Keep knife sharp with honing steel

Burning Question

September 20, 2006|By Erica Marcus | Erica Marcus,NEWSDAY

How do you sharpen a knife?

If you looked at your knife under a microscope, you would see that the blade comes to a very thin edge with tiny teeth. From the knife's perspective, the act of cutting is experienced as repeated banging against the cutting surface.

All that violence does two things: 1) It forces the teeth out of alignment so that they go this way and that. 2) It dulls the edge, like a pencil point that has worn down.

To realign the edge, you hone it by dragging it along a honing steel. To correct a dull edge, you sharpen it by grinding off some of the metal.

Honing your knife frequently will help to maintain its sharpness. A few years back, I got a honing lesson from cutlery expert Morty Cohen:

Stand about two feet from a counter and, extending your left arm, hold the steel horizontally in your left hand with the top few inches resting on the counter.

Hold the knife in your right hand and rest the base of the knife blade against the tip of the steel, the cutting edge of the knife facing you. Pull the knife toward you, drawing the length of the blade against the steel from base to tip and angling the knife as if to shave a thin sliver off the steel.

Turn the knife over, edge away from you, and starting from the base of the steel, draw the knife away from you, knife base to tip. Repeat a few times on each side of the knife.

Even the most religiously honed knife will eventually need to be sharpened. One advantage to a professional knife sharpener is that not only will he grind a new edge, but he will reshape the entire blade.

Home sharpeners can't do this, but there are good products on the market: Chef's Choice Professional Sharpening Station, about $140 (visit for online retailers); Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker Model 204, $42.95 at; and 1-2-3 Sharp by Morty the Knife Man, available by calling 800-247-2511.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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