Knife Care 101 – Sharpening vs Honing

Originally posted elsewhere on August 2014

On this episode of “You don’t know what you are talking about.” I want to discuss something I’ve heard people have talked about incorrectly in the knife world.

For those of you that may not know I was trained by a professional knife sharpener when I was around 12 years old. From that moment on I’ve gobbled up whatever information I could on keeping knives sharp and happy.

Now I have listened to people talk about their knives over the years. Recently I’ve spoken to people about various forms of care for various types of blades. I’ve found, especially in the local BDSM community, a misconception of honing vs sharpening. I even had someone tell me once “I prefer a strop to a sharpening stone.” So allow me a moment to type down some basic ideas here. Not going to go into technical stuff or what not. Just going to talk about concepts

Sharpening – Sharpening a knife is actually removing tiny strips or pieces of metal from your knife. It brings that edge back to life. It restores it. Makes it that oh so deadly we all love. If you do not do it correctly you will ruin your blade.

Some of the tools of the sharpening world are, grinding wheels, files, whet stones, bench stones, Japanese water stones, fine grit sand paper (upwards in the 1500 + range), etc.

With sharpening the more coarse the stone the more metal that is stripped away. The finer the stone the less metal and obvious as the name goes the finer the edge you put on the blade.

Honing – Honing is basically realigning your already sharpened blade. As you use a knife, be it a kitchen knife or a hunting knife, the edge will curl to one side or other. Honing encourages that edge back in its proper place. It straightens it. Honing also removes any microscopic burrs that are left behind in the sharpening process. It smooths the blade. Think of it as the “lotion” for the blade (it puts the lotion on the skin).

Some honing tools you’ll find are pieces of leather, strops, honing rods both ceramic and steel (these you often see in knife block sets), compounds to rub into your leathers or strops, etc.

Now with honing rods it is always better to not get the really low-end ones or it can really mess up your knives.

So there you have it children. Sharpening is not Honing and Honing is not Sharpening. They are completely different elements in caring for your lovely edged friend.

Knife Care 101 – Sharpening vs Honing