How to Use a Knife Sharpening Rod

How to Use a Knife Sharpening Rod
Sharpening rods come in many variations, but they all work the same way. Your technique matters more than the rod itself, although you may want to invest in a higher quality rod as your skills and taste for knives develop.

No matter the brand or model, sharpening steels are used the same way. Most manufacturers recommend using one while standing at the kitchen counter or seated at a table.

The Set Up

Take the sharpening steel and place the tip on the table, held upright with the handle at the top.

With one hand, grasp the handle firmly, keeping it perpendicular with the flat surface at all times.

With the other hand, grasp the knife handle and place the blade at a 20-to-30 degree angle in relation to the sharpening steel. Place the blade as close to the guard as possible, set to start at the part of the blade closest to the tang.

Move the Blade

In one motion, move the blade down the length of the rod while at the same time draw the blade fully across the steel. When you near the flat surface you are working from, though without touching the surface, you should be at the blade tip.


Raise the blade to where you started from, switching the blade to the opposite side, then repeat the same stroke. Then, return to the side you started from, and repeat once again. Do an equal amount of strokes for both sides of the blade.

Getting Better

As you become more comfortable using the sharpening steel, you can forego the flat surface and hold the steel with one hand similar to how you would a large kitchen knife. With the other hand, place the blade on the rod at the recommended 20-to-30 degree angle and lightly push the blade across the rod, ending at the blade tip.

I highly recommend you not proceed to this step until you are confident enough, because with this alternate method chances for not holding the angle correctly is greater.

Let the Rod Do the Work

Whatever method you use, remember to always use light strokes. There is no need to bear down on the blade with pressure. Let the rod do the work.

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