Continuing our running cutlery conversation, let’s visit one of the more frequent (and open-ended) questions we receive: when and how do my knives need sharpening?
To begin to understand this question is to understand the fundamentals of sharpening vs. honing… “Sharpening” is the process by which metal is literally ground from the blade, and a new edge is formed, while “honing” simply straightens an edge that already exists.
When you use your metal knife, the edge will gradually roll in on itself on a microscopic level, causing the blade to dull. Honing should be done each time before using your knives, with a honing tool like a steel. This straightens the edge, returning the blade to a consistent sharpness. (An important exception is ceramic cutlery, which can be damaged by honing with a steel.)
Sharpening, as a more abrasive process, should only be done when honing will no longer “bring back an edge.” Think of it as using styling gel in your hair versus clipping it off and starting from scratch.