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Knife sharpening proceeds in several stages, in order from coarsest
(most destructive) to finest (most delicate). These may be referred to
either by the effect or by the tool. Naming by effect, the stages are:
Named by tools, the same three stages are:
The word "honing" is ambiguous, and may refer to either fine sharpening (step 1.2) or straightening (step 2).
The finest level of sharpening is done most frequently, while the
coarser levels are done progressively more rarely, and sharpening
methods differ between blades and applications.
For example, a straight razor used for shaving is stropped before each use, and may be stropped part-way through use, while it will be fine sharpened on a stone a few times per year, and re-ground on a rough stone after several years.
By contrast, a kitchen knife
is steeled before or after each use (and may be steeled during heavy
use, as by butchers), and sharpened on a stone a few times per year.