Tips for Honing a Blade at Home
What Is Honing?
Honing a knife is the act of realigning the edge of a blade. It sharpens the knife without removing any material. This process is the last part of the sharpening process which refines the cutting edge.
Honing is best done on a steel rod or leather strop and there are many different options out there that can be used for this purpose. It’s important to note, honing a knife is not the same thing as sharpening a knife on a stone or sharpening jig. The cutting edge of a knife is actually a microscopic burr. The steel comes to such a thin edge that the metal is actually fraying and the degree of smoothness and the angle determine how sharp a knife will be. Often a blade starts to become dull when that burr gets out of alignment or folded over and can actually be burnished back to the center, refreshing the cutting edge. Using a whetstone actually removes metal from the blade once the edge burr has been abraded away or damaged. This occurs on an abrasive surface (like sandpaper) while honing happens on an abrasive surface that is much finer than what you would use for sharpening, like a leather strop with some polishing compound on it. Honing is a lot gentler than sharpening because you're not grinding down or removing any significant amount of material.
Tips for Honing
Here are 3 tips for honing your knives:
- Use moderate to light pressure when using any type of sharpening system— too much pressure can destroy any tool!
- Always alternate sides so that each one gets equal wear. (and so that neither side becomes worn down more quickly than the other)
- A few strokes with steel or strop is enough if your knife is sharpenable by that process. If a few strokes per side are ineffective, then a more aggressive abrasive is needed.
Honing a knife is one of the fundamental tasks of upkeep and maintenance. Above all, make sure that you hone your knives as often as you use them. In fact, some experts recommend that you hone your knife after every use to keep it in constant working order and shape.
When starting out, it might be helpful to do a little research on the best way to hone your knife. You might even have to try a couple of methods out before you find the most efficient one for your personal needs. But these tips should help get you started, and after some practice and experience, honing your knives will become second nature. And a sharp, functioning blade is the key to enjoying our hobby for years to come.
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