Should you be using a honing rod on your knives?
Hey y’all, we’ve gotten a bunch of questions at Togu about the metal rods that come with some knife sets. Most people are wondering what they’re used for, how to use them, and if they actually even work.
Honing rods (or honing steels) are tools used for edge maintenance between sharpenings. The term honing is a misnomer since these tools don’t actually hone but simply reform the edge of a blade. If and when these tools are necessary depends on the type of knife you are using.
If you’re using western knives, steeling the blade is critical to keeping your knives in good shape and should be performed every few days. The softer steel typically used in these blades tends to bend and deform on a microscopic level as the knife is used. Honing rods can straighten and true a deformed edge. This maintenance prolongs the life of the edge which means it can be sharpened less frequently. Fewer sharpenings means you’re removing less material from the blade, which will extend the useful life of the knife.
The story is a bit different for Japanese knives. Traditionally, Japanese blades are made from harder steels which allow them to take a finer edge and hold it longer. Since these harder blades tend not to deform in the same way as western blades it is not necessary to steel them. In fact those harder Japanese steels also tend to be more brittle so steeling them can result in micro-chips along the edge.
In short, if you are using western knives steeling is an important part of your maintenance routine. If you are using Japanese knives (such as Togu's) it is neither necessary nor beneficial. In either case steeling a blade is not a replacement for regular sharpenings as it does not remove any material for the blade and will not do a whole lot for a blade that is already dull.