A honing steel, sometimes referred to as sharpening steel, sharpening stick, sharpening rod, butcher's steel, and chef's steel is a rod of steel, ceramic or diamond coated steel used to hone or sharpen blade edges. They are flat, oval, or round in cross-section and up to one foot long. The steel and ceramic honing steels may have longitudinal ridges, whereas the diamond coated steels are smooth but will be embedded with abrasive diamond particles.
The naming is often a misnomer, because a steel that hones may be called a 'sharpening steel' in common parlance and vice versa. Moreover, the term 'honing steel' may actually refer to a tool made from ceramic. Honing is often recommended to be performed immediately before or after using a knife, and can be done daily. By contrast, knives are generally sharpened much less frequently.
Honing steels are of no use if the edge is blunt, because it removes no material. Instead it fixes the micro-serrations along the edge of the blade. It is not known exactly how the honing process works; some experts believe honing straightens the serrations while others believe it re-creates them.
Sharpening steels made from ceramic or that have a diamond coating sharpen and hone the edge because they are so much harder than the steel blade. Because these steels sharpen, they are only used every few months once the blade is dull.
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