Knife Honing vs. Knife Sharpening

Honing vs. Sharpening – Understanding the Difference:

Like all tools, your knife requires knife care and must be regularly maintained. This means regular honing to keep the fine edge in alignment. Sharpening is only needed when honing no longer improves your knife’s cutting performance. A proper maintenance tool should always be available in the kitchen, because a sharp knife is a safe knife.

Honing is used to maintain the edge; it does not remove significant material from the blade. When a blade starts to dull, typically, the fine edge was rolled over (see figure below).

Honing is the process whereby the rolled metal is simply returned to center and the edge is straightened by running the entire blade down a rod. It is this realignment of the edge which restores the cutting performance. The rod, typically called a honing rod (or a honing steel or sharpening steel) can be made of metal, ceramic or diamond-coated metal. There are many honing rods available and Amazon is a great place to find one that suits your assortment of knives and your budge. We recommend that you select one with a sturdy base, uniform rod surface and a rod that is ~2” longer than the length of the longest blade that you plan to hone – this will ensure that it will work for all blades that you own.

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With time and use, the blade-edge material weakens and breaks away, resulting in an irregular edge whose cutting performance can no longer be improved by honing. It is at this point that sharpening is needed. Sharpening removes metal and is used to reestablish the v-shaped edge.

Honing for Edge Maintenance:

  • For all of our straight-edged (non-serrated) blades, honing is recommended after every 6-8 hours of use or when the knife is noticeably not making cuts with ease any longer.
  • A metal honing rod can be used for the Alpha-Royal German Series and the Comfort-Pro Series.
  • A fine ceramic honing rod is recommended for the Executive-Plus Series, Alpha-Royal Japanese Series & Razor-Edge Series.
  • Honing does not remove a significant amount of metal, rather it removes microscopic burr that forms during regular use and realigns the edge.
  • When honing no longer improves the cutting performance, then it is time to sharpen the blade to reestablish the v-shaped edge.

Zelite Infinity Knife Series Honing and Sharpening Angles for Straightedged Blades:

  • Executive-Plus Series: 9-12°
  • Alpha-Royal Japanese Series: 12-15°
  • Razor-Edge Series: 12-15°
  • Alpha-Royal German Series: 15-18°
  • Comfort-Pro Series: 15-18°

Note: *Comfort-Pro & Alpha-Royal German 7″ Cleaver edge: 18-20° per side

How to Hone Your Knife:

  1. Hold the honing rod vertically with the tip on a stable, non-slip surface such as your cutting board (you can also place a tea towel under the tip).
  2. Hold your knife against the rod at the heel (area closest to the handle) and establish the bevel angle between the blade and the honing rod using the angels outlined above.
  3. Using a smooth swiping motion, pull the knife blade down and across the sharpening steel applying slight pressure, from the heel all the way to the tip. Make sure to keep the angle consistent throughout the movement (see images below).
  4. Repeat steps 2 & 3 on the other side of the blade.
  5. Repeat the entire sequence approximately 5-6 times per side.

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