The Best Sharpening Steels

Written by john willis
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A sharpening steel is the long, round sharpener you see chefs swipe their knives across. It's a common image at a Thanksgiving table. And there's a reason: Sharpening steels improve the performance of smooth-edged cutlery. The fact is skilfully using a good sharpening steel will produce great results, but using a great one even slightly wrong may not do you any good at all. So, first consider how to get great results, then consider a couple of great sharpening steels.

Best Results

Once the quality of a sharpening steel passes "decent," the majority of your results come from skill. It's important to conceptualise what honing does. A knife edge is like a pyramid of molecules. Each layer closer to the edge is narrower. In theory, there's only one molecule at the tip of the pyramid. With use, knife edges become round as the tip of the pyramid wears. Honing slightly re-bevels the edge. The amount of material being removed may be imperceptible, but steel is being removed. If the angle of the blade and sharpening steel are too acute, you will remove material that has no effect on the edge. If the angle is too obtuse, even one pass can leave the edge duller than when you started

Combination of Sharpening Steels and Blades

You've seen commercials for miracle knives. The miracle is that serrated knives cut by sawing or tearing through materials. Some lower-quality cutlery may perform better when sharpened using proper techniques by a lower-quality sharpening steel. Here's why. The cheaper knife has a softer metal. The cheaper sharpening steel is less consistent in its cutting ridges and overly aggressive. It scrapes the blade like a courser sharpening stone. The result isn't a sharp blade; it's a finely serrated blade that works effectively. The only downside to this is that the metal is relatively soft and will dull quickly, so the effectiveness will not last. However, if you have cheap cutlery, the best sharpening steel may be a cheap one. Now onto two great ones.

F. Dick Multicut Steel

The F. Dick Multicut has the shape of a half-round file. Its diameter is far larger than most steels. The large diameter creates a larger surface area, which makes it more effective. It also has distinct grooves along its shaft. The material at the edges of the grooves is slightly more aggressive. It is also among the more expensive steels, at around £65.

Henkel: 10-Inch Diamond Steel

J.A. Henkel is world famous for quality cutlery, and the Henkel diamond sharpening steel is among the best sharpening steels. Its quality, fit and finish are excellent---consistent with the brand. The primary benefit is the industrial diamond additives. It's a more aggressive surface than most, but it doesn't have the inconsistency other aggressive sharpening steels have. It is more expensive than most steels, at around £32.

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