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I got a fairly expensive Kramer/Zwilling knife as a present and so now I am forced to learn how to at least hone a knife (or keep it on a shelf and never use it). I think for now I'll let a pro actually sharpen the knife since the knife sharpening sets are fairly expensive and I don't want to ruin the knife.

Anyhow, I was wondering if i should go with a ceramic or steel honing rod? If it makes a difference the blade is damascus steel. Any other considerations I should look at when honing this blade?

  • If you keep your knives honed properly you should never need to sharpen them. – Escoce Jan 7 '16 at 0:53
  • Well, I would think I'd not want to remove material. So should I go with a smooth steel rod? Or ceramic? – merk Jan 7 '16 at 10:46
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    Actually honing steels may or may not "remove metal". It depends on what the grain structure of the metal honing rod is made of, and whether there is a file pattern on the metal. The ribs visible on some honing rods serve to change the pressure profile of the rod against the edge at the point of contact...increased pressure does increase odds of metal removal but it depends on the other factors above – tohster Jan 10 '16 at 17:01
  • Just repeating opinions found in various knife forums: ceramic rods have a place near japanese/damascus knifes, steel rods, especially rough ones, generally do not. – rackandboneman Feb 9 '16 at 23:31
  • @Optionparty unless he overheated it, corroded it extremely badly, broke out a significant chip, or broke it in pieces, it ain't destroyed. --- To the OP: Either find a professional sharpener NOW because sooner or later you will need - ask a sushi chef if possible who he recommends. OR get a J1000 to J3000, a J6000 to J8000 stone (or combination stone having one of each category), and some stropping material (leather+paste or v.fine cushioned abrasive) and practice with it on whatever beater knife you can beg borrow or steal (probably a 500 or sth. stone too if practicing on blunt knives) – rackandboneman Mar 31 '16 at 20:08
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It depends on how often you want to hone, what steel and edge geometry your knife uses, and how you use it.

Generally, for the vast majority of kitchen knives -- even Kramer knives -- the following apply:

  1. The knife is made of stainless or light carbon steel, to hardness of below 62HRC
  2. The knife is double beveled although not necessarily symmetrically
  3. The cook uses primarily slicing or light chopping action, which reduces the chipping damage to the blade that comes from chopping bones and other hard products

If these conditions are true, I would recommend using a ceramic hone and honing frequently.....ideally before every session with the knife. Failure to hone will cause the edge to soften, fold or burr in a way that a hone cannot restore, which is when you'll need to send it on for sharpening.

Some notes:

  • Make sure you have a good cutting board. Stay away from brittle hard surfaces like marble glass or stone, and use wood or plastic.
    • FWIW I like the Epicurean boards because they're hardy, they don't splinter like bamboo, don't need the conditioning required of butchers blocks, and are better looking than plastic..... But this is a separate and more subjective topic.
  • If you are using high carbon, very hard steel then a ceramic hone will have limited effect so you may need to use a leather strop, fine wet stone or even steel to hone that edge. Contrary to popular opinion, very hard blades are not necessarily better and can be a real pain to maintain.
  • If you have a single beveled edge typical of some Japanese knives, then honing is more difficult....in this case learn where the bevel is and be careful of your honing angles to make sure you don't fold or dull the edge accidentally
  • If you're using your knife as a chopper with bone or hard products then honing will have little effect since the chop impact will be damaging the blade. Get a separate chopper!
  • i believe this is the same knife i have. so its stainless, 15 degree angle and hardness 63 rockwell - i dont know if its double beveled – merk Jan 11 '16 at 18:39
  • @merk that's a very nice knife. Read the above answers and comments. They all have value. – Escoce Apr 10 '16 at 2:00
  • I actually had to send the knife in to be repaired/replaced. I can't tell if i did something wrong honing it - i only used the rod once. But i happened to take a closer look at the blade edge and noticed some very small chips in the edge. I don't know if they were there before i honed or not. I can't imagine i could have screwed up honing the blade that badly to cause it to chip. – merk Apr 11 '16 at 7:34
  • If you accidentally impacted the hone, or bore down on it sideways with much force, maybe with some existing chips - yes, that could chip the blade. And you can safely assume it is double bevelled and symmetric, anything else would be sold as a right or left handed knife explicitly. 15 degrees (per side. 15 degrees inclusive would be extremely sensitive, the domain of a sashimi knife and not a general purpose chef knife!) sounds pretty solid for SG2@63 - for comparison, typical edge angle on non stainless japanese knives of that hardness will be 12 per side. – rackandboneman May 10 '16 at 14:58
  • I thought i used fairly light force pressing the blade against the honing rod, but I can't be sure since this was a few months ago. I haven't used the blade since I got it back since now I'm paranoid I did something wrong and I don't want to mess up the blade again. – merk May 11 '16 at 7:18
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Observations after using a typical "swedish carpenter's" hone for a while:

These are indeed lightly abrasive, so it will never only hone, but sharpen/polish. This means that:

  • you have to observe all the cautions that would apply to actually sharpening, be more careful with getting the angles correct - too shallow can scratch (or even remove an intentionally set microbevel), too steep will microbevel the knife (which you might intentionally do). You could even raise a burr and hone it into a wire edge by accident.

  • a fine edge polish will be degraded if the effective grit of the hone is lower than that of the finishing stone used in sharpening.

  • tired metal will slowly get removed - a good thing. Especially with steels where the burr will be brittle, and become even more brittle when being bent back (very hard pure carbon steels can pull nasty tricks on you that way).

  • the ratio of honing vs abrasive action will be quite dependent on steel hardness and toughness (a very soft steel might be found to mostly hone - haven't tried; same with a very hard one (AS@65+), as I surprisingly found).

  • What is a swedish carpenter's hone? I suppose you mean either a ceramic or a steel rod, but as I have never heard the term before, I have trouble associating it with the ones in the question. – rumtscho May 10 '16 at 14:51
  • IKEA :) Sry, gotten too used to obscuring vendor names being good practice :) – rackandboneman May 10 '16 at 15:12

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