Honing Rod (steel) vs Whetstones
Easily the most common question we get in the shop is the regarding the difference between a honing rod; whether it be steel, ceramic or diamond and whetstones. So, to answer this question we’re going to go over what each of these products does and how to properly use them. Firstly, we have to talk about what happens to the edge of your blade when you use it.
As you use your knife, not only is it coming in contact with various ingredients but also the cutting board. As you use your knife to cut and run it along the cutting board the edge of the knife is folding over to one side contributing to a dull feeling knife. It is at this point that you would want to use a honing rod.
Pretty much everyone has one of these at their house. It came with the knife set you got 20 years ago when you got married and might not get a ton of use. You’ve tried to use it a couple times and had little to no luck. Contrary to the conception most people that come through the shop have, a honing rod (steel) is not a sharpener, it does not remove any material from you knife. A honing rod realigns the edge of your knife, folding that steel back into place contributing to a much better cutting feel. Honing rods are great if you need to quickly rejuvenate the edge of your knife while doing your prep work or if you don’t know how to sharpen your own knives and are looking for a way to prolong the life of the edge of your knife before you have to bring it to the shop to be sharpened.
Now over time, the edge of your knife is going to become rounded and no amount of honing is going to bring it back to life. There is no edge left on the knife thus nothing to realign. Its time to get it sharpened using whetstones. Whetstones do remove material from your knife and will be able to put a new edge on your knife that will have your knife cutting like it did when it was brand new. Sharpening on Whetstones requires time and effort in order to learn but if you put in the time you won't be disappointed. If you’re interested in learning how to sharpen your knives check out our Youtube video on the subject here.
To summarize, Sharpening removes material from your knife allowing you to create a new edge while Honing simply realigns an existing edge. Both are great techniques to use for maintaining your knife and can be used effectively together to keep your knives sharp for the longest amount of time possible.