So, Does Homemade Honing Steel Work?

I think it does.

My mom’s knives needed to be sharpened. Normally I would sharpen the knives with the current manufactured batch, but since the honing steels, whilst not finished yet, got to a stage when they can be at least tested, I have decided to test them. So instead of sharpening the knives on my belt grinder and stropping them with the MDF wheel, I have sharpened them the old fashioned way on a whetstone and then honed the edge on steel.

First a picture of a “blunted edge” bevel.

Edge bevel before sharpening. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

You can see the perpendicular scratches right near the edge. Those were made by the belt sander. The angled scratches are from half-arsed maintenance with a whetstone that I have done last week when I did not have time to do the job properly. This is not, strictly speaking, a blunt knife. It would still take yer finger off in a jiffy and was perfectly fine for hard veggies like carrots and taters. But it did struggle with tomatoes a bit. Notice how the light reflects differently from the mirror-polished primary bevel, which thus appears nearly black.

As far as size goes. this bevel is very small – about 0,3 mm wide.

100 grit bevel re-established at ca 15 °
© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

First I have re-established nice regular bevels at 15° with the rough side of the whetstone, which has circa 100 grit. 15-20 passes were needed, even though the bevels are very small – the steel is very hard. It does not look very different from the first picture, except for the scratches being all angled all the way to the edge now. On carbon steel, this would establish a so-called “needle” which is a thin foil of steel on the edge that bends and cannot be ground away, but I have not seen this happen with N690. The needle here breaks usually off very easily, leaving behind a bit of jagged edge.

320 grit bevel smoothened
© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

Fine 320 grit side of the whetstone is used to slightly smooth the edges and eventually break off the needle on harder and brittle steels (like most stainless steels). However here it does not look that much different from the second picture, which I did not expect. The knife at this stage is perfectly capable of cutting tomatoes, but it does not shave hair yet. And this is where the test of the honing steels comes into play.

Bevel burnished by honing steel.
© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full

Now the bevel looks significantly different from before. Note that the edge is now mirror-polished between some of the deeper scratches – the light reflects very differently from the bevel than it did before. The knife is now also shaving-sharp not only tomato-cutting-with-its-own-weight sharp.

So TLDR is –  Although this is not a scientific proof, I am convinced and I think the honing steel works as intended.


  1. fusilier says

    Very nice. I’m envious of your work.

    How did you take the photos? Macro lens Onan SLR, microscope camera?


    James 2:24

    Just FYI, here in ‘Murica we refer to a “wire edge,” instead of a “needle.”

  2. says

    @fusilier, thank you.
    I could not remember the proper English terminus technicus, so I translated it from my native language.
    I have a small cheapo USB microscope, which is essentially just a webcam with in-built LED lights and two buttons. I got it from work where it was being tossed away on account of the installation CD being lost and I have managed to get it to work with software downloaded from the internet.

  3. says

    @Marcus, make a picture, my guess would be that its look depends on what you did prior to that 12,000 grit. If you go to it from a coarser grit, then it looks probably similar to the last picture. If you got there through a gradient of finer and finer grits, then it is probably just mirror polished.

    In my opinion, anything over 800 or maybe 1.000 grit is a bit excessive, bar some really, really special applications. I have gotten knife shaving sharp with a stone found by the wayside and a towel. A cheap whetstone and something to buff/strop the edge after that is perfectly sufficient for 99% of knives in 99% of households.

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