How To Make Leather Strop
A saying has always sticked to my high school workshop teacher: keep you sharp edges and keep your powder dry. Although these days I’m not very attentive to my powder’s dryness, I’m interested in my tools. Sharp borders are safer, more accurate, less frustrating and a lot more fun to be used. This is one of my secrets to ensure that they are cut to their best. Maybe in an old barber’s shop you saw a strop. It was so long, thick and narrow leather on the wall. Before turning his eye to the lateral face of his customer, the barber would take his straight rasper blade and knock it up and down.
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This simple move was indeed a critical element in keeping this sheet sharp as it strengthened the metal edge’s microscopic curl. Because when you are tools that’s dull, the thin edge of metal folds over or rounds, and must be dealt with before you ruin a cut, or push it too hard, and cut one fragile finger. I have been holding in my shop for a while with a simple leather strop, and as an improvisation version of this leather strop it works fine. But this wooden strop project makes it much easier and looks better to maintain my tools.
- Hardwood Backer Board – The main concern with the backer wood is that it will stay flat and level, so pick out a piece of hardwood like maple or walnut, and go with quarter-sawn if possible for stability. I sliced off a piece of walnut from a larger piece of stock on the band saw. MDF will also work.
- Leather Strip – The leather for this project should be hard, untanned leather if possible. I picked up a piece from here ($15) that I have been using on a couple of projects for the past few months. The leather should be rough to hold on to a bit of honing compound, or you can sand smooth leather with a bit of 300-400 grit sandpaper to help it along.
- Glue – You can use standard yellow wood glue or 5-minute epoxy ($10) to secure the leather to the wood.
- Honing Compound – This gives the leather a bit of extra effectiveness. You can use either honing compound stick ($12), or a diamond paste ($8). Either way, it’s effective for months of normal use, so a little bit goes a long way.
Cut and level the backing board – it is important, as I said before, for the support board to be stable and level. I cut off a 3/4′′ walnut piece of stock wood and put it on a table saw. I cut the walnut piece. I gave it a fast sanding on a sheet of 100 grain of grain sandpaper attached to my workbench to ensure it was level.
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Tap – This is an optional step as you can directly stick the leather onto the back panel. However, I wanted the piece to feel a little more finished so I put out a crosscut sleeve and stops on both sides of the leather thickness from the board.
Cut the leather and make it safe – this is an important step, so you should use a fresh and very sharp cuff blade. I cut the leather a little bigger than the finished sizes and put it in place to fit well. If this piece is too small or twisted, you will certainly know it so take time. After that, I used 5 minutes of epoxy to secure the leather to the back board (yellow wood adhesives are just as good for that).
Finish with mineral oil – a good cloth of mineral oil should be provided to complete the project with the entire part, wood and leather. Mineral oil protects the wood and loads the leather in order to stick and be efficient. On the whole piece, I rubbed the oil by hand, then cleaned it with a rag.
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