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Honing vs Sharpening: Which Do Your Knives Need?

If the metal is removed from the blade it is sharpening and if the metal is not removed from the blade then it is honing.

When to Use" Honing"

Honing is an act of maintenance and not a complete overhaul. Honing shows up for dramatic effect before something sinister or harrowing happens in the story. A character requires to tune up a knife for action, so the blade is run against a leather strop, honing rod, or cardboard.

This refreshes the edge on the blade, forcing the microscopic teeth to stand at attention. So if you are a character preparing to give the knife a workout, describe the character honing the knife.

honing vs sharping

When to Use ” Sharpening”

Sharpening is like replacing the engine of a car Sharpening removes metal from the blade to create an entirely new edge. The severity of the transformation depends on how rough of shape the blade is in, but the principle is the same.

An abrasive is used to shave off tiny specs of metal. That is the reason it is not proper to use sharpening and honing interchangeably. In the case of fiction, a character sharpens a blade after the knife experiences hard or sustained use, or if it has not been maintained for some time.

If that is not the case, honing is a better way. Because creating a new edge means resetting the angle, which is tricky to get right, and sharpening can create unnecessary wear on the blade. If an angle works, hone it, don’t fix it.

how to use a sharpening steel

Cheat Sheet For Writing Fiction:

Another way to write these terms:

  • If a blade is in good shape and needs to perform at its absolute best, the character must hone it.
  • If a knife is in rough shape and needs to return to par, the character must sharpen it.

Honing is not a substitute for sharpening but regular honing means you have to sharpen less often. 

What Makes a Knife Blade Dull?

 In your professional kitchen knife then the blade is made up of microscopic steel teeth. They are not as obvious as the teeth on a serrated knife but they are there.

Your Chefs knife works because the teeth are present, aligned, and pointed downward but regular use bends the teeth and pushes them out of alignment. The result is that you can’t even slice a tomato. It does not mean your knife cannot give you a serious cut. It’s just not able to tear through the smooth surface of the tomato skin.

how to hone a knife

Honing vs Sharpening

Do you need to sharpen the knife to give it new teeth or you just have to get those bent and misaligned teeth standing upright again? That is the difference between sharpening and honing. A knife has to start with the sharp edge, then to maintain and lengthen that time to stay sharp, it has to be honed.

Honing is regular maintenance that extends the life sharpness. Make it sharp and then keep it that way by honing. 

Sharpen First

A dull knife is obvious. Other than the tomato frustration, you will notice that you are using or pushing more force to cut and chop. That is dangerous as it creates more opportunities for accidents.

The dull knife cuts food unevenly, causing cooking problems. If you are deciding whether your knife needs to be sharpened, and onion will tell you. A properly sharp knife will cut cleanly through the onion.

If the knife is dull, the onion’s cell structure will be damaged as you attempt to cut it. This releases a chemical called lachrymatory factor or LF that makes you cry. 

You have activated the self-defense mechanism of the onion and it is because your knife is dull, the onion’s cell structures are ruptured rather than cleanly slicing through them. 

The microscopic teeth are not just out of alignment they are missing. Your knife has no more teeth. The only way to get them back is to reshape the edge of your knife by sharpening. Each time you sharpen, you are removing a small amount of the knife’s steel edge.

That is why it is important to know the difference between sharpening and honing and sharpen your knife only when it is necessary.

how to use honing stee

What Happens if You Don’t Sharpen And Hone Your Knife?

A sharp knife is an efficient tool that is actually safer than a dull knife. Help to prevent food from rapid oxidation as the clean slice ruptures few cells, exposing their surface area. Never sharpening your knife is like never putting air in your tires.

Sooner or later you are not going to get anywhere. Knives are a big part of your cooking experience. To learn how to keep them sharp will make all your prep work easy.