Tool: Honing Steel
Photo: Sur La Table
A honing or sharpening steel is designed to maintain the sharpness of your blades by fixing the micro-serrations along the edge. They are used between sharpening with a whetstone, which reshapes the cutting edge by grinding away larger amounts of the blade. While that is the best way to sharpen a knife, all that grinding can leave the knife's edge rough, uneven, and over time will wear it down. Using a knife steel, also called a sharpening steel or honing steel, helps smooth out that roughness, leaving a nice, straight edge.
Most steels are cylindrical, with a handle at one end and long thin ridges running the length of the steel. To use, rub your blade down the length of the steel on each side 3-4 times. Don't angle the blade too high against the steel or you will actually dull your knife. Also, be sure to clean your steel from time to time as the ridges will get filled with small metal filings and make it less useful.