What Is Stropping And Why Do It?
As an introduction to this post I believe it is necessary to talk about what stropping is and why it’s important. Okay, so without further a do let’s dive in and answer the question!
What is a strop and what does the process of stropping do? According to Wikipedia, it is simply a flexible strip of leather, canvas, denim or any other soft material used for the purpose of polishing and sharpening a knife and other tools. If you’ve ever been to your neighborhood barbershop, you may have noticed your barber drawing a straight razor along a leather belt. This is the process of stropping and it’s important in maintaining the sharpness and edge of your knives and tools.
Most people believe that stropping a knife only realigns the sharpening edge, but there is a lot more that actually happens if you analyze it from a microscopic level. Scienceofsharp does a fantastic job of explaining what stropping actually does and provides magnified images explaining the process. I will not go into all the details, but stropping not only realigns an edge (removing dings and notches), but also burnishes (metal movement – think of this as polishing), abrades excess metal, and coats the knife. If you are interested in the science of stropping, I strongly suggest you check out scienceofsharp, where you can read about the technical details of stropping.
How To Use Leather Strops For Knife Sharpening
Important: At what stage should you strop your knife/blade? I typically strop my blades once I have completed the process of knife sharpening. Knife sharpening (electric or otherwise) is the process of metal removal with the use of an abrasive (diamond stones/grits are an example). Stropping after knife sharpening gives the edge a smooth, clean, polished look akin to when the knife was first purchased; Therefore, I recommend stropping as the last step of the sharpening process. Remember to exercise caution when sharpening and stropping your knives and tools. It does not take much force/effort to cut yourself with a sharpened edge, so be careful!
How To Strop Correctly:
- Make sure your knife is clean. Rinse your knife thoroughly with warm water and dry it down with a towel before starting to strop.
- The most important rule: Never cut into your strop! If you recall, knife sharpening is when you cut against the abrasive (stone/grit); Stropping is the exact opposite/reverse. Instead of moving your knife forward to “cut in” as is done when sharpening, you will draw your knife in a backward motion repeating for each side multiple times.
- Visualize and go for a couple of practice draws! This will help with developing the right technique. Do not rush and try to really emphasize following your edge through.
- Load the strop with stropping compound. I use the Woodstock D2902 1-pound green extra fine buffing compound. It comes in a 6.6 x 1.9 x 1.3 inches block, so it last’s a hell of a lot of time! Rub it onto your leather strop like you would color a crayon. Careful not to get too thick a layer on though. Now you can start stropping!
Now that you’re ready to strop, below is a cool video from cutlerylover demonstrating the process. Remember to follow your edge through and to never cut into the strop!
Top 3 Leather Strops For Knife Sharpening
Below are my 3 favorite leather strops for knife sharpening. The more expensive strop does not necessarily make it better than a cheaper one! As always, shop wisely and take your time to do the research, as what satisfies my needs may not satisfy yours and vice versa. It’s also important to understand that the topic of knife sharpening and stropping tends to be quite subjective, and different tools with different prices can produce similar or close results.
Leather Strop #1: Knives Plus Strop Block (8” X 2.5”)
This is my favorite of the 3 leather strops for knife sharpening. The 8” X 2.5” solid block means you have plenty of room to work on larger knives. Another cool feature about this strop is that it comes pre-loaded with a high chrome rouge compound, which means you don’t need to apply any compound beforehand. If there was a leather strop i’d recommend anyone and everyone to use, it would be this one simply because it is so easy and seamless to strop with!
Leather Strop #2: Bolo Edge Paddle Strop
This paddle strop is slightly larger than the one above, measuring at 11.8” X 3” X 0.8”. It comes with double sided leather strop (vegetable tanned leather), and includes a bar of both green oxide chrome compound and black emery compound. It’s a great starter kit and like the strop above, it offers ample of room to work on larger knives. I’d lean more towards a strop like this one if you’re looking at stropping different kinds of knives and tools. The only con with this strop is that it lacks “how to” instructions (but who really cares! you can find everything online these days anyways!).
Leather Strop #3: Leather Strop w/ Polishing Compound
If you’re on a budget and are looking to find a quality leather strop for cheap, then look no further. This measures about 8” X 2.2” of quality handmade leather and comes with 5 ounces of green polishing compound. If you wanted to, you could attach it to a block of wood or a board, so that there is no movement while stropping.
That’s it people! My 3 favorite leather strops for knife sharpening! As always, I love to hear what you think, so please drop me a comment below. If you have experience with stropping and there is something you’d like to share that could be useful to someone else, please do so! The comments will benefit everyone. Thanks for reading and till the next one!