How to Sharpen Kitchen Knives

How to Sharpen Kitchen Knives

Make sure your kitchen knives are in tip-top shape with these tips and kitchen must-haves.


By: Amanda Formaro

Using a dull knife is not only annoying — it's dangerous! When your knife is dull you’re forced to apply more pressure to it, which can make it more likely to slip — causing a painful cut. Keeping your knives sharp is actually much easier that you might think.

Sharpening your knives doesn't have to be a big chore, either. In fact, if you cook daily, you only need to sharpen your knife once or twice a month. Honing your knife is a different story though and should be done every time you use it.

There are a few things you will need to maintain your knives, which, if taken care of, can last you a lifetime:

  • Whetstone
    A fine-grain stone with a fine-grit side and a coarse-grit side, used for sharpening the beveled edge of your knife (the blade).

  • Honing Steel
    A rod of steel used to refine the sharpened blade and keep it straight, also called "keeping the edge."

  • Wooden Cutting Board
    Wood is more forgiving and better for your knife's edge. Never cut on countertops, marble, granite, etc., as they can wear down your blades.

Alternative Tools

  • Diamond steel
    This tool is optional while the whetstone and honing steel are knife must-haves. The diamond steel is fairly new to the market and is similar to a honing steel. It looks like a flattened honing steel rod, and its surface is embedded with abrasive diamond particles. This tool can be used for quick sharpening touch-ups.

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  • Handheld sharpener
    These little gadgets are great in a pinch, but should not be used to replace a whetstone for proper knife care.

Using a Whetstone
Soak your whetstone in water for about 10 minutes prior to sharpening your knives. Place a kitchen towel onto a wooden cutting board. Remove the stone from the water and place it on the towel, coarse grit facing upward. Watch for little bubbles coming from the stone. Once the bubbles stop, it is thoroughly soaked (which helps keep the water on the surface and not get soaked into the porous stone as soon as you pull it out).

Hold the knife by the handle with the point touching the stone. The object is to keep a beveled edge on your knife, so you'll need to hold the knife at a 22.5-degree angle. Hint: this is half of a 45-degree angle. Use your free hand to steady the flat side of the blade. Do not apply pressure.

Slide the blade upwards on the stone from point to end. Repeat this motion nine more times. Turn the knife over and repeat this method 10 times on the other side. This reshapes the edge of the blade by grinding off small amounts of steel. Turn the whetstone over to the fine grit side and repeat the above steps.

Using the Honing Steel
The honing steel is used to refine what the whetstone accomplished. It will clean up and smooth out the blade of your knife.

Hold the honing steel straight up and down, point side touching your wooden cutting board. Hold your knife crossways against the steel rod with the back of the blade (closest to the handle) touching the steel. Tilt the knife with the edge meeting the steel at a 22.5-degree angle and pull the knife backward toward you and down the shaft of the steel. Do this 10 times on each side.

Clean Up and Maintenance

  • Rinse your sharpened and honed blade, and carefully wipe it with a soft towel.
  • Each time you use your knife, you should hone it on your honing steel. This will keep the blade aligned.
  • Wash and dry your knives right after use. Avoid placing knives in the dishwasher or leaving them in the sink. Not only do you run the risk of damaging the blade of your knife, it's also dangerous for those reaching in for other items.
  • Use a knife sheath to guard the blade or place knives in a knife block.
  • Be sure that knives are dry before placing into a knife block to avoid mildew.

Amanda is a mother of four, craft designer and recipe developer who also runs several sites, including Crafts by Amanda , Cooking with Amanda and the Secret Recipe Club. Her work has appeared on SheKnows.com and Family.com as well as in Parents, Redbook and Mixing Bowl magazines among others.

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