For the final stage of sharpening, a strop is used after the finest stone. A strop works by polishing and working off burrs that have been left behind after sharpening a stone. Despite other materials being used, leather is the most common material used for strops.
Suede as well as smooth leather, technically called flesh side and grain side, are used. They can be fixed to a rigid base, such as a leather and wood paddle strop, or they can be flexible, such as a leather and linen razor strop.
What is the Proper Way to Use a Strop?
With honing compounds, the extremely fine abrasives that polish an edge to a mirror finish, strops are often used. Apply the compound first to the strop’s surface if you are going to use one. The compound goes a long way, so there’s no need to slather it on thick.
With light pressure, hold the bevel against the surface of the strop and move the blade away from the cutting edge. Do the same on the other side of the blade. With or without a honing compound, the process is the same on any stropping surface.
Never move the blade toward the cutting edge, as it will cut into the strop, dulling the edge and damaging the strop. There is usually no need for more than a few strokes. Strops should be used before you even suspect that your edge is dull. It is a crucial step in maintaining a razor-sharp edge when used consistently.
Is Compounding Strop Necessary?
You can use a strop without any compound. Straight razor sharpeners, for example, often prefer to use a strop made of smooth leather without any compound applied. Metal edges are polished, and any burrs are removed from the metal, leaving them sharp and precise.
On the other hand, knife and tool users often use a compound on their strops. The fact that it gives them an excellent edge quickly and easily is what they find appealing. Compounds are a matter of personal preference, based on our experience. In either method, excellent results are obtained, although honing compound with its abrasive particles will show results more quickly than plain. Many of us, in the interest of being thorough, apply a compound to one strop and follow up with a plain strop.
Which Is Better, Suede or Smooth?
You can choose between suede or smooth leather strops. It is even possible to have both on the same strop. It is natural that many will wonder which of these options is best. A common practice is to use suede in conjunction with compounds and smooth for plain stropping, but this is by no means universal.
We have found that the decision is a combination of personal choice and the type of edge being sharpened. Smooth leather is traditionally used for stropping straight razors. Straight razors have low angle, grain-side edges that are ideal for straight razors because of their delicate, grain surface.
Suede strops are often used by carvers and knife sharpeners. Suede’s nap makes it easy to load the strop since it holds onto compound well. The softer surface also allows the blade to bevel a bit as the suede compresses under the blade, which some find desirable.
Smooth grain side leather may be preferred by those who don’t use much compound. Sharpeners of woodworking tools like chisels, where a rounded bevel is not desired, also find that the slightly harder surface helps.
Options for strops
Different combinations of surfaces are available on our strops in many different shapes and sizes. The two types of mounted strops are razor strops and mounted strops, respectively.