No matter what you’re planning on cooking and serving over the holidays it is important that your quality knife is properly sharpened. A properly sharpened knife makes it easier to cut and makes the whole preparation process smoother and more importantly, safe.
A sharpening steel works on a very fundamental principle. Quite simply, it provides a grinding surface which is harder than the blade of the knife to be sharpened; this allows sharpening to take place.
The surface of a sharpening steel can be finished or “cut” several different ways.
COARSE “SPIRAL” CUT
The coarse “spiral” cut (also known as the “British” or “helical” cut) sharpening steel is ideal for putting an edge on a blunt knife blade.
The “precision” cut (also known as the “Continental” cut) sharpening steel has unbroken cuts running the length of the steel. It is ideally suited for maintaining a good blade edge.
The “polished” finish sharpening steel is perfectly smooth and is used for honing a knife blade. Honing refines or polishes the edge of a knife blade.
COMBINATION SPIRAL/PRECISION CUT
Comprised of both the “spiral” and the “precision” cuts, the “Doublesharp” steel is ideal for restoring very dull knife blades.
In recent years, diamond steels have gained popularity. They are coated with ultra-fine 100% diamond abrasives and simultaneously lightly hone as they realign a knife edge.
Which sharpening steel to use depends on the sharpening job at hand. We recommend owning both “Doublesharp” and “Precision Cut” steels to ensure that you have the proper tools available when you need them.
SHARPENING STEEL LENGTH
Sharpening steels come in lengths ranging from 3 to 14 inches (7.5 cm to 36 cm). As a rule, a sharpening steel should be at least as long as the length of the knife blade being sharpened.
SHARPENING STEEL SHAPE
Sharpening steels can be round or oval. Round sharpening steels are generally preferred, while oval shaped sharpening steels provide a larger sharpening surface.
A sharpening steel may become soiled through use and develop a grease barrier. This grease barrier will prevent the steel from “biting” and the knife will not be sharpened properly. To avoid a dirt build up, wash the sharpening steel regularly in hot sudsy water and dry immediately to avoid rusting. Polypropylene handles may be sterilized by boiling the handle in water.
HOW TO SHARPEN A KNIFE USING A SHARPENING STEEL
A good knife is easy to sharpen and should be sharpened regularly. “Little and often,” defines how professionals sharpen a knife. A few strokes on either side of the blade, every time the knife is used will maintain sharpness and guarantee best performance. A knife with a sharp blade always works better and more safely because it cuts easily. After numerous sharpenings, a blade may begin to lose its original shape, or have been sharpened to the point where the blade edge is thicker than desired. If this happens, the knife should be professionally reground. This process will restore the blade to its original state.
Hold the Steel firmly and away from the body. Holding the knife with the heel of the blade at the tip of the steel, draw the knife towards the handle and across the Steel, tilting the blade of the knife at an angle to the Steel. This should be repeated alternately on the front and the back of the Steel. Some users draw the blade of the knife away from the Steel handle towards the point in the belief that it is safer as per method 2.
Hold the Steel vertically with the point facing downwards onto a firm, non-slip surface. Offer the knife blade to the Steel at an angle, again starting with the heel of the blade, draw the knife downwards and across the Steel. Repeat alternately on the front and back of the Steel.
WHY USE A SHARPENING STEEL?
A sharpening steel is still the best way to sharpen a quality knife. Using the correct steel for sharpening a knife will not remove more of the blade than is necessary (excessive blade removal is the major drawback of mechanical sharpening devices). Additionally, a sharpening steel represents a long lasting investment that will prove to be economical and handy to use.
We hope that we have provided you with some helpful information. Please feel free to leave comments or questions and we will do our best to assist you!
Practice safe sharpening!