Sharpening vs. honing vs. "touch-ups"

Joined Jan 16, 2011
I have never owned a steel in my life.

My parents had one.  They hadly used it.  It went to my brother when my stepdad passed and my mom moved into an apartment by herself and got rid of a lot of stuff she didn't use (I got the better end of it with the family cast iron skillet).  But whenever a knife dragged a bit, I would sharpen it since I actually found the activity very enjoyable.  I don't think my brother uses the steel either and it's probably just gathering dust in his drawer.

A lot of times, I would just do what I call "touching up" a blade -- a few light passes, spine first, on the "fine" side of my cheap combo oilstone.  I thought this was similar to what steels did until I learned you were supposed to go edge first with a steel. As I got better stones, this came to be done with the highest grit stone I have, whatever that was.  By the time I got the Takenoko, it really became a supershort polishing session with 5-10 spineward strokes per side, the same as I often do at the end of a full sharpening session.

As a home cook, I don't cook enough at a time to require steeling during a long cooking session.  A little touch up once or twice a week, and before I cook one of the big holiday meals, seem to do the job.  Now and again, usually once every month or two but sooner if I see any visible nicks or other visible edge issues, I feel that the touchups aren't doing it and I run through the full sharpening routine, which at this point goes 300 grit oilstone (only if there are nicks or other problems), King 1000, Aoto, and Takenoko. 

Anyway, I just wanted to see if you guys think there is any reason why I should get a steel at all... 
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
The steel is used for "orthodontics"...................

Most western knives prior to the 80's were soft steel.  The edge, which is microscopically thin, would curl over with use, leaving with a burr on one side and a dull edge.

The steel, which is grooved, has the job of pulling the burr back over again, leaving you with an edge.  This can only be done several times before the edge fatigues and wears off, and the whole blade needs to be re-profiled, "ie "sharpening" or removing metal in order to establish an edge.  
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