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Do I need to strop?

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

  1. bucketstove


    Sep 23, 2014
    how did you determine it cuts better?
  2. DeadboxHero

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

    Mar 22, 2014
    From use. What's your rebuttal?
  3. Fred.Rowe

    Fred.Rowe Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    May 2, 2004
    A highly refined polished edge does cut better than one that is not. Just look at an edge using micro technology and you can see why.
  4. HeavyHanded


    Jun 4, 2010
    This is my experience as well, clay-coated cover weight papers will dull a razor edge at a very detectable rate - a coarse one will outlast by several cycles.

    If one runs enough cut tests across a wide enough variety of materials it becomes apparent there is no "one finish works best" edge, though they should all be as clean and burr free as possible. In my philosophy and experience, the edge that cuts with the least amount of applied force will last the longest in any given application. In some cases it might entail a toothier edge drawn across a material, or it might entail a polished edge being pressed directly into a material, or might be some blend of qualities.
  5. There are no universal truths in whether a polished edge 'performs better' than a toothy one, or vice versa. So much depends on the steel, heat treat, blade & edge grind and what the blade is being used for. An all-inclusive blanket statement that one edge finish is better than another is meaningless, without very specific context.

    I have some knives that simply won't perform well with a polished edge, or even anything approaching polished; the steel is too soft to hold the edge at that level of refinement, so a polished shaving-sharp edge rolls over or abrades off in just a few cuts, even on something as simple as a tomato (the skin of which is surprisingly abrasive on a fine knife edge). With THOSE knives, a more toothy edge around ~320-grit or so lasts a bit longer, meaning it remains functionally useful longer than the polished edge does, which simply quits cutting at all when the razor-fine apex goes away.

    On the flipside of that, I have other knives with better steel & heat treat, which excel with polished edges in tough, abrasive material like heavy cardboard. In good 440C or D2, a highly polished convex just keeps going and going in cutting cardboard, and is still capable of retaining shaving sharpness after a good deal of cutting in such materials. A polished convex is an extremely slick and efficient cutter, minimizing binding and other stresses against the edge in tough materials.

    Last edited: Jul 31, 2015
  6. bucketstove


    Sep 23, 2014
    :) I had to look that word up
    so I have no rebuttal; I don't even have an opinion :)

    I'm curious to know what your experience is, maybe compare it to mine
    What is "from use"? what are you cutting (material), how much, what angle, how long, time between sharpenings ...

    I've experienced edge with 120/200/320/400/600 grit and ... ??1200?something?? shiny from ceramic... and well the shiny edge is really shiny, but I can't tell difference in a little slicing of paper, cardboard, arm hair shaving, some sticks ... under 320 edge Ive formed can be really really rough when shaving arm/leg hair, but thats about it
    I've not noticed that one last longer than another between sharpenings,
    but I mostly go back to sharpen because dings on rocks or plates,
    so shiny or not shiny, they get dinged at the same rate:)
  7. JR88FAN


    May 5, 2013
    Completely agree with assessing the edge and '"is this sharp enough for YOUR purposes"

    Personally, my edges need to be sharpened when they are not performing up to MY expectations in use.

    In terms of how 'sharp' I need my knives to be, that's relative to the performance I expect out of them.

    That level requires a 600 Grit Benchstone and a strop........
  8. DeadboxHero

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

    Mar 22, 2014
    They all take damage the same. It's more disheartening on a polished edge because of the extra time put to sharpen. But I enjoy the performance of a clean polished apex on a knife or axe. Angles? Time? Not sure. It just works better.

    Technique is huge when sharpening. Some people don't like polished edges because they unintentionally round the apex making it slice poorly.

    If I didn't notice a difference then I'd be with ya and wouldnt put in extra effort either.

    There is a difference with those materials mentioned as well.
    Paper cuts smoother with polished edges there is an audible difference and the cuts are visably cleaner.
    Hairs will "pop" off the arm versus snaging and tearing

    Carving feathersticks or woodworking is a joy versus tedious hand cramping misery.

    Haha, probably just me. I'm obsessive.

    That's a huge variety of coarse grits, sandpaper?
  9. Fred.Rowe

    Fred.Rowe Dealer / Materials Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    May 2, 2004
    In my experience a toothy edge does not last as long as a polished edge ground at the same angle. The toothy edge is much less efficient when cutting through especially abrasive materials. Cutting card board using a knife with a toothy edge might cut better at the onset of cutting but will fail before the polished edge, which tends to slip through the material easier than the toothy edge. I'm at a disadvantage for I have no knives with under hardened edges, I use steels in the .84 carbon range which attain maximum hardness when quenched properly. at
    I've been grinding a lot of edges using 3M micron belts running in a wetting solution, on a 2 x 72 VS machine with some extremely beneficial results. The finish and cutting difference between the 40 micron [320grit] and the 10 micron [1000 grit] is apparent. My understanding of polished does not denote how delicate an edge is, only the surface condition of the cutting edge.
  10. bucketstove


    Sep 23, 2014
    yes, I notice an audible difference too, just barely
    but its so easy to make paper be noisy and even squeak , it depends on everything from bevel angle, bevel finish, microbevel angle, if you're cutting with blade perfectly vertical, if you're gong fast, slow, if paper is twisting....

    I've not reached hair popping sharpness but the highest grit I've got is a tiny fixed angle ceramic
    Ive got harbor freight 4 sided diamond stone, norton economy 6" sic, rapala single stage pocket ceramic

    what do you mean by snagging and tearing? Like scrape shaving?
  11. DeadboxHero

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

    Mar 22, 2014
    Kinda of, if I Sharpen a knife on a extra coarse DMT stone and attempt to shave arm hair it does a poor job and only seems to catch hairs snag and tear them rather then cut or slice them.

    Getting back on topic should one strop?

    Heres a test for you Bucketstove.

    After honing on your finest stone,

    Take a piece of paper ( newspaper works best)

    Place it on something hard and flat.

    With light pressure, alternate stroping passes on each side for 20 passes total.

    Lightly draw the knife edge through a piece of softwood.

    Tell us the result.

    Does stroping work?
  12. bucketstove


    Sep 23, 2014
    Ok, I went ahead and tried it again
    20 passes per side on newspaper
    no improvement, no degradation, no real change
    shaving ability same , decent scrape shaving on arm/leg
    slicing ability same , whoosh on a slice, slightly noisier on closest approximation of a push cut
    so I went and did another 20pps, again no change
    and I did another 20pps, and again no real change
    I did them slow and careful ... being very careful for 120 passes is, well, a lot of focus

    then today, I did another 20pps on painted side of cardboard , then another 20pps ... no change each time

    I imagine I don't see any change because I cut the burr off on the stone
    so stropping on low-abrasives like paper/magazine/cardboard
    doesn't noticeably improve the edge that remains
  13. stitchawl


    Jul 26, 2008

    No disrespect intended, but you must be doing something wrong. I can get noticeable improvement just by making 20 passes on my palm with my razor. I let my face be the judge, and if one side hurts to shave and the other (after stropping on my palm) doesn't, I have to say that stropping made a big difference. I will admit that I won't try this test with a machete... ;)
  14. bucketstove


    Sep 23, 2014
    Ok, why/what am I doing wrong?
    The sharpness I've achieved so far is not enough for my face -- stropping hasn't improved that
  15. DeadboxHero

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

    Mar 22, 2014
    Thanks for sharing Bucketstove.

    Interesting results.
    Mine are different.

    I have had great success with paper as a final step when all I had was low grit stones. It really seems to remove any stragglers and clean the ape . after stroping I'd also pull the edge through soft wood, cork or hard felt to make sure the burr is removed and gone.

    I noticed my edges cut better and were more refined.

    Not sure how troubleshoot but thanks for checking it out and sharing.

    Take care.
  16. stitchawl


    Jul 26, 2008
    I really wish I could help, but without seeing what you are doing, I haven't a clue. My suggestion would be to go back to square one. Perhaps if you could shoot some video of your action it might give us an idea of where we can improve on your technique. Usually problems like this can be solved with just a very small change made in one step along the way, often so small it goes unnoticed until there is an 'ah ha!' moment, and then everything comes together.

  17. How effective any stropping will be, whether with compound or not, depends almost entirely on how fine the edge is from the stones. If stropping by itself isn't producing shaving sharpness, that's a strong clue the edge wasn't quite ready for stropping, or at least not fine enough to be noticeably improved by the particular strop being used. The less aggressive the strop is by itself, the more important it is to make sure the edge is as fully refined from the stones as possible. A more aggressive strop, with compound and substrate capable of doing some true 'honing' of the edge, the more it can compensate for shortcomings left by the stone work. A bare strop of cardboard, paper or magazine cover stock won't usually be aggressive enough to compensate for incomplete work on the stones.

    The other thing that makes shaving-sharpness a lot more easy, is the edge angle. If the edge isn't already at least 30° inclusive or lower, it'll be a lot more challenging to make it shave well. A straight razor is much more easily improved or refined on a less aggressive strop, because it's edge geometry is already very thin, usually below 20° inclusive, and maybe even down to 15° inclusive. If such edges are prepped well coming off the stones, then it becomes a lot easier to strop it on most anything, such as the palm of one's hand or on their jeans, or on a simple strop of paper or linen, or whatever. A lot of the difference will be made by just stripping away extremely fine burrs or realigning a slightly rolled edge, which is much easier to do when the edge geometry is already very, very thin. With an edge like a straight razor's, the shaving sharpness should already be there coming off the stones; the stropping should simply refine it, by making it much smoother and more comfortable, with less 'snags' along the edge. That's what a very simple strop can do, if the edge is ready for it.

  18. bucketstove


    Sep 23, 2014
    So to realize a benefit from stropping , I have to shave my face?

    :) ok so today I went and improved on the shaving ability, much much less snaggy on the face (not hair popping) ... stropping still doesn't improve it.
    While I can notice the difference on my face, I can't shaving my arm, or cutting newspaper...
    So yeah, I think I'll stick to not stropping

    Thanks everybody

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