How to Use a Knife Sharpener Rod

How to Use a Knife Sharpener Rod

Knives from fresh from the factory are incredibly good to use. However, with consistent use, the edge will start to become dull and affect its sharpness. Constant cutting forces and bends the microscopic parts of the blade to one side, making it more difficult to run the blade to any food. Thus, causing it to feel sluggish to use. A knife sharpener rod can quickly solve the problem. Also called a honing rod, this tool comes along with most knife sets in the market.

While it doesn’t actually sharpen a knife, what it does is hone the edges of your moderately dulled blades. By running the blade along the rod, it repositions the edges, reducing the need to sharpen your knife repeatedly.

If you’re not familiar with this tool, don’t fret! Read through below and discover how to use a knife sharpener rod and other things you need to know to keep your knives cutting through any food clean and smooth.

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What is a Knife Sharpener Rod, and Why Does It Matter?

A knife sharpener rod, also called a “sharpening steel” is somewhat confusing for some since what it does is actually trues or corrects the edge and not to sharpen it. Instead, it helps bring back the blade to its original condition by honing or smoothing the edges.

When you have a knife that feels dull, it sometimes needs a few gradual strokes on a knife sharpener rod to hone the edges and recover its sharpness. This process can become handy when you are cutting bony chicken, grisly meat, or other tough food. Just make sure to clean the knife first prior to using it again.

How to Know if Your Knife is Sharp

Trying the paper test is a good way to know if your knife needs sharpening. Simply hold a single sheet of paper. Then, rest the blade on the top edge and slice outward. If your knife is unable to slice smoothly, try honing it using a knife sharpener rod to bring back the blade’s original condition.

How to Use a Knife Sharpener Rod

While honing your knife through the use of a knife sharpener rod can be achieved in a number of ways, below is a method on how to use sharpening steel that is easy to follow and is safe as the blade is not moving towards either your body or hands.

Step 1: Hold the knife sharpener rod downward on your work surface.

Grip the handle of the knife sharpener rod using your non-dominant rod to ensure that it’s protected by the guard located at the top of the rod’s handle. Then, point the tip of the rod down onto a stable surface. Make that the rod is vertical and press it firmly on the work surface to prevent it from sliding and any accident when you start the process.

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Step 2: Place the rod in front of you at arm’s length.

To further prevent any mishap, place the knife sharpener rod at arm’s length in front of you. If in case the rod slips, there will still be enough gap to avoid the blade from slicing or cutting you.

Step 3: Position the knife against the knife sharpener rod.

Get the knife that needs honing and press its bottom or the heel against the top of the knife sharpener rod. Its blade must be near the handle and place properly. Think of it as if you are going to cut into the rod.

Step 4: Angle the knife at 15 degrees.

Tilt your knife at a 15-degree angle (20 degrees at most). You may adjust the degree depending on the type of edge you want to achieve. Go for a higher angle if you are aiming for a sturdier blade, or a lower angle if you are looking for a sharper one.

Step 5: Run the blade down the rod while pulling it toward you.

Run the knife down smoothly against the rod while pulling it towards yourself. Maintain the same angle that you want as you slide down the blade. The tip of your knife must be at the base of the steel. It is advisable to apply light pressure as you do the process. Then, you should also move slowly to prevent any accident from cutting yourself.

Step 6: Slide the other side of the knife down the sharpening rod.

While keeping the rod in its vertical position, hone the other side of the blade by placing the bottom of the heel or the blade on the opposite side of the rod close to the top. Again, use light pressure to avoid any mishaps.

Step 7: Slide down each side around 5 to 10 times.

You may need to slide each side of your knife around 5 to 10 down the sharpener rod depending on how dull or hard the blade is. You may opt to completely correct the sides one at a time. Alternatively, you may also alternate honing each side but make sure to slide them down the same number of times.

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Step 8: Clean the blades.

Wash the blade of the knife thoroughly under running water and dry it using a soft cloth. It’s true that honing the blade shouldn’t remove any metal from the blade, unlike genuine sharpening does. However, there can be microscopic filling that might have come off from the process, which is why cleaning the blade is still a must. You don’t want any metal filings ending up in the food you’re going to work with.

Step 9: Check the sharpness of the knife.

After the process, try checking the sharpness of your knife using the paper test. If your knife is still unable to slice through the paper cleanly and smoothly, then, it may already be too dull, knicked or pitted. What you do is either use other sharpening tools or better to have your knife sharpened by a professional.

How To Know If Your Knife Is Sharp


Now that you know how to use a knife sharpener, there are also other things you could do to make the process easier. Here are some tips you could also apply while honing the rod:

  • Ensure that the length of the knife sharpener rod you are using is the same as that of the blade you’re planning to hone. For example, if you are using a 12-inch knife, your knife sharpener rod must not be shorter than 12 inches as well.
  • Store the knife sharpener rod in an ideal position in the kitchen to keep it handy while you’re working. Remember that just cuts on a plastic or wooden cutting board can alter your knife’s intricate blade alignment. If you are using the knife often, you can easily be accustomed to its feel. If you feel something isn’t right, take a few strokes against the knife sharpener rod will restore its original condition, preventing the need to grind your knife forcefully against a whetstone.
  • Contrary to what most cooks believe, honing needs very little pressure. While doing the process, try to listen to steel. Any harsh rasping noise means that you are applying too much pressure on the knife and the blade. A quiet sound means that you are properly employing a featherlike stroke, which is what you just need.
  • Avoid banging the knife against the finger guard as it can damage the edges, causing it to be duller. Lastly, the most perfect angle between the blade and steel is 15 degrees.

Benefits of Using a Knife Sharpener Rod

While there are many available sharpening devices available in the market, using a knife sharpener rod actually provides an array of benefits. Before turning yourself into other tools, see below how honing steel can help you with your knives in the kitchen.

Saves Money. Getting a knife sharpener rod is an excellent investment and will save you a significant amount of money in the long run. The cost of purchasing a honing rod is considerably smaller compared to the cost of paying for honing services from a professional.

Saves Time and Effort. More often, dull knives simply need honing and not sharpening. Make sure to use a sharpener rod first and test your knife’s condition. If it’s corrected after the process, you have saved time and effort from the gritty sharpening process you’ll do using other sharpening tools.

Fast and Easy To Use. Sharpening cutlery can take a lot of time. Meanwhile, honing your knives using a knife sharpener rod is easier and faster to do. Through a few repeated strokes, you can quickly restore any dull knife and make cooking more fun to do.

Provides Longevity. Honing your knife via a knife sharpener rod is a proper way to maintain its excellent condition. Aside from aligning and removing the dullness from your blades, it provides you will cutlery mileage and improving your cooking a hundredfold. 


We hope these tips help! If you haven’t tried using a knife sharpener rod yet, it will surely be strange and awkward at first. No worries, though! You’ll get the hang of it soon! Just practice using the given instructions and you’ll be honing your knives like the professionals.

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