A long, pointed, thin round rod (also called a ) made of extremely hard, high-carbon steel (some of diamond steel or ceramic) and used to keep a fine edge on sharp knives. The rod is attached to a handle, which usually has a guard to protect the user's hand from the knife blade. Sharpening steels come in a variety of sizes, the ideal being about 12 inches long. Knives are sharpened by drawing them (while applying slight pressure) across the steel at a 20- to 30-degree angle 5 to 6 times on both sides of the blade prior to each use. Dull blades will not be helped by a sharpening steel; they need to be resharpened on a whetstone and then fine-honed on a steel. For maximum efficiency, choose a sharpening steel that is longer than the knife to be sharpened. To prevent metal filings from building up, occasionally clean the steel according to manufacturer's directions.