel, applying light pressure as you go. Repeat this process on either side of the honing steel several times.

  • Choose a honing rod

The length of the honing rod should be at least as long as the blade of the knife you'll be honing, with longer rods providing more surface area for honing. The material of the honing rod can vary, with steel and ceramic being the most common. Steel rods are durable and effective for honing, while ceramic rods are gentler and better suited for maintaining the edge of already sharp knives.

  • Prepare to hone your knife

Ensure your honing rod and chef's knife (camping knife or any knife you intend to hone) are clean and dry before the honing process begins. Hold the honing rod firmly in one hand and the knife in the other. Make sure to maintain a consistent angle while honing, usually around 15-20 degrees, and apply light pressure to the blade as you draw it down the honing rod.

  • Angle your knife blade

The ideal angle for honing your knife blades is around 15-20 degrees, depending on the type of knife and your personal preference. To achieve the correct angle, hold the honing rod vertically in your non-dominant hand and place the blade of the knife at the top of the honing rod at the desired angle. As you draw the edge down the honing rod, maintain this angle and apply light pressure to the blade using your dominant hand. Repeat this process on the other side of the blade, honing each side several times.

  • Slide your knife along the rod

As you draw the blade down the honing rod, use a sliding motion, starting from the base of the blade and moving towards the tip. Maintain a consistent angle throughout the process, using light pressure and covering the entire edge of the blade. Repeat this process several times on both sides.

  • Repeat on the opposite side of the knife

After honing one side of your knife, it's important to repeat the process on the opposite side to ensure an even sharpening. It's recommended to hone each side of the blade several times for the best results.

How to Sharpen a Knife

Sharpening a knife can seem intimidating initially, but with some practice and the right tools, anyone can learn how to sharpen a knife. First, choose the proper sharpening method based on your blade type. Then, you'll need to carefully angle the blade and use a series of sharpening tools to remove material and create a new edge. With patience and attention to detail, you can keep your knives razor-sharp and ready for anything.

  • Sharpen with a Knife Sharpener

Different knife sharpeners are available, including handheld sharpeners, electric knife sharpeners, and sharpening stones. Choose the appropriate sharpener for the type of knife you want to sharpen.

If using a handheld or electric sharpener, place it on a stable surface. If using a sharpening stone, wet the stone with water and put it on a non-slip surface.

Position the knife firmly by holding the handle and putting the blade in the sharpening slot or on the stone at the appropriate angle.

Run the blade through the sharpener. Use a moderate amount of pressure and repeat several times, alternating sides of the blade.

Test the knife's sharpness using the "paper-test" method. For that, lightly drag the edge of your knife across a sheet of paper. If it cuts cleanly, your knife is ready to use.

After you're done, clean the sharpener according to the manufacturer's manual or electric sharpener's instructions.

  • Using sharpening Whetstone

Soak the whetstone in water for at least 10-15 minutes before using it to lubricate the stone. Hold the knife at a 20-degree angle to the stone. You can use a sharpening guide to help maintain the knife block at the correct angle or try to do it by eye.

Place the blade of the knife against the stone, with the edge of the dull knife facing down. Use your dominant hand to hold the handle of the knife, and use your other hand to hold the blade steady against the stone. Apply pressure to the blade and move it back and forth across the stone in a smooth and controlled motion.

It would be best to use the entire length of the stone, from the tip to the handle, to ensure the whole blade is sharpened evenly. After a few sharpening honing passes, turn the knife over and repeat the process on the other side of the blade.

Remember to maintain the same angle throughout the sharpening process. Continue to sharpen the knife repeating the process several times, alternating sides, until you have achieved the desired level of sharpness. Once you have finished sharpening, rinse the knife under running water to remove any metal shavings or debris. Dry the knife thoroughly before using it. Remember that sharpening a knife with a whetstone takes practice, so don't be discouraged if you don't get it right the first time. You can become proficient in sharpening knives with a whetstone with patience and persistence.

  • Use An Electric Sharpener

Using an electric sharpener to sharpen knives is a quick and efficient way to sharpen the edge of your knife. Here are the steps for a manual or electric sharpener to follow:

Choose the correct electric knife sharpener since different types of electric sharpeners are available in the market, including sharpeners for serrated and straight blades.

Place the sharpener on a stable surface, and plug it in.

Most electric and manual sharpeners now have adjustable guides that help you maintain a consistent sharpening angle. Consult the user manual to find the appropriate angle for your manual knife sharpeners.

Run the blade through the coarse grit slot a few times, following the angle guide. This will remove any nicks or dullness from knives edges of the blade.

Now, switch to the fine grit and run it through several times to polish and refine the edge.

To test if the blade is sharp, lightly drag the edge of a sharp knife across a sheet of paper. If it cuts cleanly, your knife is ready to use.

After you're done, turn off the sharpener, unplug it, and wipe it down with a damp cloth.

Remember, it's essential always to follow the instructions provided with your specific electric sharpener, as the steps and processes may vary depending on the model.

Additionally, take care when handling and sharpening steel blades, and always keep them away from children and pets.

Honing vs. Sharpening: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to keeping blades and tools in top condition, honing and sharpening are two essential techniques. Honing is the process of refining the edge of a knife or tool, which involves removing any burrs or nicks and creating a smooth, polished surface. On the other hand, sharpening involves removing material from the blade to create a new edge. This process requires more aggressive tools, like grinding wheels or belt sanders.

When to Hone and When to Sharpen Your Knives?

Knowing the difference between honing vs sharpening and when to hone and sharpen your knives is essential to maintaining their effectiveness. Honing should be done regularly, after each use or at least once a week, to maintain the blade's edge and prolong its life. On the other hand, sharpening is necessary when the knife's edge has become dull and can no longer be restored through honing.

How to Know When Your Knife Is Dull?

Signs that your knife may be dull include difficulty cutting through, crushing or tearing instead of slicing, and a jagged or uneven edge. You may also notice that it takes more effort to cut, or you're using more pressure than usual. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's time to hone or sharpen your knife.

In conclusion, knowing how to hone and sharpen a knife is essential for every knife whether it is a chef's or a hunting knife. With a bit of practice, honing and sharpening your knives will become second nature, ensuring that you always have the sharpest tools at your disposal, whether in the kitchen or out in the great outdoors.

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