Keep your knives sharper, longer, by using a steel every time you pick up a knife.  Lots of people complain that their knives are dull, but I don't think I've ever seen a home cook use a steel (even though they are included in many knife sets).

I want to be clear here (and possibly clear up some misconceptions).  A steel will keep a knife sharp.  A steel will do nothing for a mostly or very dull knife.  A steel DOES NOT sharpen knives.  If you have a sharp knife and properly use a steel every time you use that knife, it will remain properly sharp 2 - 3 times longer than if you don't use a steel. This is, of course, a generalization and is variable depending on how much and how properly you use your knives, but it gives you an idea of the benefits of using a steel.

Note: I wouldn't recommend using a steel on serrated knives, especially the cheap knives with very small serrations (the 'miracle knives' that are on infomercials). 

Step 1: Why it works

Here are 3 pictures, each of a cross section of the very small cutting edge of a knife. The picture would be about a millimeter high, so the scale is very small.

The first is a sharp knife, this is what we're trying to maintain.

The second is a truly dull knife.  Using a steel on this edge will do nothing - you're wasting your time.

The third is a 'dulling' knife with the edge rolled over to one side; the very tip of the cutting edge deformed by normal use (even just a few cuts can do this).  After using a steel on this edge, the nice cutting edge of the sharp knife will be re-gained.   If not righted, the knife with an edge like this one will continue to deform and pretty soon you'll have a dull knife. NOTE:  Because it's so small, you can't really see this deformation.  Just because you don't see the edge of your knife deforming in this fashion doesn't mean it's not happening!
<strong>&nbsp;</strong><br> Great Instructable.<br> I always give my kitchen knives a few strokes with a steel before putting them away so I know they'll always be sharp next time I use them.&nbsp;<br> I also give the sharpened knife a wipe with a cloth to remove the steel powder from the blade, and give my steel a good wash every now and then as it's amazing how much powdered steel accumulates in the grooves.
Nicely done! Very few people understand how using a steel works, and you illustrated the process well.
Very few people understand sharpening in general. I'm not sure if this article is going to change that either. I do know you don't want a wire edge on a work knife. As feather edges do have a tendency to bend over, and that has the effect of making a knife dull. The only time a wire edge will help you is if you are scraping. A wire edge will never benefit anyone cutting anything though. The real solution to this problem is to strop a sharpened knife to remove the wire edge from the blade. A very sharp edge is still a fairly delicate affair, so a steel can be used to refine the edge between hones. Personally I can't be bothered using steels though. If I determine a knife is dull I just sharpen it. Using Henckels knives helps too :)

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