The Difference Between Honing and Sharpening

January 21, 2013

Hello and welcome back to the Lansky Sharpeners Blog.  I hope everyone enjoyed my last post about the importance of A Sharp Knife.  The importance of keeping your blades sharp is an easy subject for me to step up on my soap box and rant about.  Having a properly maintained tool means that whatever use you have for your blade, you can be sure that it will do the job properly.  Remember one of the main points in my last post; have the right tool for the right job. Our goal at Lansky Sharpeners is to make this blog more than just a weekly rant about our products. We want to help people understand sharpening and make it an easy, enjoyable experience.  I hope to use this blog to continue answering questions and tackling some of the inherent problem found in the sharpening world. 

One of the biggest misconceptions I have found in the wide world of sharpening is that sharpening and honing are interchangeable terms.  “Honing” is often used as just a fancy term for sharpening. Well surprise!  Sharpening and honing are actually two separate processes and an understanding of their differences (and similarities) can really help you increase the effectiveness of your blade’s edge and your blade maintenance skills.  It can get even more confusing because sharpening tools can also be called “hones”.  The first step to learning the differences between sharpening and honing is simple; DON’T PANIC. It is easy to apply to both sharpening and honing because they use the same general techniques and skills.

Sharpening is defined by the act of taking material away from the blades edge. Usually this is accomplished by “grinding” the edge of a knife against an appropriate sharpening stone or apparatus.  The process of sharpening includes setting an edge’s bevel so that both sides meet evenly to form a proper symmetrical edge. The goal is to form the smallest possible intersection between the blade’s bevels.   This is why the process of sharpening uses coarser stone generally ranging between 200 grit to 800 grit.  This inherently leaves the blade’s edge rough and will form a ‘wire edge’.  A wire edge is the thin microscopic edge formed when sharpening.  A wire edge is very sharp but also very weak.  The process of honing uses finer grit stones ranging from 1000 grit to 10,000 grit.  This will refine the rough surface of the edge and slowly polishing the wire edge away.

As you can see honing is really just the process of preparing and maintaining an already sharp edge.   As you polish out the rough surface of the edge and slowly work the wire edge into a more durable state you are making your blade more efficient.  Polishing the rough surface of the edge significantly reduces the friction caused when cutting into material, and makes your blade a more useful tool.  As I mentioned before honing is also a maintenance process.  When you use extremely fine grit stones, steel or strop to maintain an edge you are honing.  Honing is something that should be done on a regular basis; it will help define the blades edge and will polish small blemishes and marks from regular use.  I often suggest using a quality honing steel every time you use your kitchen knives and to strop your working/pocket knives before and after heavy use or every other day.  This will keep your microscopic edge straight and reduce how often you actually have to sharpen.

Okay folks, that’s it! I hope you have been enjoying the Lansky Sharpeners blog so far.  Make sure to bookmark this blog, email it to a friend or add our RSS feed.  I definitely encourage any question or comments on our posts or products. 


Category: Edge Knowledge

1 Comment

Apr 12th, 2013
Sorry, I've never sharpened my own. We had a sercive come to the shop and later to the vet office I worked at.You can try asking a sharpener and perhaps they'll be kind enough to tell you.There is a great booth here in CA at our local dog shows, they do the best job. Sorry don't remember their name.If the sharpener knows his stuff a pair of scissors can be sharpened many times and will keep a good edge for a while (if they are good scissors). I'd say start with a light hand and go slow. I've had scissors ruined by new sharpeners that I was desperate and tried them. They didn't know how to deal with curved scissors and rather than tell me they just ruined several pair.Good luck.

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