Messer abziehen / schärfen

      The sharpening steel should be an important part of your knife maintenance strategy, and is maybe the most mis-understood part.

When you use a knife for a while, especially a knife with a soft, thin edge like that found on a kitchen knife, the edge tends to turn a bit and come out of alignment.  Note that the edge is still reasonably sharp, but it won't feel or act very sharp because the edge may not point straight down anymore!  At this point, many people sharpen their knives, but sharpening is not necessary and of course decreases the life of the knife as you sharpen the knife away.  It's also akin to putting in a thumbtack with a sledgehammer.

The steel is used to re-align the edge on the knife.  Read that last sentence again.  Re-aligning the edge is all the steel needs to do. It does not need to remove any metal.  Since the steel's only function is to re-align, the sharpening steel can be perfectly smooth and still do its job.  You'll see many bumpy steels on the market, but this is almost certainly because consumers think that steels must have bumps to work.  The bumps can actually mess up the edge, and make the work of steeling more difficult.

There are two schools of thought on steels.  Some people use grooved steels, which align the edge more aggressively but are harder on the edge.  I use a smooth steel, which is easy on the edge but may align the edge more slowly.

To use the steel, run the knife along the steel on one side using light pressure -- no more pressure than the actual weight of the knife is required!  Then switch to the other side and do it again.  Repeat a number of times until your edge feels sharp and nice again.  I hold the steel in my left hand, the blade in my right, and lightly run the blade along the steel while keeping the steel stationary, but it's perfectly fine to move both steel and knife past each other at the same time, or whatever works for you.

Most people run the knife down the steel edge first, the same direction you use when sharpening.  This yields good results.
However, theoretically going edge-first along the steel could bite into the edge while straigtening it, and so many people like to go spine-first (like when stropping) instead.  This method also works but not so good. Maintain the 20°-30° angle to the surface.

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Ihr Team