Nov 032014
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For this month’s Wood News Online we received the following Ask the Staff question from Joe Tomeo:

I would like to know if a steel used for knife sharpening is the same tool as a burnisher that is used to sharpen a card scraper?

Read our answer in the comments below and feel free to leave your own answer in the comments section!

  2 Responses to “Ask the Staff: Sharpening Steel”

  1. Joe,

    The short answer to your question is: it could be.

    A good quality, smooth and hardened steel rod is just that. If it is harder than the metal of the card scraper, it can “move steel” and thus deform a burr on the edge of the cabinet scraper OR if harder than the metal in a knife edge, it can move the edge of the knife.

    You may find that the shank of a really high quality screw driver (like perhaps the Snap-On brand), could be harder than the steel in a cabinet scraper or a high carbon kitchen knife and could be used as a burnisher or a knife steel.

    A knife steel used on kitchen cutlery can make an edge feel sharper, but actual does not “sharpen” the edge. A steel is used to make a deformed edge of a knife straight again. The thin edge of a sharp knife blade, from lateral pressures applied during use, can get slightly deformed and not be in line with the centerline of the knife blade (before the edge actually gets dull). The kitchen steel, if used correctly, can push the edge back into line. The steeling rod is not designed to remove material from the edge, it is used to realign the edge to be straight again and thus it will take less pressure to push the edge as you cut and will cut more efficiently (it feels sharper). This can only work if the metal in the blade of the knife is not too hard. Really hard alloys used in some kitchen knives would not deform with use, but simply chip or break (at a microscopic level) and thus the edge would not be able to be effectively improved with a kitchen steel. The edge would have to be ground sharp again by way of a sharpening stone that removes metal (like all cutting edges require eventually).

    I have seen some kitchen steels with fine grooves (not polished smooth). I have never seen a burnishing tool for cabinet scrapers with grooves. I would gather the smooth polished (and hard) surface of the burnisher has the best chance to “deform” the crisp 90 degree edge of the scraper, without adding small fractures and making the burr more fragile, like could happen with a grooved steel burnisher.

    Using a kitchen steel on knives does require finesse and should be done paying close attention to keeping a consistent and correct angle. The fast moving “steeling” performed by chefs on TV may look impressive, but it does not help the cook at home to learn to adopt a reliable and repeatable method for steeling their knife edges back into shape.

    See more info on using a burnisher on a cabinet scraper by CLICKING HERE.


    Highland Staff

  2. Thank you for your informative answer. You really covered the questions I had!

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