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Do I need to strop?

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by Shadow536, Jul 22, 2015.

  1. Shadow536


    Jun 16, 2015
    I'm a big fan of the sharpmaker and a big fan of not damaging my knives. What I have typically been doing is when I notice that my knives are not cutting as efficiently as I like, I take them to the fine and then ultra stones on the sharpmaker until I have a perfect apex and no bur. I have always figured that I don't need to strop since I get a perfect burr-free edge on stones, but now I'm reconsidering and opening my mind. Should I be stropping in between sharpenings to extend the amount of times a month I'm removing metal? If so, what is the best strop for S30V and the likes that is noob-friendly. My knives are blemish free and I'd hate to ruin that because of a poor strop. I will definitely practice stropping cheaper knives first. So, should I get into stropping and if so, what should I buy so that I start off on the right foot?
  2. awestib


    Dec 29, 2008
    And how do you know that?
  3. HeavyHanded


    Jun 4, 2010
    If you like the edge you're getting, then stropping is likely not going to improve a ton how you feel about your edges, but then again, you might really appreciate the difference. There is no blanket answer, but it can't hurt to try out. You are probably not removing a ton of steel with light touchups on fine ceramic.

    On high Vanadium steel, I try to stick with diamond lapping film in the 6 micron to 1 micron range, over more traditional strop methods. 6" squares of 3M diamond films are very inexpensive and will last a long time, just put them over a hard surface and use with a few drops of mineral oil - strop away with very light pressure. On regular carbon steel or low carbide stainless there are a ton of options, you would need to be more specific.
  4. Skimo


    Mar 28, 2009
    No, you do not need to strop.
  5. Shadow536


    Jun 16, 2015
    Close, magnified examination, fingernail test, and I can cut paper with any part of the edge without any ripping or snagging. When I'm finishing up on the ultra fine, I gradually lessen up the pressure until I am just kissing the stone. In my experience, that knocks off the burr without creating new one when done right. It takes a lot of patience and control, but it works for me.

    One thing I have never been good at quantifying is the amount of steel I remove when doing a light touch up. For example, if I do a light touch up on fine and ultra fine stones once a week for 20 years, how much blade will I have left in 20 years? I know most people don't think that far ahead, but I know knives have longevity and I don't want to jeopardize that.
  6. blanex1


    Feb 11, 2015
    kinda of new to sharpening myself! but what i have learned is you need to strop,and not always use the sharpmaker!stropping is a way of keeping your knifes sharp between sharpenings and removing more metal then needed=a knife that will last longer.
  7. awestib


    Dec 29, 2008
    Thanks! I think you will have to try it to find out. Theoretically I guess any well made strop will have some features of refinement over the same grit (hard, non-giving) stone. At the end you more likely develop a slight micro-convex with improved keenness and a more even apex at the cost of a micro-more-obtuse final edge angle. I have seen a few pictures showing that on electron microscope and a few videos showing the step up from (likely not hair whittling) after the Spyderco Ultrafine stone to hair whittling after 0.5 micron compound on strop.
  8. Probably overthinking or worrying too much about that. I've found as my technique has improved, the amount of metal removed at each subsequent 'touch-up' has been greatly minimized. Gaining a feel for exactly how much work is needed each time makes the difference, using only the minimum (finest) grit, making the minimum number of passes on the hones, and regulating pressure to keep it very light.

    The downside of trying to rely only on stropping to maintain an edge, for example, is that eventually the apex will round over and broaden, or lose it's 'bite', which will necessitate reshaping the edge geometry and restoring the teeth to the edge; that brings the inherent removal of more steel needed to accomplish that goal. A strop with more aggressive compound can be used; but it could be just as aggressive as some Fine/EF hones, and may not leave an edge quite as crisp, and work as efficiently, as a hard hone could do it, especially if the apex has previously rounded off or has otherwise become too blunt. Strops work well to refine a crisp apex, but they're usually not good at creating a new apex, if that's what's needed. Trying to 'get it there' with only an aggressive strop would likely remove more metal than would a handful of passes on a hone, and still wouldn't produce nearly as good a result.

    I've sort of wondered along the same lines at times, and worried a little about taking too much steel away in the upkeep of a blade's edge. I have some Victorinox paring knives (in their very 'soft' steel) that I use almost every day, and I've really liked the edge left on them by an EF diamond hone. Subsequently, I use the EF diamond (DMT Dia-Fold or 'credit card' hone) to touch them up ~2X-3X per week, and I don't strop them at all, save for a few passes on my jeans to clear away any loosely-attached remnants of burrs. When I do the touch-ups, it only takes maybe 2-3 short, edge-leading passes per side at very, very light pressure, to restore the edge. Done as such, I have little or no worries about eating up the blade too quickly.

    Assuming it gets used, metal has to come off the edge one way or another, to keep it cutting at peak performance. If your technique has improved to a point that you're effectively minimizing the burrs anyway, requiring little or no stropping, I don't think you have too much to be concerned about. Even less worry, if the Sharpmaker's Fine/UF hones are what you're using for most of your maintenance; they don't remove much metal anyway, even when trying to do so. Blades that get eaten up very quickly are usually the result of sharpening overkill, which comes from not really knowing how much work is actually needed to just restore an edge, and therefore using too-coarse grit or too much pressure, or not recognizing or watching for when the edge is apexed, and therefore not stopping when it's reached. This is the value in deliberately creating a recognizable burr, which itself becomes smaller and minimized with experience at seeing or detecting it. Trying to sharpen without forming a burr at all is usually self-defeating, as the edge will likely never be fully apexed, and therefore not as sharp as it could be.

    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  9. ejames13


    Mar 30, 2015
    I've had this same question, and after reading some of the expert sharpeners' opinions on other threads I think the answer is "yes".

    The most notable post that comes to mind was one particularly referencing s30v. The OP of the thread wasn't getting great edge retention with s30v, so someone suggested not going all the way up through the fine/UF rods. Instead they suggested stopping with either the diamond rods or medium rods and going straight to a strop to remove the burr. This would leave the blade toothy, but without a wire edge.

    I've been wanting to get a strop and try this, but haven't had the chance yet. Can anyone else comment on this?
  10. This again speaks to how effectively, or not, one minimizes or removes the burrs on the stones (rods) alone, before stropping at all. If the technique is good, most or all of any significant burr can be removed on the hones, and a strop isn't necessarily needed. My favorite edge finish on S30V is with either a Fine or EF diamond hone, with no subsequent stropping at all.

    If any stropping is needed at all, it could be done on a 'bare' stropping substrate (denim, wood, paper) over a firm/hard backing, which could clear away any loose burr fragments, without any need for compound. With S30V in particular, loose burr fragments like that can even be scrubbed off with the first few cuts into a relatively tough/fibrous material like wood, or a stack of paper (I've noticed that behavior is pretty common with this steel). That would preserve the toothy bite from the hones.

    (If the goal is a highly mirrored/polished edge, then stropping with sub-3µ diamond or CBN compounds on wood or other hard substrate will do that very well.)

    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  11. Sadden


    Dec 19, 2011
    Do you NEED a strop.
    -No, a strop is inefficient at deburring , if you are getting good burr free edges and are happy with that then not its not necessary

    Can you benefit from a strop?
    -Yes absolutely. You can further refine your finish , and swap to harder abrasives to handle high vanadium steels etc. A good starting place for you would be going to your EF rods and then going to a 1u CBN on Roo Strop. Will handle any steel you throw at it , and its a nice hard stropping substrate that wont round/convex your edges unintentionally. Even just 5 or 10 strokes on something like that will really push your edges if you are getting good burr free edges to begin with.
  12. killgar


    Sep 24, 2002
    I'm no "sharpening expert", I have been free-hand sharpening for around 35 years. And I've been using my knives for work for a few decades now (landscaping, shipping, construction). I've never stropped a blade.

    I've been using a Bradley Alias (S30V) for work for around 8 years now, never stropped it, and I've never had any complaints using it all day or any problems keeping it sharp. All I use to keep it sharp is a fine DMT Dia-Sharp diamond hone. According to my thumbnail I don't leave a burr.

    If people want to strop then I say more power to them. But I've never considered it necessary.
  13. JR88FAN


    May 5, 2013
    I strop between sharpenings and I rarely have to pull the Benchstones out anymore.

    A decent strop will keep your edge sharp as long as you don't get micro-chipping or other more serious issues....

    Also, when you strop, you are refining and cleaning up an existing edge. Why remove metal with stones if there is no real need to do so?
    To always 'refine' your edge by taking it to sharpening stones seems like a waste of good steel.
  14. bucketstove


    Sep 23, 2014
    How long between sharpenings on benchstone? How long between stroppings?
    How do you use your knife, what do you cut, how often?

    Have you tried to measure this?

    I've got a paring knife I've been learning/practicing on
    I've sharpened it a lot, I've overground it a lot, raised a lot of giant burrs, it went from ~20dps to ~10dps
    I've only managed to wear away about 2-4mm of the width from the knife
    There is still 16mm-20mm of width of knife left
    This compared to a new one and a few few in the kitchen (like new)
    The kitchen knives only get sharpened about once a month, or every 2-3 months, and only because they eventually contact ceramic plate
    So I imagine in regular use it could easily take 20-50 years to wear away this much steel if I sharpened every day :) (ok every 1-2 months )

    If you visit sites like cheftalks, you'll hear reports from chefs who work with knives every day, go 6 months between sharpenings (steels once a day), or even longer
    Also lots of anecdotes about using fathers/grandfathers knives

    Losing 2mm every 20 years seems like a fair trade :) also sounds very "truthy"
  15. SunsetFisherman


    Feb 4, 2012
    This works REALLY well for me, especially with steels that may do better at lower grits like s30v. A 600 grit edge and I can touch it up quite a few times with some cheap green compound on a leather strop. I only bust the stones out a couple times a year.
  16. FlameCycle


    Jan 23, 2012
    Do you think it is viable to mitigate this with microbeveling? I have been experimenting with this idea but my hand sharpening will isn't high enough to draw conclusions yet.
  17. yepimonfire


    Nov 7, 2013
    True, but I can finish with a waterstone at 3 micron grit, and then strop the edge with 3 micron grit diapaste and get a significantly sharper edge. Ever since I've started stropping I've felt it's necessary for achieving the sharpest edge possible. Even if it's burr free, and even if the edge is still very coarse post stropping (i.e. stropping with white compound after finishing on a 280 grit crystolon stone) it cuts much much better. I can't say for certain, but theoretically I believe this is because edge leading strokes on stone leave microscopic nicks in the edge, and edge trailing on a stone always creates a burr, stropping does more then just remove burrs and polish an edge, it straightens it, removes any left over pieces of fragile metal, and cleans up damaged parts.
  18. stitchawl


    Jul 26, 2008
    Something to consider... There is a reason meat packers use a 'meatpacker's steel' when they are cutting up large sides of meat. They don't sharpen their knives very often, instead work them on the smooth face of the steel after every few dozen cuts. This keeps their knives razor sharp all day long.

    But note that I said 'meatpacker's steel' and NOT 'butcher's steel.' The 'butcher's steel is often grooved or rough surfaced. The 'meatpacker's steel' is absolutely smooth. Personally, I use a borosilicate glass rod rather than the smooth steel as the glass is smoother still, although much more fragile than a steel. I don't put my kitchen knives on the EdgePro more than once every 8-10 months, having touched them up on Sharpmaker fine rods perhaps 2-3 times during that time. But I religiously 'steel' them before every use. The edge stays a long time this way.
  19. I recently picked up a smooth (polished) steel at a local restaurant supply store. I've noticed it to be useful not just for refreshing the edge periodically, but also immediately after resharpening on a stone/hone. More effective with some blades than with others; mainly limited to softer/medium-hardness stainless. On ductile-steel blades that produce tough, tenacious burrs that don't like to break away too easily, it seems to handle those pretty well, adding a noticeable uptick in sharpness. It's especially noticeable on coarser-finished edges (~325 or so, and maybe a step coarser), in aligning all the 'teeth' along the edge immediately after honing. I tested this after sharpening one blade on an XC DMT; the results were impressive. :thumbup:

  20. awestib


    Dec 29, 2008
    What's happening there? I remember that Martin (HeavyHanded) did some experimenting including pictures on steeling. I always thought it is nothing beyond aligning and burnishing. There should be no abrasion going on.

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