How To Use A Sharpening Steel Properly Step By Step | Smoke Gears

How To Use A Sharpening Steel Properly Step By Step

The key to keeping your knife useful is to keep it sharp. After all, what use is a dull blade? But, did you know that sharpening your knife isn't always the solution? Maybe the problem isn't that your knife is too dull, but instead that the metal has buckled due to extended use. Before you begin to panic and throw out your knives, these problems are easily fixable.

A Sharpening steel, is a device that is used to set your knife's edge back to the way it was. Which is to say sharp and on-point. There's a catch, however, as most sharpening steels take a little bit of practice before you can master them. Which is why we've provided you with this handy guide so you too can hone your knives and keep them truly long-lasting!


We've covered just about every knife sharpener in our website so far; this includes electric, manual/pull-through, whetstone, and knife sharpening systems. We've also mentioned knife honing, the other way to keep your knives in working order. 

This guide will be all about how to use a sharpening steel, that is how to hone your knife because the name "sharpening steel" is rather misleading.

What Is Honing And Why Will It Help Your Blade?

Before we get right into honing your sword, let's briefly touch on what honing is. As you should know, what makes a knife so sharp is the thin ridge at the bottom of the blade. Because of how thin, and delicate, this small ridge is damaged is to be expected from normal usage. Either by the actual blade becoming dull, or becoming unaligned.

And becoming unaligned tributes to shortening the lifespan of a knife. Even if you sharpen a blade that's unaligned, the edge will still be twisted. This is where honing comes in. By running the blade over a hone, or a sharpening steel as they're also called, the edge is realigned back to a straight line.

As mentioned in our article on how to sharpen a knife, a sharpener removes material while the hone instead readjusts the material. 

So the name "sharpening steel" and even "hone" is a misnomer. This will not sharpen your blade, instead it'll just readjust the blade. Now that we've covered that, let's look at how to properly hone your knife using a sharpening steel!

How To Use A Sharpening Steel Properly Step By Step

There are two ways to use a sharpening steel, either running the knife over it or running it over the knife. We'll discuss how to do both with a step-by-step instruction guide.

Using your knife on a sharpening steel:

  • 1. The first thing you'll want to do is grip the sharpening steel with your non-dominant hand. Make sure your hands are behind the grip for protection.
  • 2. Keep your dominated hand on your knife, where the knife meets the handle. This will become important later.
  • 3. Optional, but we recommend placing the head of your sharpening steel placed firmly on your work place (counter, table, etc).
  • 4. Move your knife to the point furthest from the tip is at the tip of the sharpening steel.
  • 5. Angle your knife where the edge meets the sharpening steel at a sharp angle. Between 18-to-22 degrees will work, or 15 for Japanese knives.
  • 6. Now apply some slight pressure and start sliding the blade back to you until the tip is touching the sharpening steel.
  • 7. Switch to the other side of the blade and repeat the process.
  • 8. You'll want to slide the blade against the sharpening steel six-to-ten times per side. So twelve-to-twenty times in total.
  • 9. After you're done honing, wash your knife off and let it dry.

Using your sharpening steel on your knife:

  • 1. Place your knife on a surface, holding it in your non-dominant hand.
  • 2. Keep your dominated hand on the sharpening steel, and once again keep your hand behind the grip.
  • 3. Using your non-dominated hand, angle your knife so that it'll be between 18-to-22 degrees or 15-degrees for Japanese knives.
  • 4. Place your sharpening steel at the heel of your knife, that is the part of the blade that's furthest from the tip.
  • 5. Applying a little big of pressure, slide the sharpening steel to the tip of the blade.
  • 6. Switch to the other side of the blade and repeat the process.
  • 7. Like the other method, you'll need to slide the sharpening steel across the blade six-to-ten times per side with a total of twelve-to-twenty times.
  • 8. Once you're done, wash your knife and let it dry!

Honing your knife isn't much of a challenge as we just saw, but it can be a bit tricky for first-timers. We recommend you practice honing on very dull knives, or knives you don't mind losing. Misusing a sharpening steel can easily damage your blade as opposed to fixing it.

How Often Should I Use My Sharpening Steel? 

Now that you know how to properly use a sharpening steel, how many times should you use it? In our previous guide we mentioned using the sharpening steel as much as possible.

And we still stand by this statement; hone your knife every time you're about to use it and every time you finished using it. Because of how thin sharp knife blades can be, becoming dented and mangled is quite common and you'll never notice.

By using a sharpening steel before and after using your knife, you're ensuring that your blade is in tip-top condition and you cut down on unnecessary sharpening which can easily shorten the lifespan of your blade.

It's better to hone your knife than it is to sharpen it, as counter-intuitive this might seem.

how to use a knife sharpener rod

Which Sharpening Steel Should I Use?

The most common type of sharpening steel you'll find are simple metal rods with a handle. There are some models that come attached to workstations, but really you just need the rod. You can find them online and in-stores, and they tend to be not at all expensive unlike your kitchen knives.

This said, never buy a sharpening steel that's too cheap. These models tend to be made of pot or pig iron, and while they sell for quite cheap their quality can easily mess your blade more than it can fix it. On average you should pay around ten-to-twenty dollars for your sharpening steel, while making sure that the rod is made of actual steel.

And that's all there is to using sharpening steel and honing your knife. While this may not be as glamorous as using a whetstone to get your edge just right, it's still important. Sharpening your blade, as we've repeatedly said, shouldn't be done very often. Honing, meanwhile, should be done every single time you use your knife and after your done with it.

It doesn't take long to do, nor does it take long to master but honing your knife is the best way to keep it sharp. If you already invested in expensive knives for your barbecue you need to invest in a sharpening steel rod.

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Theresa Lori

Hi, I'm Theresa. My passion for grilling delicacy gradually built during the time I was living with my parents. My family members especially my mother was a great fan of grilled dishes to and from the love of food. I started preparing smoked food with my mom. This bonding helped me to know more and more about to smoke, grill what always I share on So, in two words you can call me a BBQ lover.

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