Sharpening Rod

All about the Sharpening Rod

What is a Sharpening Rod? Ceramic Rod or Steel Rod? Which one for which knife? We answer these questions and every other you might have about Sharpening Rods.

Why do you need a Sharpening Rod?

The most important thing in a nutshell:

With use, the cutting edge of a knife flips to one side, either a little faster or a little slower depending on the knife, and the knife’s cutting capacity is lost. A sharpening Rod, also known as Sharpening Steel, is a rod that is used to straighten the cutting edge after it has been blunted. This is accomplished by pulling the knife across the rod at the proper angle (typically approximately 15 degrees) with only a few strokes. The cutting edge returns to its original position, and the knife is once again ready for use.

Function of a Sharpening Rod:

How does a Sharpening Rod work? We explain it with the following pictures.

Standard cutting edge
Standard cutting edge
Folded cutting edge due to use (a burr has formed)
Folded cutting edge due to use (a burr has formed)
Straighten the edge with a sharpening rod (remove burr).
Straighten the edge with a sharpening rod (remove burr).
Straightened cutting edge
Straightened cutting edge

What can a Sharpening Rod do (and what can it not do)?

As a result, a sharpening rod is (often) not intended for honing a knife, but rather for straightening the folded cutting edge back into place. However, depending on the material and condition of the sharpening rod, this might also cause the knife to grind.

If the knife becomes severely dull (the cutting edge becomes round and cannot be straightened again), it should be sharpened with a whetstone or an abrasive (removing) sharpening tool to restore its angle.

It is recommended that you sharpen the knife “properly” at longer intervals (using a wet grindstone from 1000 grit or taking it to a trustworthy shop to get it done). And that you straighten the cutting edge as needed while in daily use with a polished/fine sharpening steel or a fine grindstone (from 3000 grit).

Read our article on appropriate knife care for more information on how to enjoy your knife for a long period of time.

There are roughly 3 different Types of Sharpening Rods:

The Sharpening Steel (Made of Steel)

  • Its purpose is to straighten the cutting edge once more.
  • It is not recommended for use in sharpening a knife.
  • The whetstone is a good complement to this tool (or other types of grinding).
Sharpening Steel Knife Sharpener Fine Draw
F. Dick Sharpening Steel Knife Sharpener Fine Draw

The sharpening steel is formed of metal, as implied by its name, and has a hardness ranging from 63 to 68 HRC in most cases. It includes elongated grooves that are designed to straighten the cutting edge of your knife after it has been dulled by repeated cutting. In order to accomplish this, the cutting edge of your knife is pulled over the sharpening steel at a specific angle (see illustration) (usually around 15 degrees). It is dependent on the width and number of grooves (fine tension) that the material removed is a little more or less than the amount of material removed and the sharpening effect is minimal.

Because sharpening steels remove very little material (i.e., they do not grind), they are an excellent complement to the whetstone in many situations. Sharpening rods made of ceramic or with diamond coating, on the other hand, are significantly more abrasive (remove material) and have a grinding effect as a result of this.

Our recommendation:

  • The cutting edge that has been knocked down by use should be straightened using the sharpest sharpening steel available (polished, micro- or super-fine). This will help to protect the blade and avoid the removal of superfluous material.
  • When your blades become really dull, use wet whetstones to sharpen them (the cutting edge is round and can no longer be straightened). The frequency with which you use your knives can range from once a month to once every three months.
  • You could consider using sharpening rods made of ceramic or with diamond coating instead of whetstones if you do not want to use whetstones but still want the sharpening effect.

The Ceramic Sharpening Rod

  • Its purpose is to straighten the cutting edge once more.
  • It removes material and produces a grinding effect as a result of this.
  • This is an excellent compliment to the grindstone (or other types of grinding).
Global G-74 Ceramic Sharpening Rod
Global G-74 Ceramic Sharpening Rod

Ceramic sharpening rods have the responsibility of restoring the cutting edge (burr) of your knife once it has been knocked down by repeated use of the knife. To accomplish this, you must pull the knife alternately from each side at a specific angle (often 15 degrees) over the sharpening rod until you no longer feel a folded edge on the blade (burr).

Ceramic sharpening rods, on the other hand, have a higher “abrasive” content than steel sharpening rods. As a result, they significantly remove material from the knife and do not “just” straighten the folded cutting edge as is commonly assumed. As a result, they have a sharpening impact as well. Ceramic sharpening rods are offered in a range of finenesses to suit your needs (in the case of whetstones, “grits”). We propose that you use the finest sharpening rods possible (from 3000 according to the Japanese standard) to avoid removing unneeded material from the blade.

So what does this mean?

If you really only want to use the sharpening rod to straighten the blade, since you will sharpen your knives with a wet whetstone (or take them to the grinder) when they are actually dull, we recommend the steel version. If you want your knife to be sharpened by the sharpening rod as well, you can use the variant made of ceramic or with diamond coating.

We usually recommend using a very fine sharpening steel (made of steel) to restore sharpness and do the “proper” sharpening as needed with a wet whetstone.

The Diamond Sharpening Rod

  • It is possible to utilize the diamond coating for grinding, since it is very material-removing (“abrasive”). If you merely want to straighten the cutting edge, this is not the best option.
  • The primary use of this tool is to grind the knife; the straightening effect is a secondary one.
  • If you do not want to use whetstones, there is an alternative (we recommend the use of whetstones, especially for high-quality knives).

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