Honing Vs. Sharpening, What is the Difference?

Without a doubt, your treasured knives need regular maintenance. But, what does it really mean to hone or sharpen your knives?

The only thing they have in common is using them to maintain your knife’s edge sharp and efficient.

But, it is essential to know their differences and for what they are used for. Since they are commonly misused.

 Why Knives Become Dull?

Usually, a knife made from steel is much harder than anything you may need to cut. Thus, dulling a cutting edge is relatively low if they are not in direct contact with hard surfaces.

When knives turn dull, it is probably due to the sharp knife edge began to roll over. Instead of the blade itself becoming dull.

The fundamental role of a steel honing rod is to straighten the rolled edge. This will enable the rolled part to cut cleanly once more.

One of two factors that can cause a knife to be dull:

1) The sharpness of the edge has decreased.

2) The edge of the blade has become uneven.

To put it in other words, a kitchen knife that requires sharpening is the one that has damaged its “tooth.”. Teeth that need to be honed on a blade are uneven or bent, which can occur as often as every use.

What is Honing?

A knife Honing is nothing more than the process of maintaining a razor-sharp edge. A steel honing rod is used to align the knife’s edge.

This procedure is also known as “folding back the burr.” Knife honing regularly is recommended.

What is honing steel?

honing steel

Honing steels are undoubtedly the most well-known and widely used utensils.

They are made up of a 12-inch steel rod with a handle on one end and a rounded one on the other. The handle is the thickest part that grows thinner as it comes closer to the rounded end.

Honing steel is commonly founds in most professional and high-end kitchen knife sets.

They are also very popular among home cooks. Since they are very straightforward to use and affordable.

As a matter of fact, they should be appreciated as being so crucial for maintaining your knives.

Now, let us take a closer look at the meaning of honing a knife. Then highlight the differences between a honing steel rod and sharpening steel.

When to Hone your Knives?

When to hone your knives

The first thing to keep in mind is that knife honing does not technically sharpen the knife. However, it sharpens the knife’s edge and makes your blade last longer.

When you use a sharp knife, it will undoubtedly encounter a hard surface. Whether it is a wooden cutting board or a piece of chicken bone. It is an unfortunate consequence of preparing food.

When the fine edge strikes these hard surfaces, it bends and folds because of the force.

Since these foldings are very small that it is mainly missed at first glance. These hundreds of tiny teeth on the end of the blade are on the microscopic level to visualize.

They don’t feature a lot of strength as being so thin. So folding or rolling over can rapidly occur once they hit a hard surface.

As a result, the harsher the knife hits the surface, the faster the blade will rollover.
Therefore, an end-grain wooden cutting board is an ideal option when using a high-end blade. while a marble cutting board can cause a lot of damage to your knife.

What is the purpose of a steel honing tool?

What is the purpose of a steel honing tool?

Most knife blades are made from steel. It is best to use steel honing steel. Since you need to use a tool that features the same strength of the teeth to realign them back in place.

The honing steel will straighten the blade’s edge smoothly. So, the knife turns sharper after realigning the teeth in place, even if few remain unaligned.

In conclusion, it is an effortless and straightforward procedure. All you need to do is three or five strokes on each side to realign the blade back in place.

What are the Types of Honing Rods?

You may buy various honing steels, and you will want to be sure you get the proper one for your blades.

Steel honing rods, ceramic honing rods, and diamond honing rods are the most common rods.

Steel honing rod

Steel honing rod

A honing rod should feature a more robust material than your knife’s material. So, most standard honing rods included in a common knife set are not the best option.

Since high-end knives are made from a more robust material compared to that of a honing rod. This will lead to poor honing results.

Also, as a general, they are much weaker than any Japanese knives made from carbon.

Honing rods can create small tears in the knife and cause harm to the knife’s blade. Besides, you will need to resharpen your knives more often than usual.

Ceramic honing rod

Ceramic honing rod

Ceramic honing rods feature a fine grit which is gentler on most high-end knives.

Besides, they are 3 times stronger than steel rods. this minimizes any excessive metal grinding.

Ceramic honing rods are considered extra affordable than most honing steels. But they are more fragile and can be broken easily.

Diamond honing rod

Diamond honing rod

Diamonds are the best material for an abrasive grinding wheel. Whether for a manual knife sharpener or an electric knife sharpener.

But they are not the ideal choice as they may remove more metal from the knife than you need.

How Often Should you Hone your Knives?

Knife honing is more critical than sharpening, and you should do it more regularly. Therefore, they are more common than sharpening steels and can easily be confused as one.

When you look at the knife’s edge on a microscopic level. You will discover the edge alignments start to bend immediately after using them.

Since the tiny teeth on the blade’s edge are so fragile. They start coming out of alignment when hitting a hard surface while slicing or chopping onions, for example.

This is why it is recommended to hone your knife regularly. For the best results, sharpen them after 3 uses.

How to Choose the Best Steel Honing Rod?



The length of your honing steel should always be at least as long or longer than the knife’s blade. This will enable you to hone the entire edge with one stroke.

Besides, this will ensure that the whole blade features a uniform edge along its edge.



The two most popular materials used in producing honing rods are steel and ceramic.

Steel honing rods are used more frequently and have been produced for longer periods. In most cases, they are most probably included in any knife sets.

But, when compared to ceramic honing rods, they are pretty aggressive. Since ceramic rods feature finer grits which is less damaging to your blades.

When honing Japanese knives with their fragile structure, it is better to use a ceramic rod.

However, the only downside of ceramic rods is that they are fragile and can be broken easily if dropped.

Now let us move to the second section of our comparison.

What is Sharpening?

Sharpening is the procedure of removing material off a blade’s edge. Which is commonly performed by grinding it over a sharpening stone.
Depending on how often you use your knife? You do not need to sharpen it more than twice a year if you are honing it consistently.

Sharpening takes material from the blade to create a new, sharp edge. But honing maintains the sharpness of the blade by restoring the knife’s edge to the center.

What is a Knife Sharpening Steel?

knife sharpening steel

The reason for mixing between both terms is that many marketers call it sharpening steel.

As a matter of fact, sharpening tools are not made of any steel. They are composed of durable blendings of steel.

As a result, you will get ultra strong sharpeners that can sharpen your knives properly.

So to make things clearer, any sharper called sharpener steel is honing rod.

What is the Purpose of the Sharpening Tool?

purpose of sharpening steel

Sharpening tools are used to maintain the knife’s edge straight and sharp after each use. After continuous usage of the blade, it becomes dull, and the edge curls out of alignments.

Sometimes this misalignment or curling becomes too hard to be fixed by honing only. As for the knife to work efficiently again, you need to reveal a new edge for the blade.

Thus, sharpeners need to be made of a more aggressive, robust structure than knives. These sharpeners are commonly known as using whetstones or water stones.

The reason behind using such strong materials is the need to reveal a thin layer of the blade’s edge. This will uncover the new and sharp edge below it.

Also, the thin layer removed is composed of microscopic particles like steel dust which cannot be shaved with similar strength to the blade.

How Often Do you Need to Sharpen Your Knives?

Depending on how often you use your knives, you should only need to sharpen them every few months. However, I suggest getting them properly sharpened every 1-2 years.

On the other hand, if you hone your knives regularly. You will only need to sharpen your knife every six months or a year.

Sharpening can be more harmful to your knife than honing. Since honing realigns a current edge while sharpening, remove a segment of your knife.

To test how much does the knife’s edge needs realignment? You have to test the sharpness of the blade after honing. If it’s not sharp enough, then you have to resharpen it to realign these edges properly.

Because it can be easily mistaken that more frequent resharpening is the best thing. But shaving down layers of your blades with a diamond stone can turn to be tragic.

Also, the mistake of honing your knife every six months is capable of keeping your knife sharp. This is incorrect, and you can end up wearing your blade quicker.

What are the Types of Sharpening Steel?

Diamond Sharpening Steel

Diamond Sharpening Steel

A diamond sharpening steel is used to shave the blade’s edge and reveals a new sharper edge.

Thanks to the abrasive surface, it can remove a significant amount of steel off with each strike.

Ceramic and Titanium Sharpening Steel

Ceramic and Titanium sharpening steels are classified as intermediate-quality sharpeners.

Since, you can alternate between both to maintain the knife’s edge. As one can remove steel, and the other set back the teeth into alignment.

Steel Sharpening Steel

Steel Sharpening Steel

Steel sharpening steels are basically made from beveled steel. Their primary usage is to flatten the edge after a couple of uses instead of sharpening or setting the edge.

How to Choose the Best Sharpening Steel?


Sharpening steel length can be determined using the same criteria as honing steel length. So, the sharpening rod should be longer than your longest blade.


Sharpening rods are abrasive in comparison to honing rods. Diamond steel is the most common material used in sharpening rods to remove material.

Which is More Essential Honing or Sharpening your Knife?

When caring for knives properly, they are honed more regularly than sharpening them. You can even hone after each use, like preferred by many chefs.

Since sharpening knives actually remove materials off the blades. This is why you should only shapen them when needed.

Sharpening a knife should only be applied when honing doesn’t work to realign the teeth on edge.

As a general rule, sharpening a knife a few times throughout the year is a must. How frequently to sharpen them relies mainly on the way and the number of times you use them.

It is best to use different techniques when honing or sharpening your knives. Besides honing, steel should always be available to keep your edges sharp, strong, and ready to use.

Yet, sharpening knives is a valuable process to carry out with many alternatives. Such as electric knife sharpeners, whetstones, or at a workshop for sharpening knives.

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