Using kitchen knives that are not sharp can be very annoying, especially when you try to cut delicate and soft food items, like tomatoes, for example. This is why it has become a common practice for every household to own a knife sharpener.
Knife sharpeners can last between five to ten years at least but can last much longer if you are using and accurately storing them. Knife sharpeners need to be properly cleaned after each use, usually only with water and soap, and stored in a cotton bag, away from the other kitchen items.
There are two types of knife sharpeners – diamond and ceramic ones. Also, in this text, you will find out why a honing tool is not actually a knife sharpener.
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What Is a Sharpening Steel?
A sharpening steel is a tool you would use to expose a new, sharp edge of your knife by removing the old and worn-out layer. Although it is called sharpening steel, the tool is not made of steel but is impregnated with a diamond or ceramic sharpener.
One remark has to be made here – sharpening steel is not the same as honing steel. Later on, I will explain the difference and what tool is for what use.
Sharpening steel should be used at least every six months. Six months is recommended time for average users. However, if you use your knife more often or use it for different purposes, e.g., at a restaurant where wear out is naturally quicker, you should consider sharpening the knives more often.
Like any other product, it is normal to assume that sharpening tools also have their expiration dates. If you use them 2 to 3 times per year, on average, then your sharpening steel tool should last for at least a decade or more.
This means that basically, you will not have to worry about buying new sharpening steel for a very long time. To prolong its duration, keep the sharpening steel in a separate box, away from the utensils, so you can prevent any damage that may occur in contact between these two.
However, if you are using the sharpening steel frequently, the tool would have an average life span of five to ten years, depending on the workload.
Sharpening steels are usually only cleaned with dish soap and water, and you can also use a sponge to wipe the surface out. If the sharpener seems very clogged, which it can become over time, then try using some vinegar as a solution.
Types of Sharpening Steels
There are two basic types of sharpening steel – a diamond or ceramic coated one. The diamond-coated sharpening steel is less durable than the ceramic one, which is why the ceramic sharpener is more popular.
The reason why diamond-impregnated sharpening steel can endure less is that its surface is made of diamond dust. This dust tends to become dislodged over time, so its efficiency will reduce over time.
On the other hand, the ceramic-coated sharpening steels will practically last forever because the ceramic doesn’t wear out, in theory. One thing that can be considered to be a flaw is that the ceramic sharpeners are very sensitive.
This means that even the slightest bump or unintentional contact with another object can damage it. This is why it is important to keep the ceramic sharpener in a cotton bag, away from other utensils and kitchenware.
What Is a Honing Steel?
Honing steel is often confused with sharpening steel. A honing steel will not sharpen your blade actually, but it will make it more effective.
When you look at your knife under a microscope, you will notice that the knife blade itself is not a straight line but rather a row of tiny teeth. Over time, as you are using the knife, these teeth become unaligned.
This is when the honing steel pops up. The honing steel puts back in line all the misaligned teeth and makes the knife sharpener. This is not the same as the effect you will get with sharpening steel, but it will make the knife cut better.
While the sharpening steel is supposed to be used twice a year, honing steel must be used more often. It is recommended to use it after every three uses. This means that you would have to use the honing steel regularly.
Honing steel is very long-lasting because they are made of steel and is very durable. Because of the frequent use, people are mainly worried that the tool will wear out quickly, but that is not the case.
If you are using a good quality honing steel, you may not need to change it all for many years. If you are using cheap ones, those of questionable quality, you risk damaging your knives.
The surface of the honing steel is rough. If the surface has become flat or is becoming flattened in certain areas, this is a clear sign that you need to replace your tool because it has been overused.
How to Use a Honing Steel?
Because of the confusion with honing steels and sharpening steels, people tend to use the honing steel on knives that have become damaged and worn out and need to be sharpened, not honed.
Using honing steel on a very dull knife will not repair the damage – it will only hide the inevitable for some time – that the knives need to be sharpened.
On the other hand, honing steel tools should be used after every third use to keep the knives in good condition. Also, it is essential to know how to use the honing tool properly.
Swipe the knife a maximum of six times – more than this is not going to make the knife seem sharper; it will just risk damaging it.
In general, it is best if you can try to keep the knives in good condition by maintaining them regularly. Regular maintenance means that you need to use the honing steel and sharpening steel in combination.
Honing steel should be used on a regular, daily basis, while the sharpening steel should be used every six months. Only by doing this can you prolong the life of your knives.