If you consider yourself a kitchen connoisseur, then you likely know all about honing rods. For those less experienced, honing rods are kitchen tools that appear at first glance like dull, cylindrical swords with flat tips. This tool, used for straightening the teeth of kitchen knives, can be incredibly useful. However, it is crucial that you do the proper research before buying one.
Honing rods are not all the same. There are superior and inferior models depending on the brand, length, material, and a variety of other factors. Additionally, honing rods may appear to sharpen kitchen knives, but this is not the function of a honing rod. Thus, honing rods should not be purchased for the purpose of sharpening kitchen knives.
Honing rods, although not an effective tool for sharpening kitchen knives are still a necessary inclusion for anyone between new kitchen experimenters to expert kitchen connoisseurs. Keep reading to learn more about honing rods, the difference between honing rods and sharpening rods, and the best honing rod materials, lengths, and brands for your specific needs.
Now that the cats out of the bag and you know that some honing rods are better than others let’s get into the why.
Honing rods, which are also frequently called honing steels, steels, or hones, are tools that perform an important maintenance task for your knives, straightening out the bent edges of your knife. This is typically referred to as “folding back the burr.”
There are three types of material that a honing rod will typically consist of.
This material will be used to make the rod portion of a honing rod. The handle portion of a honing rod is typically made of rubber or plastic. Apart from this, the only significant perceivable variance between different honing rods in length. Honing rods tend to measure 10 to 12 inches in length, or 15 to 18 inches if including the handle.
Although these are the only visually discernible features of honing rods, more distinctions further segregate disparate honing rods. These distinctions are generally related to the brand of the honing rod.
There are many different kitchenware brands that produce honing rods. Here is a list of some of the most popular, effective brands for producing honing rods.
Each of these brands is highly regarded by kitchenware enthusiasts and experts alike. Still, there are subtle differences between each brand that may be the distinguishing factor between which honing rod is right for you.
However, before we look into the honing rods offered by each brand, let’s get a better understanding as to exactly how a honing rod works.
To understand how a honing rod works, we first must understand what causes a kitchen knife to deteriorate over time. Kitchen knives all have microscopic teeth on their edges, which will constantly get bent out of shape with regular use.
While your first instinct may be to simply sharpen the blade, this is not necessarily the right choice. Sharpening a knife is a destructive process, which means you are technically removing part of the knife’s blade to refine it.
Honing, on the other hand, is not a destructive process. Therefore, for regular kitchen knife maintenance, it makes far more sense to hone your blades than to sharpen them. Regularly sharpening your kitchen knives will only wear them out as fast as if you had never maintained them at all.
Now that we know how a honing rod works let’s take a closer look at the steps to using a honing rod on your kitchen knives.
Using a honing rod is quite simple. However, judging from the number of people who do not even know what a honing rod is, it is okay if you are unfamiliar with how to use a honing rod. There are just four simple steps to using a honing rod.
Let’s take a closer look at each individual step in this process.
The first step to using a honing rod is to hold the rod properly. To hold a honing rod properly, first, place a slightly damp dishtowel on your kitchen counter and hold the honing rod from the handle facing down into the dishtowel, forming a perfect 90-degree angle. This will anchor the honing rod, ensuring that the only moving piece in this procedure is the knife.
It is recommended that you fold the dish towel into fourths or halves, depending on its size, and dampen it to increase the stability on the tip of the honing rod. Your grip on the honing rod should be firm but be careful not to overexert and send the honing rod off its axis.
Now that you have situated your honing rod, it is time to incorporate the kitchen knife. First, pick up your knife with your free hand and rest the heel, or back corner, of the knife blade at the highest point on the rod, closest to the handle. Then, tilt the knife away from the rod, forming a 15-degree angle.
This angle is most effective at targeting the knife’s teeth and will keep the dull side of the knife facing you, keeping you out of harm’s way.
With your knife placed at the top of the honing rod in its starting position angle of 15 degrees, you can now begin honing your blade. Start by gliding the knife down the rod while simultaneously sliding the knife from its heel to its tip. Both of these movements should be smooth, with minimal pressure exerted against the honing rod.
These movements may feel unnatural when you start out, but most people tend to get the hang of it after a couple of minutes. Start slowly to perfect the movement before speeding up.
Once you have perfected the dual movement of gliding the knife down the honing rod while sliding the knife from heel to tip, it is time to move on to the final step. To ensure that your kitchen knife gets evenly repaired, it is important that you alternate the side of the knife you are sliding against the honing rod.
To do this, simply alternate the side of the honing rod you are using. So, if you started on the left side, alternate to the right side. This will target the opposite side of the knife than whichever side you began with.
Now, before we get into the best brands and models in the honing rod market, it is important that we know what to look for when choosing a honing rod. There are several key factors that affect the efficacy of a honing rod.
The length of a honing rod can affect which knives you are able to use on the honing rod. The material of a honing rod can affect how well it can mend your kitchenware. Finally, the grit of a honing rod can affect both of these things.
Although most honing rods feature a standard grit, there are a few models that feature multiple grits in one honing rod. These models will be pointed out in the section below.
With all of this information in mind, it is time to pick out the perfect honing rod for your kitchen needs. There are many kitchenware brands that offer honing rods as part of their knife set or as a singular product. Let’s take a look at some of the best honing rods offered by these kitchenware brands.
Let’s examine each of these tools a bit closer, regarding their material, length, price, and any other relevant details in making a purchase.
Buck Knives, an American kitchenware manufacturer, founded in 1902, is generally known for its impressive catalog of knives. However, its EdgeTek Tri-Grit Ultra Steel Diamond Knife Sharpener 10 is a strong contender within the honing rod market.
As a German cutlery manufacturer founded all the way back in 1778, F. Dick has certainly stood the test of time. During this time, it has received some acclaim, particularly from Anthony Bourdain in his book, Kitchen Confidential.
Founded fairly recently, in 1976, Diamond Machining Technology is the self-proclaimed leading innovator of manual diamond sharpening technology. The manufacturer is located in Marlborough, Massachusetts, and it prides itself on being a solely US manufacturer.
Green Elephant Kitchen, a company, specializing primarily in kitchen knives and shaving razors, also offers an excellent, inexpensive honing rod.
Kota Japan, an excellent homeware manufacturer for residents and lovers of the island nation, features its very own eBook guide to help you through using some of its products. This includes its honing rod, the Kota Japan Diamond Coated Steel Sharpener.
Messermeister, founded in 1981 by Bernd and Debra Dressler, brings authentic German and Japanese cutlery to the United States. An excellent example of its many qualitative products is its Ceramic Rod Knife Sharpener.
Founded in 1886 and located in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Smith’s Products delivers a fine assortment of various homeware and outdoor tools. If you need anything from a sanding belt to a gut hook, Smith’s Products is the right place for you.
Utopia Kitchen is an excellent, Amazon-affiliated store where customers can purchase basic kitchenware items like cutlery to far more extravagant items like a cheese board set or even a compost bin.
Victorinox is a luxury watchmaker and knife manufacturer founded in Switzerland in 1884 by Karl Elsener. Although the brand is perhaps best known for its Swiss Army knives, which it has become the sole supplier of to the Swiss army, the manufacturer also makes a commendable honing rod.
Winware is a subsidiary of WinCo Foods, a company originally founded in 1967 and is now already placing in the top 60 on Forbes’ list of the largest privately-owned companies in the United States. Although it is not primarily known for its cutlery, WinCo has produced some effective kitchenware over recent years.
Zwilling J.A. Henckels is one of the largest and oldest manufacturers of kitchenware and homeware around the world. Originating in Solingen, Germany, Peter Henckels’ modest company has now expanded around the world to places like Paris, New York City, and China, where it has roughly 200 sub-stores.
At the end of this article, it should be clear exactly what honing rods are, how honing rods work, how to use a honing rod, why honing rods are different from one another, and which honing rod is the right fit for you.
Ultimately, honing rods are an important facet of any kitchen, and the best way to figure out any of the above is to get started using a honing rod as soon as possible.