DIY Projects

By Erin V. Mahoney -

How to Sharpen a Knife

Any chef or home cook knows both the joy and the necessity of a sharp knife. Dull knives not only make the task more laborious, they pose an incredible risk. A sharp, well-maintained instrument makes slicing - and dicing, and chopping and carving - exponentially easier and safer.

You will need:

  • A dull knife
  • A dry two-sided whetstone
  • A sharpening steel
  • A cutting board

  1. Sharpen: Under a lens a sharp knife will have a V-like edge. With use, the crisp edges dull to resemble more of a U-shape. Sharpening a knife involves removing trace amounts of steel from the blade to restore the distinct V-shape. Begin by placing your whetstone coarse-side-up on a damp dish towel to prevent it from slipping on the countertop. With the knife in your dominant hand, place the heel of the knife edge on the stone at an angle of 22.5 degrees, or ¼ of a right angle. Using your non-dominant hand, apply consistent pressure at the spine of the blade. Drag the blade from heel to tip on the stone. Always direct the sharp side of the knife away from you. Repeat this several times. Turn the knife over and repeat the process. Turn the whetstone to its fine grain side and repeat sharpening both sides.
  2. Hone: Honing restores the straightness of the blade, but does not remove any steel from the instrument itself. Over time, the blade may visibly bow or the teeth of the knife may bend. To restore the teeth to a neutral position, hone the knife using a sharpening steel. In your non-dominant hand, hold the sharpening steel upright against a cutting board. Again place the knife in your dominant hand and at a 22.5 degree angle against the rod. Drag the knife from heel to tip along the sharpening steel. Repeat several times. Then place the opposite side of the knife against the steel and repeat. Rinse the blade to remove any steel particles accumulated during sharpening, then dry thoroughly.
  3. Maintain: Take a few precautions to preserve your newly-sharpened knives:
  • Hand wash after every use.
  • Dry with a dish towel to prevent rusting.
  • Store in a knife sleeve in a drawer for best protection. If using a knife block, insert knives so that the spine slides against the wood.
  • Use cutting boards made of pliable materials, such as wood, bamboo or plastic.

Did you try your hand at this DIY project? If so, we want to hear from you! Tell us about your process and product below.

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