best leather for stropping

John Frankl

Gold Member
Oct 16, 2001
Specifically, if I am stropping with chromium oxide, what are the pros and cons of using smooth leather? textured leather? Also, what are the best media for mixing with the chromium oxide to get it to evenly penetrate the leather (baby oil? olive oil? nothing?)


I use the smooth side. You want a flat surface. Some folks like to use the reverse rough side for stropping without polish. For an abrasive like powdered chromium oxide, make sure you get the finest grit available. The stuff used for air brushing at most craft places is way to rough. It will be just like using a stone, you will remove lots of metal fast. If you have the ultrafine grit, vaseline will work very well to keep the grit on the leather, and out of the air. Do not breath the stuff.

Do not use highly polished or textured leather, it will not hold the grit at all. I use scrap pieces of leather obtained free for the asking at a local boot repair shop. You do not need to spend any money to make yourself a good strop.

Get the green chromium oxide stick from Lee Valley Tools. It rubs on like a big crayon. You can heat it with a hair dryer to get it to penetrate the leather but that really isn't necessary.
If you want some leather to give it a try, I'll send the first 3 people that email me their address some scrap pieces. They're not overly big but they'll do the job. Some have cosmetic defects and couldnt be used for sheaths but they'll strop just fine.
Go to for all your stropping info. They sell excellent leather strops and even have a chromium Oxide that is in a squirt bottle. It penetrates well. You should check out the Pro Combo hones. They are strops that are attached to a block to make it like a bench stone. The strop part has two sides, one side is for the CrO2, and the other side is a hard leather that is used without any compound. They also come with another two sided "plate" that fits in the block. You choose two different grits of Silicone Carbide to use on that plate. Really good value. I just ordered the Pro Combo 10 which is 10" by 3". They will also give you leather "cutoffs" that they don't use if you ask them when you order. These alone can be used as strops that you can shape for different tools.

i second what medic said.
i also have the same strop and compound from hand american, amazing stuff.
the compound wipes right on and the excess dries to a powder.

i also use the Cro to make a strop for recurved blades, i take an old pair of jeans, cut a section of the leg off, put some CrO on then put it on my thigh and hold it while i strop
Thanks for the link Medic.., so neat stuff :)

"Hunters seek what they [WANT].., Seekers hunt what they [NEED]"
Just a bit of strop history:). Many of the older better quality models were supposedly made from Horse-hide. I've had a couple different versions(cow, horse, old shoe:D), and I really cound'nt tell the difference:).
Traditionally, a strop was a long dangly of soft leather that you whipped around the blade. The ones I make are a bit different and are designed to be portable. I have no problems sharing it with everyone - its simple and anyone could make one - its no trade secret.

I use the heaviest, hardest, densest cowhide available - that usually means using "sole leather" =- meant for shoe soles - this stuff is TOUGH - can't even be cut with a boxcutter - some poeple use bandsaws ! I cut 2 or 3 long strips with straight edges about 6-8inches long x 1inch wide. Wash them in hot water well and lay them flat - this removes any of the tanning chemicals that could damage good steel. When dry, I then glue them one on top of the other with contact cement, compress and then drill holes through them and rivet them together or stitch them (more trouble). Grind the edge flat on a belt sander at 180 or 240grit.

The active stropping portion is the EDGE of the leather pieces. The other guys have already talked about the polishing compounds - I like the green chrome stuff. You can rub the edge into the compound to pick it up and then blast it with a heat gun or hairdryer to melt it in. Or use a dropper and soak the edge of the leather in methylated spirits and rub it against the block of compound. The spirits dissolve the wax and allows it to soak into the leather surface. The hard strop has 2 edges, I only coat one side with compound - the other side is left bare and burnishedsmooth with a polished steel rod. After stropping on the "compounded" edge, clean up the edge with the bare leather side to remove any residual wax or gunk.

I find this type of strop to be better than the soft leather ones. It is used just like a sharpening stone and being hard, it doesn't round off the edge too quickly. It portable and you can put a hole through it and tie a lanyard so you don't lose it. You can oil the leather if you want, I don't find it necessary. The leather edge can be recoated anytime and if you really need to clean it, grind the leather back maybe 1/20 or 1/10 inch and recoat. You can't do that if you are using the smooth or rough back surfaces of the leather.

The hunters I sell to here tell me it works well. I use it to hand hone every knife I make. What do you guys think ? Anyone want to try and make one for themselves ?