The problem lies in the fact that sharpening a knife can seem firstly rather unrewarding and secondly rather daunting. Are you more likely to do more harm than good?
The answer is: initially yes. When sharpening your knife with a steel it will get blunter before it gets sharper. The reason is that the knife is sharpened at a specific angle using a machine – an angle that will differ from that at which you sharpen it. So it will blunt before it starts to sharpen at the angle you sharpen it at – and then you’ll start to see the results. And it’ll get sharper and sharper.
So – how do you go about sharpening your knife? There are two techniques; the first is to hold the knife and steel in the air and run the knife down the steel at roughly a 15 degree angle from it, repeating for each side. The tricky bit of this method is that it is very difficult to keep a consistent angle so you can blunt your knife quite a lot.
Try this technique instead: place a tea towel on a kitchen work surface. Hold the steel in one hand and place the pointed end of it onto the tea towel which will stop it slipping. Use the other hand to run the knife down each side of the steel in turn at 15 degrees. Repeat, repeat, repeat and test on a tomato, a piece of paper or an onion.
It’ll be rather a challenge at first – but ultimately incredibly rewarding.