I had a bread knife that took a trip through the dishwasher and was frustratingly dull. I bought a cheap sharpening rod to attempt to salvage it (this one specifically: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001910FOA). It was a bit tedious to get into all the serrations but it was like having a new knife. I was so pleased with the results I took to using it on my chef's knives whenever they were dull and the honing rod didn't help, finding the results better and faster than the electric sharpener I have. It seemed pretty straightforward and I didn't put a lot of thought into the technique, but the knives were definitely getting sharper. I'd guess I did this every few months (frankly I tend to get lazy about honing which probably makes the edge dull faster).

I decided I wanted to get something nice to get them even sharper so I invested in a whetstone, but as I have read about using it I've become alarmed by the number of people talking about how you need to use a beater knife on your first pass because you're liable to do some serious damage to your knife. Others even say you shouldn't even try to sharpen a serrated knife yourself! Frankly I find it hard to understand how it's even possible, since it's a piece of metal and you should (I would think) be able to remove more to fix it no matter how bad your sharpening job is. But I don't even own any knives I'd want to use for practice and not care if I rendered them unusable. All this talk has made me paranoid: could I be destroying my knives somehow? How, exactly?

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    Sharpening is an abrasive task, do it long enough and over and over again and the blade will be gone.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 4:52
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    Go to the scrapyard and get some pieces of steel. Sharpen them to train and get experience.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 4:53
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    By the way, the reason why doctors do their first operations on dead people is similar. Can't do a lot wrong.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 4:54
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    @Casey - 'beater car' would also appear to be a US-only description. You just have to watch for colloquialisms that don't translate internationally. [I'm a Northern Brit & we have to do it all the time, even just talking to Southerners ;) There's really nothing in a dishwasher that can kill a blade edge - can you imagine what it would do to your plates if it could knock the edge off steel?!
    – Tetsujin
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 16:04
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    Note, this tends to be true only with expensive and usually hand crafted knives, but some only a small portion of the edge is hardened. If repeatedly sharpened over time you will start to get into metal that was not heat treated to hold an edge. This is done so it will be more flexible. In these knives, if repeatedly sharpened, especially heavily to fix ruined bevels, any ability to hold an edge can be lost.
    – dlb
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 16:04

1 Answer 1


Destroy is too strong a word. For most knives the worst you can do by honing wrong is to take the edge off the knife. This isn't destroying it, it just means you need to get it sharpened again. Angle is the important thing with honing, you need to match the sharpened angle and be consistent.

If you have a knife with a design or a pattern on the blade, like Damascus steel, some Japanese knives, etc. honing badly could damage that design or pattern and ruin the look of the knife. That doesn't destroy it, just makes it less attractive.

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