Since the invention of knives, people have developed methods of sharpening them. Despite several changes in their design, knives still need to be sharp in order to be useful, and thus the sharpening rod came about.
Just as a self-sharpening block set constantly sharpens its knives, so a sharpening rod is needed to repeatedly hone the most widely used knives.
In this article, I will explain everything about sharpening rods – like types, differences, selection guide, the process of sharpening your kitchen knife with a sharpening rod, and many more.
What is a Sharpening Rod?
In order to know how to use a sharpening rod, first, it is necessary to understand what a sharpening rod is. The tool is a rod that can be of either steel, ceramic, or diamond steel and is used to re-align blade edges.
On another hand, the names “honing steel” and “sharpening rod” are wrongly used interchangeably since the traditional honing steel does not sharpen the blade.
Instead, its actual function is to realign the edge without removing steel from the edge, so it is not essentially sharpening anything.
It was not until the 80’s that manufacturers realized that ceramic and sharpening steels did the job of sharpening and not honing, and because of this, people start using this king of sharpening rods to sharpen their kitchen knives.
Is a Sharpening Rod Really Necessary to Sharpen Your Kitchen Knife?
By saying all this, you may ask yourself if there is another way to sharpen your kitchen knife.
You may find a variety of tools you may use to sharpen your kitchen knives, such as whetstone, sandpaper, electric sharpeners, and many others; but what makes the sharpening rod stand out from the rest is how easy it is to use.
A sharpening rod is a quick, convenient tool because it is easy to store and grab.
So it is more convenient for a person that uses knives every so often in the kitchen to routinely keep the blades in top shape.
What should I Look for in a Knife Sharpening Rod?
Furthermore, it is important to know what you should take into notice when selecting a sharpening rod.
First, you must examine the texture of the rod you are selecting, it can be of a smooth or ridged surface.
Testers of these types of surfaces have stated that the rods with smooth surfaces and rods with combinations of smooth and lightly ridged textures are better than the ones with just ridged textures all over, as they are less likely to damage knives.
Another point to observe is the length of the rod. It is suggested that people look for long-length rods rather than shorter ones because it helps to keep the knife angle consistent.
Finally, the last thing to take into consideration when selecting a rod is its thickness. The thicker the rod, the more consistent the knife swipes will be and the more secure the person will feel with the movement of the knife.
Which One is Better – Ceramic or Steel Sharpening Rod?
If you choose to use a sharpening rod for your full tang or half tang kitchen knives, then you must determine which kind of material is better. There are many kinds of materials used in sharpening rods, but the best ones are ceramic and steel.
A ceramic sharpening rod works the same way as a diamond rod. It improves the sharpness of the knife by cutting off parts of metal from it.
They are not useful for honing knives, but they are a great option to keep your kitchen knife sharp between honing sessions.
On another hand, a stainless-steel rod is hypoallergenic and rust-resistant, and because of this, you will get an extended period of service from it.
To choose between a ceramic and a steel sharpening rod you will have to take 4 things into notice:
(I) Sharpening Process
Ceramic rods are not as rough on knives, and they work on any type of knife.
Steel rods work roughly on knives and they do not work on any type of knife. They will deliver a good result only by using them on hard knives, and if you sharpen it frequently with this kind of rod, it might make your knife dull.
The steel sharpening rod is much more durable than the ceramic sharpening rod.
Steel rods require more care than ceramic rods. This is because steel sharpening rods have a magnetized feature that helps collect the metal that gets removed from the knife, and these metal particles must be removed by cleaning the rod after each use.
On the other hand, ceramic sharpening rods are easier to maintain, they just have to be cleaned with a wet towel.
A ceramic sharpening rod will be more expensive than a steel rod.
When Do You Know That You Need to Sharpen Your Kitchen Knife?
Moreover, you need to know the exact duration of time that your knife needs to be sharpened. To do so, you will need to notice if the knife has “teeth”. The kind of knives that have teeth are called dull knives.
Another way to determine if you have a dull knife that needs to be sharpened is by slicing tomatoes. If the knife slices through the tomato’s skin, then it is sharp, but if the knife squashes the tomato, you have a dull knife.
What makes a knife’s blade dull is it’s being regularly used to slice meat, fruits, and vegetables, as well as smashing your knife against the cutting board.
All of this bends the teeth and pushes them out of alignment, and it results in your knife does not even being able of slicing a tomato.
What Happens If You Do Not Sharpen and Hone Your Kitchen Knife?
Another thing you must keep in mind is the importance of sharpening your knife. It is not only to maintain its sharp edge but also because a dull knife can harm.
Perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, sharp knives are also much safer to use than dull ones. A dull knife may slip and cause injury more easily than a sharp one, which is unlikely to slip unexpectedly.
Even if you do injure yourself, a cut from a sharp knife will likely be less painful than from a dull knife, and it may even heal faster.
A dull knife can’t provide precise cuts and evenly sized pieces, which is important in the visual presentation and ease of eating a dish.
A sharp knife helps to guard your food against oxidation, because a clean slice breaks fewer cells, exposing less surface area.
You can test this by cutting a tomato or an onion with a dull knife versus a sharpening knife, and observing the rates of oxidation of the produce.
An example to better illustrate this is to compare the maintenance of sharpening your knife with car maintenance.
If you do not pump air into your tiers frequently, there will come a time when your car will not be able to move around.
What Is the Difference Between Honing and Sharpening?
On another hand, before showing you the way to sharpen a kitchen knife with a sharpening rod, it is necessary to know the difference between sharpening and honing to be able to properly maintain your kitchen knife.
If you have a knife with its teeth bent, you will have two options: sharpen your knife to give it new teeth, or re-straighten the bent teeth. This is the difference between sharpening and honing a knife.
A knife needs to have a sharp edge, and to maintain this edge over time it must be honed.
By saying this, it is quite simple to understand that you need to sharpen your kitchen knife every once in a while, and in between those periods of time, you will need to hone the knife to keep it sharp.
Honing is the constant maintenance of the knife, and sharpening is the part of the process that you do every so often to give the knife new teeth.
What is the Process to Sharpen Kitchen Knives with a Sharpening Rod?
Now that you know everything there is to know about a sharpening rod, let’s move on to the explanation of the sharpening process.
To sharpen your kitchen knife properly you will need your knife, a sharpening rod, and a towel.
First, you will have to hold the rod with the tip resting on the towel, this will ensure that the sharpening rod does not slip on the table. This tip is important because it helps to keep a consistent motion that will yield the best results.
Then, start sliding the knife from the top of the rod to the tip at a 15-degree angle. As the knife descends, you will have to pull the knife down and towards your body.
While you are sliding the knife, alternate sides of the hone with each stroke; a half of dozen strokes on each side would be enough.
If you want to keep the knife’s cutting edge straight, you will have to duplicate your motion and pressure each time you slide across a side of the rod.
In conclusion, with all this information, I hope that you now understand the whole process that you must carry out in order to choose a good sharpening rod and, once chosen, how to use it correctly to maximize productiveness and safety.