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Materials Used for Strops?

Joined
Nov 20, 2004
Messages
4,812
I was just on another thread on another forum and this subject came up so I really want to see what my Bladeforum Brethren have to say about it. The subject matter of the thread had a lot to do with "stropping" and how to do it better.

I've been thinking for a long time now that Leather can't be the only good stropping material. Now I do own a couple of leather strops that I like but I also have one that I got from a Barber Supply company that is made of "Russian Boar" hide that really does a great job. Actually I think it does a bit better than bovine leather IMO.

I've heard about other materials like balsa wood. various other animal hides, all types of synthetic materials and even some types of cordage I've heard make for good strops.

So let's talk about what makes a good stropping material?
 
Joined
Nov 7, 2011
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2,097
Not an expert, and there are tons of approaches to stropping here on BF. Recently I accumulated some approaches to stropping (see this thread) I had tried over the years plus some recent new ones, and talked to a few of the sharpening pros on here about different stropping approaches. Lots of them can work, for sure. But different materials get different kinds of results.

Here's what currently like, because it's easy and simple to maintain, works great, and because it's a hard material, it doesn't round/convex my edges.

* Chunk of 2x12 basswood (a hardwood), sanded on 2 sides to smooth the surface.
* Gritomatic CBN 1 micron compound applied on one side. The CBN enables the compound to lightly hone my "super steel" knives as well as any others.
* The other side is kept plain.

I strop with 5 to 10 edge-trailing strokes on the compound at the same sharpening angle, after sharpening the blades on diamond or AlOx stones.
 
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Apr 12, 2009
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If used with compound, leather has little or no advantage at all, over many other alternative stropping substrates. I generally prefer using something other than leather for use with compounds. In particular, denim or linen over a hard backing takes and holds compound a lot easier, and in a greater density, which makes for really aggressive polishing on convexed edges in particular. And for any other polishing-grade stropping, I prefer not to use any soft substrate at all, but instead use something like a firm wood, like basswood or mdf. Best of all, the denim/linen/wood used for these better-performing alternatives cost next to nothing, or nothing at all if made from hand-me-down clothing or shop scraps (as are mine). The compound itself will likely be the largest initial expense; though in stick form, it should last for years & years, so it's not really much of an expense in the long run.

My one leather strop that I use at all, is just a leather belt used like a barber's strop (hanging). I've found it to be useful with light finishing stropping, after coming off the hones, for cleaning up burrs. It has a little bit of residual green compound left on it, but I haven't replenished that in quite some time, and likely won't; I don't feel I really need the compound on it anymore. I use the back side (suede) for stropping, on that belt.

I can see the possible advantages of a very high-quality, very firm leather (horsehide, etc) strop when used bare. So, if going to the expense of buying such a strop, I'd not ruin it's best attributes by covering it with compound. Anything can be used for that, pretty much, even cardboard or paper.


David
 

Mo2

Joined
Apr 8, 2016
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6,630
You can use anything as a strop. Your just primarily trying to remove the bur. News paper on glass is super cheap and works fine. Denim, balsa wood, mdf, etc all work fine. Use a bit of compound and wallah. You could Make 3 strops with different compounds and work that scratch pattern to mirror the edge.
 
Joined
Jun 4, 2010
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Leather, paper, hard rubber, paperboard, balsa, poplar, MDF, edge of a clear maple cutting board, natural ropes - Manila being best, denim, thin linen, synthetic gasket material, Federal Reserve Note (!).
 

JJ_Colt45

Gold Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2014
Messages
4,853
I went through trying several different materials for strops lately. Alot being as the different steels I've added to what I own ... it seems some work different on different steels and different grinds on the blades. I still use a basic cowhide leather strop for my knives that have convex edges.

Ive settled in to a firm horsehide strop for most my knives gives me great results. And I have a couple one with simple black and green bar compounds and use it for my high carbon and softer stainless steel knives.

Another very firm horsehide with CBN on one side the other without compound just the firm smooth horsehide. And I use that for most my stainless steels and it has worked well for me.

I have used denim and paper just wrapped around my sharpening stone to give a firm strop with no compound and gotten decent results ... and I've just recently used balsa wood and so far had good results but not sure if its better then the horsehide strops.

But as others posted you can use so many things ... some as simple as cardboard or newspaper ... I settled on the firm horsehide just because it holds the compounds easy and for me I dont get a convexing effect using it like I have woth some other materials.
 
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Feb 9, 2010
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2,327
I am a big fan a Balsa wood and green compound. The denim thing sounds very interesting. How do you keep it flat? Do you glue it down?
 
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Apr 12, 2009
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I am a big fan a Balsa wood and green compound. The denim thing sounds very interesting. How do you keep it flat? Do you glue it down?

Yes. Glue it down, after stretching it as tightly as possible (use of clamps helps). Contact cement, or a spray adhesive like 3M 77 or DAP Weldwood Multipurpose will work. Keeping it flat and as firmly-backed as possible is what makes it work so well. You don't want it to lift, curl or bunch up underneath the blade.

Edited to add:
For stretching the denim tight & flat, an easy way is to stretch the denim over a board or flat bench/tabletop, with the glue side UP, clamping it at the edges to hold it taught. Then apply the contact adhesive to the denim and the board/paddle to which you want it attached, and simply lay the glued side of the board/paddle down on the stretched denim. Use weights or clamps to hold it flat & flush to the denim, while it takes hold & cures. After it cures, trim the edges of the denim.


David
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jul 26, 2008
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2,848
.................... I also have one that I got from a Barber Supply company that is made of "Russian Boar" hide that really does a great job. ...................

Just a quick note about 'Russian' leather... When you see 'Russian' attached to leather, it is 'usually' a term for how the leather has been 'processed' rather than where the leather is from. Unless, of course, you bought the leather from a Russian supplier.
'Russian Leather' is leather that has been treated the same way as you've seen in all my posts about making strops. In the Good Old Days two men would hold the edges of a side of wet leather and drag it back and forth over the end of a tall tree stump that had been rounded off, pulling hard on the leather to compress it. The highest quality "Russian Red Horsehide" might be worked in this fashion for 2-3 days to really pack the leather and force the silicates to the surface, which is the goal of the process, and what makes leather strops the material of choice for barbers. Today, as hiring two men for 2-3 days would make the leather prohibitively expensive, modern leather tanners use mechanical trip hammers and rollers to approximate these same results. 'Horween' brand Shell Cordovan horsehide is about as close as we can get in modern times to the old very high quality Russian leather. And, as been said before, putting compound over leather is rather like covering Birdseye maple with white latex paint. It just makes no sense at all to spend the big bucks for good leather, then not take advantage of its natural properties.


Stitchawl
 

Uncle Timbo

Gold Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2005
Messages
4,773
Once again, old school Tim here, I just like leather. I have one charged with the green grit and when it turns black and loses its ump, I clean it with hot water and lanolin hand soap. Let it dry overnight, recharge the next day. My other strop is bare horsehide.

I might try bare coyote hide if I could get my hands on this pesky little chit running around our neighborhood. :)
 
Joined
Sep 20, 2015
Messages
6,975
I was just on another thread on another forum and this subject came up so I really want to see what my Bladeforum Brethren have to say about it. The subject matter of the thread had a lot to do with "stropping" and how to do it better.

I've been thinking for a long time now that Leather can't be the only good stropping material. Now I do own a couple of leather strops that I like but I also have one that I got from a Barber Supply company that is made of "Russian Boar" hide that really does a great job. Actually I think it does a bit better than bovine leather IMO.

I've heard about other materials like balsa wood. various other animal hides, all types of synthetic materials and even some types of cordage I've heard make for good strops.

So let's talk about what makes a good stropping material?
OK I tried to resist but had to say it : my favorite stropping material is a Norton 8,000 stone or a Shapton 8,000 (unless it is one of them funny high vanadium alloys then a DMT 8,000 stone).
 
Joined
Nov 7, 2011
Messages
2,097
OK I tried to resist but had to say it : my favorite stropping material is a Norton 8,000 stone or a Shapton 8,000 (unless it is one of them funny high vanadium alloys then a DMT 8,000 stone).
YEAH!!!! Another stone-stropper. You're going "stropless" man! :)
 
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