This is a skill diary, not a definition diary,so I'm putting it under the Culture of the Kitchen, because it's a kitchen skill.
Don't worry, I'll get back to the definitions next week, starting with kitchen equipment other than knives.
I use a professional knife sharpener, but not for every knife and not even every year, but when a knife gets too dull to sharpen up on a good honing, it goes to the professional.
If you want to hone your knifes, or even sharpen them yourself, let's get to it.
How to Hone Your Straight Edged Knives:
To hone a blade,you need a sharpening steel - a long rod, usually of ceramic or diamond coated steel. Hold the knife flat against the surface of the rod and slide it along, gradually raising the back of the blade until it begins to cut into the rod. With the rod in one hand, hold the back corner of the knife's edge to the end of the steel closest to you. "Sweep" the blade towards the tip of the steel, making sure that all of the length of the blade comes in contact with the steel. Repeat 10 times for each side of the blade. Do this after you've used your knife, cleaned it, dried, it and before you oil it and put it away.
Here's a good video on it.
How to Hone Your Serrated Knives:
I've never honed a serrated edged knife. I've never heard of anyone honing them, either. I sharpen mine periodically with a ceramic rod and stropping leather. So scroll down to the "How to sharpen your serrated knives" section.
What I do between sharpenings is strop the back side of the serrations to remove burrs. Almost all serrated knives have a chisel grind, which means one side is flat and the other has the sharp bevel. I place the knife with the flat side on the leather strop, then slide the knife down the strop away from me edge leading, then turn the knife so the spine leads, and repeat about 10 times. That smooths any burrs the build up with use.
How to Sharpen Your Straight Edged Knives:
I use a Lansky system to sharpen my knives. It's easier for me, especially if I'm going to be sharpening most of my knives all on the same day. The Lansky system has an excellent description of how to use their tool that comes with it, so if you buy and use one, I don't need to repeat that here.
I used to sharpen them with a sharpening stone. This is how I did that:
Select a stone: Whetstone, water stone, oil stone, or natural stone, they all are designed to sharpen tools, be they knives and scissors or lawn mower blades or swords. Natural stones are harder to find as few places make them any more.
You are more likely to find artificial sharpening stones. There are ceramic stones made of silicon carbide (carborundum) or aluminum oxide (corundum). These come double-sided with a coarse grit on one side and a finer grit on the other. They come in many sizes, from small pocket stones to large benchstones. For kitchen knives, I recommend the larger stones. Unless you have a portable kitchen, you won't be hauling the stone around everywhere, so invest in a larger one. These can be lubricated with either oil or water, just make sure you always use the same lubricant on the stone because mixing them makes for a bad sharpening experience. (Don't ask how I know, I'm sure you can figure it out).
Oilstones mostly come from Arkansas and contain natural novaculite and microcrystalline quartz. It comes in varying grades and colors, so get several. Even though it's called oilstone, it can be lubricated with water, just keep to the same lubricant for the life of the stone. It works better with oil, though, so I recommend using honing oil with an oilstone. You'll need at least 2 grit levels, a finishing grit and a coarser grit.
Japanese waterstones come from the Kyoto district and are composed of fine silicates in a clay base, softer than the Arkansas oilstones. Japanese waterstones are most effective when lubricated with water. Oil reduces their effectiveness. There are three grit levels of waterstones. You'll need at least 2 grit levels - a finishing grit and a coarser grit.
Diamond plates are metal sheets with regular holes in it coated in diamond dust of varying grit, usually backed on a plastic or resin base. They don't require lubricant. They do not refine an edge the way a stone does but are good for using in place of a coarser grit stone. If you use a diamond plat, you'll also need a finishing stone. They are also good for maintaining a stone in good condition.
What it comes down to is finding the stones you like and taking care of them.
Prep the stone: Waterstones need to be soaked in clear cold water for 10 minutes before you use them. Other stones, if you put them away right, need to be wiped and anchored.
Anchor the stone: A bench stone is large enough you've probably made a permanent place for it that also anchors it. All other stones need some sort of anchor so they don't slide all over the table as you sharpen your knives. A towel set on a rubber mat works just fine.
Oil the stone: Or water it, if it's a waterstone. For oil, you only need a few drops. Spread it across the surface of the stone. Start with the coarsest stone and work your way through to the finest one.
Find the angle of the edge: European knives are generally sharpened to 20º or 25º, Japanese knives to a 15º to 20º angle. To determine the angle height of your knife, divide the height of the blade at the heel by a specific number to find out how high to raise the spine.
For 20° divide by 3
For 15° divide by 4
For 12° divide by 5
For 10° divide by 6
For 8° divide by 7
For a 20º angle on a knife that's 1.5" at the heel, you'd need to hold the spine 1/2" off the stone.
Or, you could use quarters. 4 quarters is a little over 1/4". It takes 15 quarters to equal an inch. For that same 1.5" knife, you'd need 7 quarters. That's not quite half an inch, but the width of the spine will make up the difference.
1 quarter is about 0.069"
4 quarters is just over 0.25"
5 quarters is about 0.33"
6 quarters is about 0.4"
7 quarters is just under 0.5"
8 quarters is just over 0.5"
Sharpen the knife: Once you have the knife positioned at the right angle, apply moderate pressure with your fingers and push the knife across the surface of the stone in a steady diagonal sweep. The tip of the knife should just be touching the stone when you reach the end.
Keep the knife on the stone as you pull back to maintain the angle, but don't put any pressure on it. Repeat for 10 to 20 strokes, then flip the knife, adjust the angle and repeat.
Now move on to the next finer grit. Most people just need two grits, but some use three or even four grits. I use two because I sharpen them often enough not to need really coarse grits.
Once you've finished with the finest grit you have, check the edge for burrs and rough spots. If there are none, you can wipe the blade with a soft cloth, put it away and move on to the next knife. If there's still a burr or small nick, just spend a little more time on the finest grit stone to smooth it off. Work slow and steady.
Finishing: Wipe the stones and wrap them in a protective cloth before putting them away in their sturdy box.
Caring for the stones: Examine your stones before putting them away. Glossy grey streaks indicate a debris build up. Or you can feel the surface of the stone. A smooth surface indicates grit and debris has filled it in. Also feel for chips and cracks.
Soak the stone in warm water for 15 minutes. This opens up the stone and makes it easier to clean.
Place the stone on a towel while cleaning it. This will catch loose particles and keep the stone from sliding.
If you use honing oil to sharpen your knives, use honing oil to clean the stone. Apply a small amount of oil and rub it into the stone in a circular motion down the length of the stone. When you see little metal flecks rise up, wipe them off with a rag or paper towel. I use a craft magnifying lens on a stand over the stone so I can see better. When done, rinse the stone under running water, dry it well and put it away.
Scrub the stone with a toothbrush. The bristles of the toothbrush will displace dust and other debris from the small pores of the stone.
If you use water as your lubricant, or a water-based oil, clean the stone with warm soapy water. Use an old toothbrush to scrub the stone with a small circular motion from one end of the stone to the other. Rinse it under running water Dry it well and put it away.
Here are two videos demonstrating sharpening knives, one with a stone and one with the Lansky sharpening system.
How to Sharpen Your Serrated Knives:
Not all serrated patterns can be sharpened at home. There are some serrated patterns that are very proprietary. When you buy a knife with a proprietary serration, it will usually have instructions for shipping the knife to the manufacturer to sharpen it. Do that. It will preserve your knife for a long time to come.
You'll use rods to sharpen a serrated blade, if you choose to sharpen them yourself instead of sending them off for sharpening. You will need to sharpen each individual serration. The DMT set and SpyderCo SharpMaker are good sets.
For most serrations, a fine and extra fine grit are sufficient. If it needs more than that, it should be sent back to the manufacturer to sharpen.
Match the diameter of the sharpening rod to the serration and use a few short, light back and forth strokes to sharpen the beveled edge of each serration. Keep the rod perpendicular to the beveled edge. Feel for the burr on the flat side, then move to the next serration.
Once you've sharpened all the serrations, flip the knife over and either lightly grind the burrs off with a smooth flat stroke, or strop it on a leather strop.
Here's a video on sharpening a serrated knife.
If you take good care of your knives they will last you a long time and serve you well.