Learn how to use a steel and maintain your knives so they stay sharp longer.
Contrary to popular belief, a sharpening steel does not sharpen a knife, instead the purpose of a steel is to align the edge of the knife. As a knife is used, the edge will become curled. While you can’t see the curl with the naked eye, a microscope reveals that the edge is askew. The tiny microscopic fibers bend over and dull the edge of the knife. The sharpening steel will straighten or re-align these fibers. Regular steeling is recommended. The more often you steel, the longer the sharp edge will last. Steeling is an effective way to help maintain your knife’s edge between sharpenings. Eventually though your knife will become dull and need to be sharpened.
Step 1: Position the Steel Position the steel vertically over a cutting board, kitchen towel or other suitable surface.
Step 2: Select the Proper Angle. Selecting the right angle is an important part of using the steel. In general most knives are sharpened to an approximately 20 degree angle. This is the same angle you’ll want to use with your steel. To find 20 degrees, first hold your knife at a 90 angle to the steel, then visually cut the angle in half, moving your knife to a 45 degree angle. Finally, you’ll cut the angle in half one more time to find the roughly 20 degree angle where you’ll position your knife.
Step 3: Steel the Edge. Holding your knife at a 20 degree angle to the steel, take alternating passes with your knife across the steel applying light to medium pressure. Don’t try to dig into the steel, a gentle slicing motion that moves your blade across the knife from heel to tip is all you need. Take about a half dozen alternating passes across the full length of your blade. Always give each side the same number of strokes to maintain an even cutting edge.