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Do I need to strop?

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

  1. HeavyHanded


    Jun 4, 2010
    I set up my wife's kitchen utility knife on an XXC DMT followed by a smooth steel. Plastic deformation flows the edge into a much thinner line while keeping a lot of the variation seen in profile. Fast, dirty, and really strong all around edge. In my experience it works best/most reliably as you describe, on coarse and medium finishes with lower RC steel. With a lot of attention I've gotten good results even on D2 at higher RC, but is very unforgiving of angle wobble.

    I've also tinkered with but cannot confirm that it increases edge retention on lower RC steels, but anecdotally it sure seems to. Have used it with a bit of force between medium and finer finish to see if it increases edge retention in this manner but cannot confirm or deny that either. When used in industry eg roller burnishing, it potentially increases load bearing and surface hardness to a depth of several hundred microns. Even used by hand at lower pressure and at a slightly higher angle, it must have an effect perhaps in the tens of microns deep, certainly in the single digit microns.

    Is effective no doubt, I do find it very difficult to control and to get consistent outcomes.
  2. That's a good description for my first impression of these as well.

    I'm also curious as to the possible 'work hardening' aspect on some blades' edges. I haven't had mine long enough yet to know, but it'll be interesting to see how some of my edges hold up with just the steel used for refreshing.

    I'll have to try it on an even coarser-finished edge. I don't have an XXC DMT, but I do have some 'inexpensive' diamond hones from Harbor Freight (3 hones for $10 ;)), all the way down to 260 and 180-grit. They're VICIOUS in removing metal (even the 'Fine' one sounds brutal when honing, at a rated '360' grit), and it'd be interesting to see what the steel can do to 'enhance' an edge coming off of them.

  3. HeavyHanded


    Jun 4, 2010
    Is pretty neat. A great way to see what this is really doing to an edge. I run it till I get a very thin line like a microbevel, at a slightly higher angle - maybe a dozen passes. When used with an edge that still has some scratch pattern to it, one gets some wiggle room prior to the steel being drawn out. I find as the finish becomes more refined, I have to apply the steel more and more along the original grind angle to avoid creating a wire edge. This is also a good strategy for high carbide steels to prevent the carbides from dislocating under lateral pressure.

    My current 'steel' is a triangle file with one edge ground to a rounded profile on an India stone. I set it on top of whatever final stone I'm using, find it a lot easier to control the angle this way. I've pretty much consigned it to hasty work in the kitchen.
  4. If any abrasion at all, I'm sure it's minimal on a polished steel. I've looked for, but not yet seen, any noticeable 'swarf' being produced from it (wiping the steel with a Windex-moistened paper towel leave obvious traces on the towel, if any swarf is there).

    As Martin described, it's more about plastic deformation; just realigning and moving the 'teeth' or other irregularities into line, along the edge. The much-coarser teeth left by an extra-coarse or coarser hone really tend to lean or fall whichever way after coming off the hone, and the steel rod pushes them into line along the apex. In cutting phonebook pages after honing, there will usually be lots of snagging of such coarse teeth on the paper straight off the hone, but steeling the edge will change that to some pretty vicious and effortless slicing through the same paper; it's an eye-opener, in seeing it change so quickly.

    Not 'abrasion' per se, but I HAVE occasionally felt bits of burrs breaking off on the steel; the edge will trip or skip over the small bits of burr folding under and coming off, and it can be felt as it happens, much as a loose particle of coarser grit might be felt on a very fine-grit hone, under the edge.

    Last edited: Jul 24, 2015
  5. JR88FAN


    May 5, 2013
    Sorry for the late reply...

    I use my knives very hard.

    I cut/chop/pry, you name it, I use a knife for it....

    The last knife I had was a Strider in CPM154 re-ground @ 30DPS.

    I used it for about a month, stropped it twice, never touched the stones...
    It's refreshing to be able to quickly refine an edge without pulling out the stones.
    (I was in the 'I don't need a strop camp')

    Do you HAVE to use a strop? No.
    Does it make bringing your edge back to life really easy. Yes, so why not?

    At the monent I am knife less, but that will change soon (long story)

    This was the first time I had used a strop, I alway's free hand sharpen...

    No knife I have ever had, regardless of blade steel (I have used most of the steels on the market) have ever gone a month without needing a touch up or three on the stones.

    I am not a pro. I can't tell you the difference in steel loss from a strop to stones, but I can easily say that stones take a ton more metal off then a strop.....

    If you don't use your knives much, the 'steel loss' part may not be an issue, and I get that.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2015
  6. killgar


    Sep 24, 2002
    I don't have any sentimental attachment to my "users", and I'm not trying to preserve them for future generations, so I'm not the least bit worried about wearing them out through use and repeated sharpening. If by some chance I should wear out one of my users, I would simply go to my knife drawer and pull out another user. I own several knives, and I keep buying more, so wearing out a knife is not a concern for me.

    My "users" are just that- users. And since there is always the chance of dropping them on a rock or a concrete floor while I'm using them, I regard my users as expendable.

    Preserving my users for as many decades as possible is not something I care about. All I care about is that they do the job I need them to do.

    The only way to guarantee the preservation of ones knife is to leave it at home and never open it over a hard surface.

    This reminds me of motorcycle tires. I ride motorcycles. If you ride "gently" your tires will last a lot longer. But I ride "hard", because that's how I like to ride. And as a result my tires wear out a lot faster. And when they do wear out, I buy new ones. Same goes with brake pads and rotors.

    Different strokes.
  7. JR88FAN


    May 5, 2013

    That wasn't my point.

    It's not an issue of users, it's an issue of good maintenance habits.

    It's so much easier to strop a knife then to pull out the stones and start sharpening.
    This should be an important factor if you use knives a lot....

    It's nice that you have the money to just replace knives, but not everyone is in that financial situation, and some people like to carry and use really expensive knives that they would rather not replace.

    There aren't too many months that go buy where I don't have to sharpen at least 2-3 times.
    That is a noticeable amount of steel over the course of one year...

    With the addition of a strop, I still haven't figured out how long I can go without needing the stones to get that nice refined edge back, but it's more than a month....that's worth the minuscule investment to me.
  8. killgar


    Sep 24, 2002
    Are you saying that people who don't strop have bad maintenance habits?

    I don't regard a few strokes on a fine hone to be bad maintenance. I also don't believe that it will wear out a blade in my lifetime. I have a Buck 110 that I've been using for 30+ years. It's been sharpened countless times. And yet it's nowhere near retirement.

    Sometimes when I'm out on a job site I will pull a fine hone out of my tool belt, give my knife a few strokes, and it's shaving sharp again. I don't know if a strop would be as convenient for my needs. One nice thing about a hone is, if it gets dirt or drywall dust on it, all I have to do is blow it off and the hone is ready to use. I don't know if a strop would react well to some of the dirty conditions I work under.

    You seem to be under the impression that stropping is THE ONE RIGHT WAY to sharpen a knife and anyone who chooses not to strop is wrong and that they are destroying their knives.

    The original question behind this thread was- "Do people need to strop"? Many people throughout history, including myself, have managed to get by just fine over the course of our lives using nothing more than hones to sharpen our knives.

    Like I said in my first post- "if people want to strop then I say more power to them". I would never suggest that a person is wrong to strop their blades. Nor would I ever suggest that a person is wrong, or that they are harming their knives, if they choose to rely only on hones for their sharpening needs.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2015
  9. bucketstove


    Sep 23, 2014
    :) Of course, do what works, whatever gets you to the sharpness you desire ... freedom :)

    But I'm curious, 30dps reallly? As in 60 degrees inclusive?
    I'm curious what you're chopping/prying ... do you work in construction?

    Most of my knife use is domestic kitchen duty, garden duty, opening packages... Last thing I chopped and pried was sheetrock and some 2x2s and laminate flooring (yes using kitchen knives)

    Also, what is the "miniscule investment" in your strop? (so your knife is/was $350-$500, strop is $$??, stones $$?? )

    How are you using the stones? different from the way you use your strop ?
    With the strop you're basically microbeveling, while with the stones you're not microbeveling (working on the wider edge bevel), thus removing more metal correct?
    What kind of grit are your stones?

    I've done that, sharpen knife under 15dps, then microbevel at 15dps, subsequent sharpening, its 16-18dps, subsequent sharpening its 20dps ... all pretty much done with less than 10 strokes per side, comes back to shaving some arm hairs, just by increasing the microbevel angle, I imagine a strop does the same thing
    gets you back to sharp while not removing a lot of metal
    but I think its possible to get there with stone alone (or crock sticks)
  10. JR88FAN


    May 5, 2013
    Sorry, My mistake.....15 DPS.....

    I can't continue this conversation if your argument revolves around steel removal, Stones vs Strop.....

    I would also suggest that you pull your leather belt out and see the 'miracle' of leather, or even a piece of cardboard will do the trick. If you are using something like 52100, even your jeans will work....

    The only point I ever tried to make was that a strop is a wonderful/quick/steel saving way of bringing an edge back.

    It is that for people who use their knife a lot.....I love to freehand, but I had the tendency of waiting too long between sharpening. (Not always easy to find the time) and to me, as cutting performance decreases so does not just the functionality, but the safety of a knife.

    A strop keeps things sharp with very little effort or time. That's important to a ton of people....

    Maybe everyone is using ZDP-189?
    Or maybe no one is really using their knives enough?
  11. DeadboxHero

    DeadboxHero Triple B Handmade, Custom Knives Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 22, 2014
    Why do we have to choose between stroping and honing on rods? Stroping is a great final step. Try stroping on newspaper after using your sharp maker. Don't knock it tell you try it.
  12. killgar


    Sep 24, 2002
    No one in this thread is knocking stropping. No one has said that stropping is a bad thing or that people are wrong to do it.

    The question was "Do people need to strop?". The answer is no, people don't NEED to strop in order to have a very sharp knife. Stropping is a choice, it has it's benefits, but it's not necessary.

    Choosing not to strop, and choosing to use only hones is not likely to wear out ones knife in their lifetime. Unless of course they are sharpening their knife every day or if they don't know how to sharpen a knife or use a hone properly.

    I've been using hones exclusively for several years on my daily work knives and they show no signs of wearing out.

    People should use what they feel works best for them. Whether it's a hone or a strop, neither choice is wrong. It's simply a matter of personal preference, and whatever an individual person believes will serve their needs the best.

    By all means, if a person believes that stropping is best for them and their knives they should do it. No one is saying they shouldn't. And no one is saying that they have to choose one method over the other.
  13. DeadboxHero

    DeadboxHero Triple B Handmade, Custom Knives Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 22, 2014
    I see, I prefer both.
  14. bucketstove


    Sep 23, 2014
    :) I'm just trying to understand what it is that you are saying ,
    or actually what you're doing
    and maybe correlate that to my experiences
    trying to get an idea of how stropping might restore sharpness

    if stropping without using abrasive compound, stropping on bare leather or on bare cardboard ... for how long? how could stropping affect the edge, what does it do?
  15. JR88FAN


    May 5, 2013
    Sorry for neglecting this thread man, it's not my intention....

    I wish I was technical enough to be able to explain the finer points of how a strop works in a very technical way, but I can't.

    I didn't even use a strop until about 2 months ago, just a leather belt to 'finish the edge' after freehand...

    I sharpen at 600K grit, and rarely feel the need to go lower or higher (unless I have damaged the edge, or I have a bit more time and want a little more of a refined edge)

    600 gives you a wonderful working edge. It's not going to split hair, but it will slice through phonebook paper like butter.
    What the knife does after the edge in real world use is another thing all-together based on the grind....

    Back to the strop.

    After using my last EDC, a Strider SMF really hard for 6 months straight (CPM 154) and sharpening it anywhere from 2 to 4 times a month, I really wanted to give a strop a try!
    (Sadly, I have never use one knife that long, I usually flip to something new every couple of months)

    It's not because I don't love to sharpen, but because I wanted to maintain the quality of my edge quickly and easily.
    On a daily basis if I wanted to....and often do depending on what I am cutting and it's effect on my edge.

    That's what a strop does....when you lose that initial 'razor' edge, and depending on the steel/HT it can be after cutting up a bunch of really gritty cardboard, it's nice to get that great edge back on a piece of leather in a minute or two...

    As far as compound, I use green (6000K Grit).

    It's like in between sharpening maintenance that is a much more efficient way of retaining your edge then hitting the stone(s)...

    This is from my experience, and is my opinion.
    You don't need a strop.
    I was fine without one for 10 years, but, I am much happier having one now....
  16. bucketstove


    Sep 23, 2014
    Me too :) but its not a problem

    Thanks for that. FWIW, I found this which explains some things http://www3.telus.net/BrentBeach/Sharpen/Stropping.html
  17. Fred.Rowe

    Fred.Rowe Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    May 2, 2004
    Anyone who uses a standardized routine to sharpen without understanding the condition of the edge your working on, is missing the point of sharpening. It takes a good deal of experience to access the possibilities of any given blade. If this value is not understood then sharpening is pretty much haphazard.
    Think of it this way; you give the exact same blade to 10 different people and have each person rate how sharp the blade is, asking them if they believe they can improve the edge. You will be surprised at the responses of the ten individuals. The person that will give the most accurate assessment is the one with the most sharpening experience because they have the largest base line from which to draw.

    Regards, Fred
  18. bucketstove


    Sep 23, 2014
    Isn't the first step of sharpening to asses the condition of the edge , or set the condition of the edge?

    I think I would ask : is this sharp enough for your purposes?

    Some can get knives sharp enough to shave face hair comfortably ... but I doubt a lot of those guys need that level of sharpness :)
  19. killgar


    Sep 24, 2002
    For me, the point of sharpening a knife is to have a sharp knife that I can perform cutting tasks with. Different people have different requirements for their knives, and thus, they have different requirements when it comes to sharpening. I don't need to get my knives as sharp as they can possibly be. I'm not performing eye surgery with my knives. The fact is, a super-fine, hair-flicking edge is not appropriate for every task. The finer the edge is, the faster it's going to dull if you are cutting tough materials. I wouldn't want a scalpel-sharp edge for cutting roofing paper.

    When I worked landscaping I used a machete. I sharpened that machete with a file. Worked great. Not a lot of complexity involved. No great level of understanding required.

    Some people like to make things very complex. Sharpening a knife isn't rocket science. At least it doesn't have to be.
  20. DeadboxHero

    DeadboxHero Triple B Handmade, Custom Knives Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 22, 2014
    I disagree. A polished edge performs better its just it can be a dimishing return on time put in vs acceptable performance needed to accomplish a task.

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