Whenever a knife is sharpened, steel is removed from the blade. I have seen old knives that have been used and sharpened for decades that now have only 25% of the blade remaining from its original size. So one does not want to sharpen a knife more than absolutely necessary.
Using a chef’s steel, even frequently, is fine. The standard chef’s steel does not remove steel from the blade. Professional chef’s usually use the “steel” every time they are going to use their knife. What the “steel” does is simply align the microscopic teeth of the blade edge so that the sharpness of the edge lasts longer. This does not remove steel from the knife.
Unfortunately I’ve seen a trend of putting abrasives, like diamond powder, on the traditional chef’s steel. This is unfortunate as the abrasives will definitely remove steel from the blade. Just use a non abrasive steel. You may have seen how chef’s use great speed in applying the steel to their knives. This does nothing to improve the alignment process. The important thing is to maintain the same angle (as much as possible) as you run the steel along both sides of your knife. And apply the same number of strokes to both sides of the blade edge.
Do not apply a lot of pressure. You want about a 15 to 20 degree angle as you run the blade along the steel.
Also, please do not use an electric sharpener. These can be useful but many people generate too much heat and destroy the temper of the blade. If you ever use one, use a very light touch and be very brief.
So what should you do when the day comes that the knife needs to be sharpened? Although pricey, I would encourage you to find a cutlery store that offers professional sharpening. I know some professional knife sharpeners who charge $5 dollars an inch. This is mostly for high end restaurants. I don’t think it will cost you that much, but it might. Personally I think it is worth it for a high quality blade.
– Quick Steel