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How To Properly Load A Leather Strop

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A strop is essentially a piece of leather. A knife can be sharpened by using a strop, which aligns the edge and helps the knife cut. When loading a strop with a compound, it can polish the blade, and hone the edge. I usually can shave as sharp as possible after sharpening a Fine Spyderco ceramic.

Anyhow, this instructable is mainly about how to load a strop, or to apply compound. Diamond paste, for example, is a compound made from DMT. The green, chromium oxide compound from Sears works for me. It cost around $3. Basically, it’s a block of craftsman polishing compound. 

The following are necessary:

  • Strops (a piece of leather works best, although jeans may also work. Some people prefer balsa wood.)
  • Stove (hopefully you have one… or just an open campfire in the middle of the woods)
  • Buffing compound (I got the one from Sears, “Craftsman Green buffing compound”)
  • Knives
  • A paper towel or toilet paper (You may need to borrow some from a fast food restaurant) 

Get the Strop Clean

You can skip this step if you have a clean piece of leather.  I use ispropyl alcohol to clean the strop, rubbing it down to remove most of the dirt. Following this, I sand the compound along a 320-grit piece of sandpaper to both clean and prepare the surface for adhesion. 

However, if you are thinking about getting the best leather strop, we offer the most reliable recommendations.

Use the Compound

It looks and smells like a big crayon, doesn’t it? To color in the strop, use light, fast strokes. If you didn’t have a great childhood, you should take the compound and rub it back and forth. It is important to build up some friction, heat the strop, and get things moving. Efforts smear into a strop, then congratulations!

The next step can also be skipped. Nevertheless, if your compound doesn’t cover the strop evenly, you’ll have to rub it in. Those who use paste, such as DMT diamonds, should rub a drop or so on their fingers, and let it dry. 

Make Sure to Rub It In

Make sure you tap the strop a few times to dislodge any loose items, and then move into the kitchen.

Firstly, the stove top should be heated, and then the leather should be heated. Eventually, the compound will melt, much like a crayon, but at a much lower temperature. Once the compound has melted, or looks liquidy, or is just softer, take the paper towel and rub it back and forth. You probably didn’t heat the compound enough if it flakes and falls off. Continue until you are satisfied with the amount of compound. Usually, I have just a thin coating. 

You shouldn’t get too close to the fire, but the leather might warp a little anyway. No worries, it will be pressed back down by a heavy book. The strop will flatten out again with regular use. 

It should feel waxy and slippery if you did it correctly. It’s like there’s compound on it (duh!). A finger shouldn’t stick to it like normal leather, but should glide over it. You might not be able to see anything if it’s a thin layer. Your leather might look like algae had a ball on it if it’s really thick.


 Using a strop is similar to sharpening a knife, but in reverse. Imagine that you are going to sharpen your knife, but move it backwards, so that the edge will not cut into the leather. In other words, the knife should be traveling in the opposite direction of the cutting edge. The best stroke is a gentle one. To strop, you should feel a slight resistance from the leather, but do not press into it, or else you will dull your edge. Feel the slight drag as you press. 

The instructable is pretty simple, but I just wanted to share this guide loading a strop because I love strops! When you’re bad at sharpening, they really help. While it won’t make a dull knife sharp (well technically, given enough time, even water can sharpen a knife), it can help make it better. As opposed to the unyielding stone, the leather has a bit of give, so it will conform to the knife’s angle. 

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