The final step in sharpening any blade is stropping, which is not the least important.
Which side of leather is the best finish- the smooth side of leather or the suede? Some people are unsure which side of leather strop should be used to polish the blade.
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Straight razors are typically stropped with the smooth side of leather, whereas knives and larger blades are typically stropped with the suede side to round the blade bevel.
As a sharpener, why does the type of leather matter when you strop a blade? Blades are just blades, aren’t they? Let’s take a closer look at the stropping process and why the type of leather used is so important.
After Sharpening a Blade, Why Use a Strop?
According to knife experts, stropping is the best way to maintain and sharpen a knife. Knife owners can keep their knives sharp and ready to use with the right strop and skillful technique.
Sharpening a blade requires a strop as the final step in preparing it for use after sharpening. Blades appear smooth to the human eye. The truth is more complicated than one might think.
Under a microscope, you can see that the blade has thousands of tiny “teeth.” As the blade is used regularly over time, those teeth start to bend out of alignment, making the blade dull.
Using stropping is a solution to this problem. Stropping does not sharpen the blade, but it refines it by bending the little “teeth” back into alignment. By running the blade over a smooth, porous surface, this is accomplished.
After sharpening your blade, you should string it to prolong its life. Leather is the best surface for stropping. Straight razors are best stropped with side of leather of the strop, and carving knives and large blades are better stropped with the suede side.
Polishing Straight Razors with the Smooth Side
Straight razors are typically stropped with the smooth- or plain-leather side of the strop. Stooping on this smoother leather can be a more pleasant experience. A straight razor’s low angle edges are perfectly polished with this surface’s grain.
By gently resetting the blade’s microscopic teeth into place, the smooth leather helps create a finely sharpened blade.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Stropping Your Straight Razor
The following steps will help you refine the sharpness of the blade on your razor:
- Strops should be attached to a fixed surface (wall, counter, barber chair).)
- With your fingertips, hold the razor between the blade and the handle
- Place the blade flat on the stropMove the razor toward the blade’s back
- Gently pull the blade in a 40-degree angle towards you
- Roll the blade over the back of the razor when you reach the end of the strop
- The hook should be pushed backFor best results, repeat 4-5 times
Keep your blade from cutting the strop by putting too much pressure on it. Also, the back of the blade should remain in contact with the strop.
High quality leather is used on one side of the razor strop, and heavy linen is used on the other side.
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Razor sharpeners prefer to strop with the linen side first, as it cleans the blade before the final strop with the leather, further improving the sharpness of the blade.
Does the Smooth Leather Require a Compound?
The choice of whether to use a compound with the smooth side of leather when stropping a straight razor is up to personal preference. The smooth leather of the strop still provides a fine polish and removes any stray burs without adding compound.
When used in conjunction with smooth leather, a compound provides a blade with an even, fine edge after it is sharpened. As a result, the blade teeth are pushed back into place by the abrasive particles.
In many cases, sharpeners who use the smooth side of leather strop don’t use much compound, if any. As a result of the grain size of the leather, the blade can be polished to an exceptionally fine finish.
What Is the Purpose of Using the Suede Side to Polish Knives?
Most carvers and knife sharpeners polish their blade after sharpening with the suede side of the strop. Due to suede’s soft surface, the bevel of the blade is rounded by compressing under the blade.
With certain woodworking tools, chisels, and abrasives, using the smoother side of the leather strop gets better results.
Using a compound to fine-tune the stropping process is also possible on the suede side. As the nap in suede absorbs the compound well, it gives the leather extra grain.
Suede and compound combine to create a reinforced finish that some sharpeners prefer. Even the smallest differences make a difference to the perfectionist in terms of the knife’s sharpness.
The Best Way to Strop a Knife Blade
To ensure the sharpest possible blade:
- Firmly lay the strop
- Apply a small amount of the compound to the surface
- Place the knife flat on the suedeKeep the bevel away from the cutting edge
- The sharp edge of the knife should face away from you as you pull it toward you
- Repeat the motion on the other side of the blade
- For best results, repeat this 4-5 times
When your knife stops feeling as sharp as it should, strop it again before it becomes dull. A dull knife is more likely to cause an accident, so sharpness is more than just a matter of cutting performance. Additionally, it reduces the risk of cutting yourself.
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