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Traditional metal sharpening steels have been around for over 100 years.  They work in 2 ways to re-align the edge of a knife.  
1.  Sharpening steels are made out of a very hard metal.  Usually 4-5 degrees harder than the knives.  The "harder" metal of the sharpening steel help push the cutting edge of the knife back to strait.  

2.  Magnetism.  Sharpening steels are magnetized wixh helps pull the grain of the edge back to strait when using the steel.  

The texture of sharpening steels vary from coarse/regular to ultra smooth or no texture at all.  For standard kitchen use, a regular cut sharpening steel will leave a strong cutting edge with some bite.  For butchering meats, or cutting raw sushi a fine sharpening steel will leave a smoother cutting edge, that will provide less drag.  

Oval or flat is better than round...always.  Oval sharpening steels provided 4-5 times more surface area for sharpening.  Oval steels work much faster and leave a much sharper edge than a round steel.

Japanese Knives and Metal Sharpening Steels?  There may not be a perfect answert to this.
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Victorinox Forschner 10 in Round Steel Regular Cut
Victorinox Forschner 10 in Round Steel Regular Cut 40580
Our Price: $39.00
Sale Price: $32.95
You save $6.05!

10 in round regular cut steel for general edge maintenance
Victorinox Forschner 12 in Round Steel Regular Cut
Victorinox Forschner 12 in Round Steel Regular Cut 40584
Our Price: $41.00
Sale Price: $34.95
You save $6.05!

12 in round regular cut steel for general edge maintenance
Victorinox Forschner 14 in Round Steel Regular Cut
Victorinox Forschner 14 in Round Steel Regular Cut 40586
Our Price: $45.00
Sale Price: $37.95
You save $7.05!

14 in round regular cut steel for general edge maintenance
JA Henckels 10 in Sharpening Steel
JA Henckels 10 in Sharpening Steel 32565-260
Our Price: $50.00
Sale Price: $39.95
You save $10.05!

For maintaining the edge of your knives. Use the steel regularly, preferably every other time the knives are used. A sharp knife will work faster and prevent accidents. 10 inch rod.
F Dick 12 inch Round Steel
F Dick 12 inch Round Steel 7517130
Our Price: $54.00
Sale Price: $44.95
You save $9.05!

Poly handle with stainless hanging ring. Regular cut steel for everyday sharpening. F.Dick makes some of the hardest cutting steels around. Compatible with almost any brand of knife.
Victorinox Forschner 12 in Round Steel Regular Cut Wood Handle
Victorinox Forschner 12 in Round Steel Regular Cut Wood Handle 40084
Our Price: $55.00
Sale Price: $46.95
You save $8.05!

12 in round regular cut steel for general edge maintenance
Wusthof Trident 10 in Pro Sharpening Steel
Wusthof Trident 10 in Pro Sharpening Steel 4474-26
Our Price: $70.00
Sale Price: $49.95
You save $20.05!

Essential to keep your knives in top condition. A sharp knife is a safe knife. Rod size 10 in.
JA Henckels 12 in Sharpening Steel
JA Henckels 12 in Sharpening Steel 32565-310
Our Price: $65.00
Sale Price: $49.95
You save $15.05!

For maintaining the edge of your knives. Use the steel regularly, preferably every other time the knives are used. A sharp knife will work faster and prevent accidents. 12 inch rod.
F Dick 14 inch Round Steel
F Dick 14 inch Round Steel 7517135
Our Price: $60.00
Sale Price: $49.95
You save $10.05!

Poly handle with stainless hanging ring. Regular cut steel for everyday sharpening. F.Dick makes some of the hardest cutting steels around. Compatible with almost any brand of knife.
Victorinox Forschner 14 in Round Steel Regular Cut Wood Handle
Victorinox Forschner 14 in Round Steel Regular Cut Wood Handle 40089
Our Price: $63.00
Sale Price: $53.95
You save $9.05!

14 in round regular cut steel for general edge maintenance
   
 
Metal Sharpening Steels