First of all, what does a honing steel do? Honing on a honing steel realigns the cutting edge of your blade, which is different than shaping a new edge. Shaping a new edge is the process of actually removing material off of your blade to create a completely new edge. This is done when the edge has become out of shape and is too dull to cut properly. However, before the edge completely wares out, it can fold from cutting pressure. By running the blade along a honing steel, you straighten out those folds and realign the edge.
Here’s the safe way to use a honing steel:
1. Place the honing rod on your table.
Place a towel on your cutting surface to prevent slipping, then hold the steel rod vertically, so the end stands on your cutting surface.
2. Position your knife at the correct angle.
Position your knife against the honing steel so the steel is flush with your blade’s edge. For most chef’s knives this will be somewhere between 17-25 degrees. To achieve the proper angle one visual guide is to have the edge in contact with the honing rod, and then have the top of the knife or the "spine", between 1/4 and 1/2 inch from the honing rod. Positioning the knife at too steep of an angle against the honing steel can actually damage the edge of your blade, so it's better to error on the side of going to flat, rather than to steep of an angle.
3. Slide from the rear of the blade to the tip.
Stroke the blade along the honing steel as if you are slicing. Run the blade from the heel to the tip, and slice from the top of the honing steel to the bottom, alternating from one side to the other on each stroke. Apply about as much pressure as if you were peeling a potato, and speed is not necessary at all.
4. Repeat on both sides.
Repeat this process 10 to 20 times on either side of the blade.
If you’re wondering how often you should use a honing steel, we suggest at least two or three times a week, depending on how often you use your knife. If you use your knife consistently every day, it’s best to use the honing steel before each use. To test whether the honing has been effective or not, try cutting through a piece of paper with your knife. If the paper cuts cleanly, then the edge has been realigned properly. Eventually the edge will be completely worn and the honing steel can no longer have an affect; then it's time to have your knife sharpened, and you can call up your knife sharpening service.
We hope you found this useful. For more info on knife subscription services, or a commercial kitchen knife service, check out our website at www.postknife.com!