Starting at 0:58, Owen in Vancouver counsels you to alternate the knife's edges. Each time Owen pulls the knife, he alternates as he advised. But why? Why not hone one side with 15 consecutive strokes first, then switch to the other side?

Bob Kramer and Lisa at America's Test Kitchen alternate too.


1 Answer 1


Honing is the act of 'pushing' the edge of the blade into alignment.

Were you to do one side only, it would push the edge to the opposite side, then when you swapped, it would push it all back again. No net gain.

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Image from Serious Eats - How to Hone a Dull Knife

  • 1
    And why can't one do it only on the "bad" side, until it's right?
    – Pedro A
    Jul 28, 2021 at 21:56
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    @PedroA I could imagine it hard to tell with your bare eyes which side actually is the "bad" one, as well as the blade possibly being bent in an "S"- shaped pattern, i.e. the "bad" side could be alternating over the length of the blade. Jul 28, 2021 at 22:16
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    @PedroA You can. It's usually not possible to see which side is the bad side but if the knife is just recently sharpened then there is sometimes a burr at the edge. You can feel the burr by running your fingers at the edge of the knife (at 90 degree angle to the edge, in the opposite direction of a cut). In this case you can hone until you feel the burr go to the opposite side. You are supposed to hone the edge until you knock off the burr leaving only a very small part of the burr that will form the edge of the knife. At which point you can't even feel which side is the bad side...
    – slebetman
    Jul 29, 2021 at 6:25
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    ... so on a normal knife you need to alternate the honing stroke.
    – slebetman
    Jul 29, 2021 at 6:26
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    I always think if you can see or even feel the burr on the faces, you haven't finished sharpening yet. Time for your finest abrasive & your most accurate pass. After that, you can hone it. If there's an obvious burr the first cut will bend it back over. [After 3 decades of being completely rubbish at this, I bought a proper good electric sharpener & a 'can't get it wrong' honer. Never looked back.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 29, 2021 at 16:42

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