It's time to sharpen a knife when it can't cut a medium ripe tomato (after honing) with ease.
Ok. That's simple.
Since some 4-6 million knife sets are sharpened or purchased new every year, and there are some 122 million households in America, it follows that most knives would struggle with a medium ripe tomato. They are dull and in need of sharpening.
Honing is the process of re-aligning ("trueing") material that is already part of the knife. It makes what's on a knife blade straight and pointy again to the extend that it's possible without removing material.
Typically, honing is accomplished with a simple steel or ceramic hone in a rod shape. These don't remove metal. Rather, honing is a way to microscopically align as much of the metal on a knife back into a cutting point without removing material on the knife.
- Do so with equal strokes per edge
- Use roughly the same angle on each side
Sharpening, on the other hand, creates an entirely new edge on a knife by removing metal. This new edge can be maintained there after with honing until that "rounds out the blade" and sharpening is required again.
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Interested in the sharpening process?