Honing is a first cousin to the word sharpening, which is a wider known process and has been part of our lives since the Stone Age and possibly before. Since our early ancestors were hunters and gatherers, weapons and sharp tools were necessary for everyday survival. Stones were fashioned into sharp “arrowheads”, allowing the invention of the “bow and arrow.” During the Bronze Age, metals such as copper and tin were brought together and became part of human history in the creation of weapons, body armor, sculptures, and artifacts. The Bronze Age ultimately made a great impact on efficiency in our more recent times of agriculture and manufacturing. Since metals were used for more than weapons, sharpening wasn’t the only process needed to refine metal surfaces.
In contrast to sharpening, honing is a very fine and precise process. Honing focuses specifically on improving the geometric shape of an object and is also used to create a desired texture for metal surfaces. By taking an abrasive surface or object, such as a honing stone, and applying it to a metal surface you can alter the shape of a metal object or create a desired texture from rough to smooth and in varying degrees. Honing machines allow machined metal parts to be finished with a desired texture to specification. For example, delicate metal parts in a musical instrument or hand gun would require more precision during the honing process and allows no room for errors in specification. Auto parts, such as brake rotors, require a polished effect along with grooves and notches for the application of other working parts. While honing metal surfaces of brake rotors, specification is important but not near as delicate and precise as musical instruments or hand guns. Precision in these types of examples is paramount.
Most manufacturers that create metal parts use some type of honing process in the finishing of these parts. Some manufacturers have an in-house machine shop or a honing machine on their assembly line. Smaller operations with occasional honing jobs may choose to have this process outsourced to a local machine shop that can hone their parts to specification. Either way, honing metal parts will give that finished product the desired outcome to product specification.
Regarding texture, there are various amounts of desired metal textures from rough to smooth. In some metal parts, a grooved texture may be desired. Using a specific type of abrasive surface against the metal object or part will give the desired outcome. When creating notches or grooves, also known as “keys”, the honing process may be used to create this specific shape and to give a smooth or rough edge, whichever is required by the specification.
Basically, we have all been surrounded by a great many objects that required the honing process. Hone metal parts are in our automobiles, machinery, small engines and even delicate gears in musical instruments as well as our modern weapons such as hand guns. Next time you are looking at a textured or tooled metal object, just think of the precise work that was involved in “honing” the grooves, notches, bores and keys to create desired surface textures.