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Unlike our Top Choice for this category, most rods are actually made only to hone your blade, not to sharpen it as well. To hone something means to straighten it. The very thin cutting edge of any blade will become warped over time. It will not be visible to the naked eye, but it will be warped. Tiny folds and grooves will find their way to your blade’s edge, making it seem as if it is growing dull. Using a honing rod, you can push those folds back into place and create a straighter, stronger, sharper blade. Of course, this will only work for so long, as your blade will eventually grow dull in other ways.
The toughest angle to master is the angle at which you'll sharpen the edge of the knife. For a Japanese knife, that should be around 12-15 degrees. Before you reach for the protractor, a good test is to get roughly half an index finger's gap between the spine of the knife and the stone (see above). Remember to remove your finger before you start sharpening. For a Western-style knife, you want an angle of about 20°, so raise it ever-so-slightly higher.
When the stone is intended for use on a flat surface, it is called a Bench Stone. On the other hand, small, portable, hand-held stones are referred to as Pocket Stones. Also, because Pocket Stones are smaller than Bench Stones, they are more easily transported but, they also present difficulty in maintaining a consistent angle and even pressure when attempting to sharpen longer blades. Consequently, Bench Stones are commonly used at home or in camp whereas, Pocket Stones are generally reserved for honing an edge in the field.

To take off the fine scratches and the burr left by coarser stones, and polish the surface, one can use stones starting around 2000 grain. Above that there is theoretically no upper limit, but at the same time stones above about #10000 provide no measurable practical improvement in the edge. It is also interesting to note that above #8000 grit, there is no Japanese measurement standard. With all the stones labelled as having a finer grit, one simply has to take the manufacturer’s word for it.

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