Honing vs Sharpening: What’s the Difference

Are you aware that honing and sharpening are not the same? Do you want to know which among the two is what you need today?

Honing and sharpening are common terms when it comes to knife care and maintenance. They are often interchanged, but they are actually not the same.

Pretty sure you are confused about the two terms that’s why you are on this page. I understand that many are not sure about the difference between honing and sharpening and they often take both as one and the same.

In the next section, I will be explaining to you what exactly honing is versus sharpening and why they are different!

So, continue reading to learn more about knife sharpening and honing!


Honing vs Sharpening

Honing and sharpening are often used interchangeably. Many even thought that honing steel could make a knife sharp. But that is just a misconception because honing doesn’t help with knife sharpening.

In the next section, I will define the difference between honing and sharpening kitchen knives.


Honing is maintaining an already sharp edge. When you hone your kitchen knife, you polish the rough surface of the cutting edge to reduce friction and allow the knife to cut into the material better.

Basically, honing is something that you can do frequently. You can do it before you prepare every meal. You can use honing steel to hone your knife but not as a knife sharpener.


Sharpening is done when your knife is dull. The process involves removing material from the edge of the blade typically by grinding the material against a stone or a similar piece of equipment. The stones used include water stone and whetstone. They are much coarser and create what is known as a wire edge.

If you have been honing your knife and it doesn’t improve, then it’s probably dull and it needs to be sharpened. The most popular knife sharpeners in the market are waterstone and sharpening steel to name a few.

If you aren’t sure whether your knife needs sharpening or not, you can check out this page. Here are some blade sharpness testing techniques that you can easily try on to weigh your knife’s sharpness.

What’s The Difference Between Sharpening And Honing

Sharpening is making the blade sharp and honing is keeping them that way. While you can hone your knife regularly, sharpening is only done once or twice a year.

If you look at your knife, you can’t see the bent and misaligned teeth, but you know when it has an issue because it doesn’t work well.

The question is does your knife need honing or sharpening? If you aren’t sure which between the two you need, then you can do a paper test, a tomato test or even an onion test to check the performance of your knife.

Let’s take the onion test for example. A sharp kitchen knife will cut clean through the onion. But if your knife is dull, it will damage the onion’s cell structure and it will release a chemical called a lachrymatory factor, or LF, that makes you cry.

You can also try the tomato test and see if your knife is sharp enough to slice a tomato skin. If it doesn’t smash the tomato then it is still sharp. Otherwise, the blade is already dull and has to be sharpened.

The microscopic teeth aren’t just out of alignment they could be missing. And when the kitchen knife has no more teeth, then the only way to get back its teeth is through sharpening.

The catch is, every time the knife is sharpened, it removes a portion of it. That is why it is crucial to know when the knife needs sharpening or honing. Sharpening should not be done unless it is necessary.

Sharpening Steel vs Honing Steel

I’ve just mentioned above how sharpening and honing are two different things. So, by now, you probably already know that sharpening steel and honing steel is different.

However, I know that many are still wondering, what’s the difference between honing steel and sharpening steel?

For the purpose of this article, I will also differentiate the types of steel that are used in sharpening and honing kitchen knives.

Sharpening Steel

A knife sharpener like sharpening steel removes material from the knife by moving the burr edge alongside the steel to restore the V-shape of the edge. Sharpening steel can be used to sharpen knives that have become dull after frequent use.

Using sharpening steel is not recommended on a daily basis. Otherwise, only little would be left of the knife blade.

Honing Steel

Honing steel is not used to sharpen knives but restore the bent edge. It is also called folding back the burr. Unlike sharpening steel, honing steel can be used as frequently as possible because it only straightens a curved edge.

Honing steels are made from steel and have no sharpening function. Meanwhile, sharpening steels have ceramic or diamond steels coating and are usually harder than steel.

Diamond-coated sharpening steels work fast and remove a lot of steel. It is recommended that you go for ceramic sharpening steel if you use your knives on a daily basis.

The main difference between sharpening and honing steel is whether or not the material is removed.

Which Do You need — A Honing Or Sharpening Steel?

Both steels are designed to treat your kitchen tool or pocket knives. Everyone needs honing steel to maintain the sharp edge of their knives.

It is important to have honing steel at home because you can use the tool to ensure that your knife is sharp, ready to use and taken care of.

However, you do not necessarily need sharpening steel, better have your knives sharpened by professionals to ensure that they will be sharpened well.

Kitchen Knives Sharpening Options

Knife sharpening should be done by experts. It is highly recommended that you approach professionals when your pocket knife or kitchen knife needs sharpening.

Getting professional help for knife sharpening is the best thing you can do. First, you won’t be sharpening your knife frequently.

You will only probably do it once or twice a year especially if you are only using it for home cooks. So, if you must, why not do it right?

Second, knife sharpening doesn’t really appear easy as it sounds. There are a lot of knife sharpeners available but putting your hands on them and doing it right is not that easy.

Knife sharpening involves several processes that are not easy to master. So unless you are a chef who needs a sharp edge kitchen knife 24/7, then just leave knife sharpening to the experts!

For instance, sharpening with a whetstone or sharpening stone needs practice. Correct sharpening requires a certain angle between 15 to 20 degrees to do it right and the angle may depend on the knife.

You’ve got to familiarize your knife to determine the right angle. I’m pretty sure, most do not know that, but professional knife sharpeners are knowledgeable. They know exactly what to do to sharpen a knife.

Maintain Sharpness By Regular Honing

After getting your knife sharpened, you have to maintain it by honing. Yes, if you are serious about maintaining your sharp knife, you have to hone it. Unlike sharpening which can only be done once or twice a year, honing is keeping the knife sharp and can be done frequently. Some even hone their knives after every use.

Why is honing important? It is important because it’s a way to maintain an already sharp edge knife. If you just paid a professional to sharpen your knife, honing is simply maintaining it.

If you are wondering how often you should sharpen or hone a knife then you will likely receive different answers. Some said they use it after every use. Daniel Gritzer said honing can be done as frequently as one wants. Meanwhile, others recommend honing knives after every three uses.


Honing and sharpening are two different things. Sharpening is when you sharpen your knife which is what you do when it is dull. However, honing is what you do to maintain its sharpness.

You should learn to hone to maintain the sharpness of your knife especially that it has to be done frequently. Honing tools include honing steels. However, when it comes to sharpening knives, it is highly recommended that you trust them to the professionals because they know what’s best for your kitchen knives  They’re skilled and knowledgeable in everything about knives like using the right knife blade material for specific cutting tasks. You’ll learn from them about sharpening tools that include whetstone and water stone to name a few.

If you need to sharpen your knives, book us today! We will go to your place and sharpen your knives on the spot while you conveniently wait at your home.



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