How to Sharpen Your Knife With a Rod Like a Seasoned Chef

June 28, 2022

Is your new favorite knife getting dull from all the cutting and cooking? Or do you have an entire rack of knives that you've been meaning to sharpen but haven't gotten around to yet? Perhaps you’re simply looking for information on how to sharpen your knife with the rod you have hanging around in the kitchen? 

Whether you are a novice or a pro, having the right kitchen tools at their best quality is important to produce the best cooking results. So if you're a total newbie to knives or rods, here's an article to help you along this journey.

Why Do We Sharpen Knives?

  • For Safety

Knives need to be sharpened regularly for commercial purposes or personal use. It might surprise beginners, but a blunt or dull knife is actually more dangerous. In addition, these kitchen tools can cause injuries if not maintained properly. 

  • For Maintenance

One thing to keep in mind is your knife's anatomy: 

A knife's essential elements are vanadium, molybdenum, chromium, and carbon. These elements are fused to form an alloy, which becomes the metal used to make blades. When they mix with carbon, they produce carbides, which are small, incredibly hard particles. They function similarly to the aggregate in concrete, which is added with cement to strengthen it. Carbides are uncovered as steel wears away from honing and use, prompting them to pop out. Knives chip with each cut.

Think of an ice skating rink. Why do you think it needs to be maintained regularly using a Zamboni? After periods of use, one can see the chipped surface of the ice, which wouldn't fare well enough for future users. Some might even experience accidents. So to use the ice skating rink properly, it needs to be managed and looked after. 

  • For Better Function

When you use more force to cut through an ingredient because of its blunt edge, you have more tendency to slip, cut, or stab yourself in the process. Thus, it would be best if you considered refreshing your knives with a rod to allow this kitchen tool so they remain straight, sharp, and in excellent shape throughout its use.

Many different sharpeners are available today, but this article will focus on the kitchen utensil called a rod. It's a manual knife sharpener that is easy to use and can get the job done easily at home without electricity or batteries.

Why Choose a Rod? 

Unlike other kitchen accessories, a rod, also known as sharpening steel, butcher's steel, or honing steel, looks nothing like a device paired with knives. But did you know that after using a whetstone (if you're extra particular), you can use a rod to smoothen out the rough edges of your blade? So, yes, it goes hand-in-hand with a whetstone. But, if your options are limited, you can settle with the good old sharpening steel. 

So grab your rod or purchase one if you haven't yet. There are plenty of different brands, so shop around until you find one that feels comfortable in your hand and has features that matter most to you (like price). 

Ready? Let's start! 

How to Sharpen With a Rod Sharpener?

  • Step one: The first thing you want to do is get your rod onto a cutting board or anything with a flat surface where you can hold it securely. Maybe pass on silicone chopping boards since it will probably be too slippery. A dry, secure surface will ensure that the knife doesn't slip out of your hand while you're trying to sharpen it, leading to a kitchen injury!
  • Step two: Position your rod like a cello you're about to play on the flat surface, ensuring it's secure. The rod's handle must be facing your chest, with a foot and a half distance between them. Place the tip of your blade (near the back) on the rod. Pull the tool down in an arching motion, away from your body. 
  • Step three: To have more control over the blade, put your finger at the very back of the knife. It would be best if you also considered putting four to six pounds of pressure on it, with a twelve to fifteen-degree angle for each arching motion. 
  • Step four: The first few strokes should have more pressure; slowly lighten it up until the last stroke. If you're going to do ten strokes per side, consider putting six pounds of pressure on the first five strokes. Then, five pounds of pressure for three strokes. Finally, four pounds of pressure for the last two.
  • Step five: Turn to the other side of the blade and finish with ten more strokes on the steel. Hone thoughtfully with the needed pressure to achieve symmetrical desired results. You can test it out on a piece of meat to check if the sharpening is to your liking.

When do you need to change either of these kitchen utensils? Of course, it depends on how well you take care of each tool. But since you're a beginner who's starting to find appreciation in these things, here's how to take care of these kitchen gadgets better:

Caring for Your Rod

Now that you've learned how to use it, you may be wondering, "how do I take care of this piece of stainless steel?" Not many people know that you should also maintain your kitchen utensils from time to time. It's pretty simple. 

After sharpening your knife with a rod (once or twice a week, depending on your amount of usage), you can wipe it down with a dry cloth. Once you've exhausted your sharpening steel after honing different knives, a damp towel with a bit of vinegar will remove the accumulated metal residue. If you don't do this, there's a pretty big chance that your rod will get clogged. 

A set of knives hanging on the walls, with a rack of it on the wooden countertop, next to the basket of lemons and plants

Store it away from your knives to prevent scratches, but keep it close so you can have easy access. Make sure it is dry because stainless steel will still rust, so it's best to take preventive measures. 

Caring for Your Knife

Now that you know how to use this kitchen tool to sharpen and polish your knife take note of its cleanliness and maintenance so it can last a lifetime. After sharpening them with a rod, give it a quick yet proper wash with a gentle, dishwashing liquid. You can opt for the baking soda alternative to keep this kitchen utensil sparkling clean without the added chemicals. Then, dry them properly with a clean tea towel. 

A pair of hands wiping a wet knife with an orange and blue tea towel

If your knife starts to rust, vinegar or lemon juice from your food storage will help remove it. Rinse and dry these utensils thoroughly after washing them to avoid further rusting

Now You Know How to Sharpen a Knife With a Rod

Sharpening your knives with a rod may take some time to get used to, especially if you're a beginner. However, dedicate at least five minutes of your day to practice the strokes, and you'll soon find it natural to do the arching strokes.

The key is to make sure that you're comfortable and relaxed when you start sharpening this kitchen utensil. In addition, you want to be able to concentrate on what you're doing to avoid any kitchen mishaps. Explore our website to learn more tips on caring for your kitchen knives! You can also gather information on different knife accessories from our extensive list of buying guides and reviews.

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