Honing steel is an oft-overlooked tool when it comes to keeping up the quality of Japanese knives. By regularly honing the blade with a honing steel before and after every usage, you act as a preventative measure ensuring that the edge remains sharp and intact and also help to extend the lifespan of your knife. Honing eliminates tiny deformities in the blades’ sides called micro serrations, eventually leading to less wear and tear on your knife. This results in improved performance, safety and convenience when cutting foods with your knife.

You can easily find a honing steel for Japanese knives at hardware stores or online – these are usually made from steel or ceramic, each varying in their hardness, but all providing a great tool for maintaining proper maintenance on your knife longer lasting sharpness. The size of honing steel should be long enough so that you can comfortably handle it; this typically ranges between 8-12 inches, so choose one that fits best for your hand. When using a honing steel it is important to use an angle of about 20° for efficiency; a higher angle will cause more harm than benefit to your blade. Additionally using light pressure is key – too hard can damage the edge while too soft won’t help sharpen the blade effectively.

History of Japanese Knives

Japanese knives are steeped in a long and fascinating history. While there is no definite answer on when the first Japanese knife was made, they have certainly been around and developed extensively since ancient times. Initially, these knives were primitive looking and consisted of stones, clay pieces and even shark teeth. Over time they began to take shape as slimmer blades with bamboo handles and later with metal blades and wooden handles crafted by the most skilled artisans in Japan.

The evolution in Japanese knife design really took shape during the late 16th century when many of the prominent families of Japan created their own personal styles of swords. From there, hunters who needed slim and light blades for hunting smaller game also developed their own personal styles of knives. This continued into post-samurai era Japan when specialised knives for butchery as well as other specific tasks began to be produced by various knife makers.

Today, Japanese knife designs range from all sorts of purpose-designed blades to traditional shapes that have been honed through centuries of refinement. Many globally recognisable styles have existed since the late 1600s when blade alloys allowed for stronger metals required to make certain types, such as the iconic Samurai Swords or Katana Swords. The development of new materials such as ceramic added a degree versatility to modern knives by providing ultra-hard edges that could be maintained much better than those found on metal alloys. The honing steel is often used in conjunction with specialised stones which can fine tune and refine the whole cutting edge optimising it for use in delicate tasks like sushi making or cleaning fish

In a nutshell, over hundreds of years different aspects of design combined with ever evolving materials have enabled us today to enjoy a huge variety of different crafted knives from chefs’ Knives to Sushi Knives – all forged and perfected thanks to centuries worth skills refined within Japanese culture itself.

Sharpening and Honing

Sharpening and honing are two processes that are often used to maintain the sharpness of a knife, but they should not be confused with each other. Sharpening is when the actual edge of the blade is ground down to create new, sharp edges using abrasive materials, while honing is when a finer material is used to refine an existing edge that has become dull or damaged without taking off any material.

If a Japanese knife has been used for a long time and was not regularly sharpened or honed before use, it will likely need more than just honing to recover its original edge. Honing can restore the ideal angle of the knife’s cutting edge, but it cannot replace material that has been lost from wear and tear. In this instance, it may be necessary to sharpen with an abrasive sharpening stone or a combination of both Honing and Sharpening using special jigs such as Kiya Honing Steel or Suehiro Samurai King Stones to bring a dulled blade back up to optimal performance again.

Honing Tools

Honing techniques for keeping your Japanese knife sharp are essential. Without regularly honing the blade, you risk dulling its performance and damaging the blade’s edge over time. The type of honing tool used is important, as it can affect the longevity of the blade and affect cut quality.

One type of honing tool that is used to maintain a Japanese knife’s sharpness is a honing steel. Honing steels are made with different materials such as stainless steel rods or ceramic rods. A well-maintained hone steel will keep your razor-sharp edge longest. For stainless steel rods, it is recommended to apply an oil coating to provide additional protection and reduce burr formation due to drying in cold climates. Honing steels should be used at least once per week, but ideally more often depending on usage frequencies.

Another type of honing tool used for maintenance and upkeep of Japanese knives are wet stones or synthetic water stones. Wet stones consist of fine abrasive particles suspended in liquid, which can penetrate metals much more effectively than dry particles from sandpaper or other abrasives that simply rub against the surface without cutting into it properly. To use wet stones for maintaining a knife’s edge, soak the stone for about 5 minutes with water at room temperature before using it again until its color becomes darker due to embedding finely ground metal into the stone’s pores; this reveals how heavily the stone has been used before and which levels of grit it still retains effectiveness on when hone Japanese knives’ edges according to their respective fine-to-coarse properties. Synthetic water stones are also available on the market; they don’t need soaking like natural wet stones but require frequent rinsing under running tap water in order to clean any debris off their surfaces and reset their levels back down to coarse consistency, ready once again for another round onto finer polishing operations as needed along one’s journey towards peak sharpness!

Knife Maintenance Basics

Honing a Japanese knife is perhaps the most important step in keeping it in top condition. In order to keep your blade sharp, you must be able to maintain it properly. A honing steel is an essential tool to maintain the sharpness of a Japanese knife. Honing steels come in various shapes and sizes, with the most common being round or cylindrical with a handle on one side. To use a honing steel, start by placing the heel of the blade against the base of the steel, at an angle between 10 and 20 degrees per side depending on the type of blade. Hold your hand steady and press lightly as you move forward along one side of the steel, then flip over and repeat on the other side. As you hone, always keep your eyes fixed on that same angle to ensure consistency in your honing angle throughout each subsequent stroke. Be sure to give extra care to both sides of the tip area as those are usually more sensitive than any other part of a Japanese knife blade. Finally, don’t forget to rinse your blade off after honing so that all bits of built up residue are removed from its surface blades along with any other impurities that got stuck during honing process itself. Honing regularly is an essential part of maintaining any good quality chef’s or kitchen knife – failure to do so can lead too easily too dull or even damaged blades over time if not maintained correctly!

Honing Techniques

Honing a Japanese knife begins with the use of a honing steel, also known as a “sharpeners rod.” This is for aligning, or straightening, the cutting edge of the blade through smooth strokes that are done in an alternating pattern. Using one hand, tip down the honing steel and move it along the length of the Japanese knife’s blade at an angle of 10-15 degrees. With the other hand, slide your blade up and down while maintaining the same angle against the honing steel. Do this consistently on both sides to ensure maximum sharpness. A stone can be used after you have polished and sharpened your blade by honing. Use a fine grit stone to finetune and deburr your blade before using it again. Be sure to lubricate your stone with some water or oil as required before starting sharpening or any steps of honing for that matter.

Post-Hone Care

Post-hone care for Japanese knives is of utmost importance. After using a honing steel, it is essential to rinse off any metallic particles that have accumulated on the blade by wiping it down with a damp cloth and drying it before storage. It is also important to treat the blade with food-safe oil or wax as necessary to keep the surface smooth and/or prevent rust.

Furthermore, in order to ensure continued sharpness and maintain the quality of your Japanese knife, proper storage is key. Make sure to use a sheath or store the knife in a drawer away from other utensils to avoid dulling or scratching the blade. Knives should not be stored directly on countertops or left exposed to air where they will corrode faster due to oxidation.


When honing Japanese knives, it is important to use the right tool. Honing steels specifically designed for Japanese knives are the best choice, as they provide the required angle and size needed to effectively sharpen and keep an edge on Japanese blades. It is also essential to respect the manufacturer’s instructions regarding correct maintenance. Sharpening angles and frequencies should be respected to ensure that the knife maintains its sharpness without compromising its structural integrity. Taking proper care of a Japanese knife will help ensure that its blade stays sharp, reliable, and in excellent condition for years to come.