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If you have just started to explore the world of knives and sharpening then we’re quite sure you’re using the terms “sharpening” and “honing” interchangeably. The purpose of today’s discussion is to clarify the confusion between the two and to explain the difference and purpose of each of these techniques.
Honing: You must have seen butcher or a chef rubbing his blades against a steel (or ceramic) rod before preparing his meat. Most of us tend to think that he’s sharpening the knives but in fact, he is honing the knife. Honing is the process to maintain the sharpness of the blade.
Sharpening: By technicality, sharpening is done to a knife that has gone dull. It is the process of metal removal from a dull blade’s edge, so the sharp metal underneath could be revealed. Now theoretically you can attempt to sharpen a knife on a honing rod but the amount of metal removal is so slow and small that it will take you ages to revitalize a dull blade.
When is sharpening due? There’s a school of thought according to which sharpening a blade too often could damage it. We disagree.
You see, just like after a few thousand miles a car engine needs a tune-up and an oil change, similarly after prolonged use, a knife (no matter how good) needs sharpening. The continuous cutting and chopping take their toll on the edge and the metal gets fatigued and over time, it rolls in, rendering the knife dull.
Now at times, it’s argued that if a knife is being honed regularly, then why is sharpening needed? Well, quite simply, with time, honing tends to become less and less effective as the metal gets fatigued. This is when sharpening is needed as it essentially resurrects a dull blade through metal removal using a whetstone knife sharpener.
Knife rookies often tend to persist with the honing ritual instead of getting the blade sharpened, not realizing that at this point honing is actually damaging the edge, which will make the sharpening process more difficult and will most likely cost a few extra bucks.
It is important to understand that you should hone a knife that’s still relatively sharp.
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Here’s to sharp knives and great food!