Sharpening Steel

Dec 13, 2000
Can anybody explain the right technique to use a sharpening steel to touch up the edge for 3-4" folder? I bought a steel for about $3.00 and I also wanted to know if the price range of steels is large and if quality of the sharpening steel is that big of an issue. It is made of chrome vanadium. I also ordered a Spyderco Sharpmaker 204 so how many times would you say I should use the steel to bring back the edge before I know that I need to use the sharpener? I do mostly light duty cutting such as food prep or small packages but nothing that would be heavy use on my blades. Thanks for the help.
Having worked in a pig plant, and owning the Razor's Edge sharpenign kit, I have a bit of experience with steels.

First of all, a steel doesn't actaully sharpen a knife. Sharpening removes steel, while a "steel" aligns the edge. When you use a knife the edge usually bends out of place before to wears away, so steeling re-aligns the edge! Cool eh!

A smooth steel is better than a ridged one. Steels with ridges on them are rough on an edge and although they do work, you will destroy your edge faster.

As far as technique goes, the KISS method is to hold the steel vertical, such as resting the tip on a table so that the steel is pointing straight up. Then stroke your knife on both sides of the steel at an angle slightly larger than the sharpenign angle, and do it lightly. 5-10 times per side ought to do it. I have heard that steeling can weaken an edge over time, and I believe this is correct. But, with daily steeling of my folders I have been able to go waaayyyy longer between sharpenings.

keys in your technique are keeping the same angle on both sides, golightly, not too many strokes and don't bank your knife on the steel. A light stroke realigns the edge, so if your blade hits the steel roughly, it won't so it any good.

P.S., for a great steel, check out Razor Edge Systems folding steel!

"Come What May..."
Steels are a real boon. If you don`t really abuse the edge, you can keep it with a steel for a very long time without stoning.

I prefer the grooved steel for kitchen knives. it gives a better meat cutting edge.
It is also fast.

If you want to shave, go with smooth.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">A smooth steel is better than a ridged one.</font>

A ridged steel can damage a blade if it is used with excessive pressure and the blade steel is hard, you will then get fracturing and while the edge will be aggressive, once it wears you have a lot of grinding to do to restore it as you have to go past the damaged area.

However with proper technique you can get good results. Because the ridges cause a lot of pressure, you want to use very light force if you are trying to just align the edge. It will do this much faster than a smooth steel. On blades that are decently soft and are not that wear resistant, a ridged steel will act like a fine file.

Both types of steels are very cheap so buy both and experiment a little with them.

I use a Razor's edge folding steel edge first. It's very nice for the money, and does an excellent job.
Use it as if your slicing into something, smooth and consistantly - not aggresively like you've seen people do with kitchen knives on TV.