Some of us have had the opportunity to spend hours and hours in professional kitchens honing our skills and finding our way on cooking shows. Others of us cook in our kitchens on evenings and weekends, if we're lucky. And we watch the cooking shows for techniques.
When it comes to honing, the advanced techniques we see on cooking shows are not that different than the advanced skills we see professional athletes perform on TV. As much as we’d all like to throw the ball like Brady or bend it like Beckham, when it comes to honing, let’s start at the beginning and build from there, maybe, one day, will all hold the HONE in front of us, waving a knife across it with speed and confidence. Until then, let's build our skills starting where ever we are.
When honing, you’re doing one of two things. One, you're primarily realigning the cutting edge. It’s not sharpening (removing material) unless it’s covered in diamonds. Rather honing is bending back the cutting edge (realigning it).
Secondarily, honing can a) smooth out any nicks or dings that end up on the cutting edge, or b) it can add grooves/teeth to that cutting edge. The difference comes from which hone you use. A ceramic hone smooths an edge. A steel hone with grooves in it will create a bit of "teeth" to an edge.
With practice, you can run a knife on a hone with its leading edge and be able to hone that knife effectively. Yet, when starting, consider leading with the spine of your knife and allow the cutting edge to trail on the hone.
As for position. Go as far as laying a hone down horizontally on a countertop or cutting board. Move your knife across it with a focus of matching the primary cutting bevel and holding your wrist in a locked position. Master this move before moving to level 2 honing where the hone is vertical. Master that position before moving to a full free hand hone like the pros on TV.
Happy honing out there. Happy cooking too!