Art

How To Make A Strop For Knives

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Making a strop seems simple, but how many times have we seen those without one or who go any buy one. Here is how to make one that is plenty big enough for the biggest of head knives.

Please forgive the pictures, but this is a one man show.

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If all you need is a strop for swivel knives, they are pretty easy to make. Put stropping compound on anything fairly substantial and hard (even a business card will do) and set it on a hard surface. The green thing is a strop made out of conveyor belting, you can get it from Weaver or Bob Beard.

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This is a horse butt, it is hard jacked between 7 and 9 oz., this one is 8oz. These are available from Springfield Leather, Sheridan Outfitters, RJF, Maverick, and many others, make sure it is hard jacked if you can. This cut is taken right ahead of where the shell cordovan ovals come off.

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While not absolutely necessary, it is good to get your strop up off the table or bench surface so you can get the proper angle of attack. I chose a 5x14 piece of 2x pine that is a Weaver edger strop on one side and now this new strop for other knives on the opposite. Make sure that the edges are NOT routed as sometimes you will need to use all the way out to the edge.

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Sand only if you need it, it is good to have it flat, but not baby's butt smooth as you need some tooth for the glue. I am using an 80 grit ceramic belt, but a 60 or even a 36 would work just fine. I also scored up the surface in a hatch pattern with a utility knife after sanding.

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After cutting out the strop, it fits pretty ok on the board. You can cut the strop out a little oversize and trim it later. I used a Leather Wrangler's Head knife by Paul Zalesak to cut it out, but my trusty Buchman was nearby. The Zalesak knife preformed very well in the hard jacked horsehide, it was easier to cut than some others I have tried. I could have gotten by with a Utility knife (well sharpened and stropped), but it is a little easier for me to see where I am going with the head knife.

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I used PVA glue (Fiebing's Tanners Bond) on both pieces, let it dry for at least 10 minutes to even 15 minutes before sticking together, if you don't it will be like your first time on ice skates as it is like an oil bearing till it gets tacky.

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A couple of hours pressing, but I let it go overnight at about 70 degrees.

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I am using a French Edger to trim up the strop that is a little oversize for the board.

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Any good saddle type oil, even neatsfoot or in a pinch mineral oil can be used to oil the strop and make it easier to adhere the stropping compound. I used #1 saddle oil with fungicides from Bee Natural.

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This is a microfine compound I get from toolsforwoodworking.com, works for me, bought two (just because of shipping) and have never used the second one.

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While the oil is still wet, just wipe off and pooling excess and get to applying the compound. Just rub it all over. and when you get little bits rolling up you can stop and rub them in with your fingers or a knife blade (what else?).

Let it dry up for a while and then strop, strop, strop. You can add a little compound when needed.

This work took about an hour and twenty minutes with fooling around with the camera and all, and like I said I let the glue dry overnight.

Art

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Art,

Nice one....THANK YOU for a great tutorial. I have never tried horse hide. I'll have to give it a try.

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Very cool Art. PabloZ, I heard that those that use horse butt leather say that they have better results than regular cowhide? If anyone can elaborate, I would interested in knowing. Art, your experiences?

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Well, the horsehide is pretty hard and even at 8oz., you don't have to worry about rolling the edge. If you used 8oz. cowhide, unjacked, you can actually get a lot of give when pressing down. If I were to use cow, I would either use something hard jacked like a sole bend, or 3-4oz so there is not much flesh to push into. Horse butt is reasonably priced and hard, and I always have a lot of it around, so that is a good reason. It tends to fall off in thickness as you go down the flanks (the ends) so you will get only 2 or so strops my size out of one, but with 2 inch wide strops, you could get a few more. They compare favorably to the conveyor belt strops. I have not really done much testing to see if one type of strop is better than another. Anything is better than nothing.

Art

Very cool Art. PabloZ, I heard that those that use horse butt leather say that they have better results than regular cowhide? If anyone can elaborate, I would interested in knowing. Art, your experiences?

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I made a strop many years ago, still have it. Here's what I did:

I made a box for one of my sharpening stones, made it out of pieces of lath. There's rubber on the bottom of the box to give the box traction on a surface, you don't want the stone shifting around while you're sharpening a blade, no blood letting! The strop is just a rectangular piece of thick hard leather that I glued to the top of the box. I used Shoe Goo or similar rubbery compound that comes in a large tube both to glue the leather to the box and for traction feet for the box itself. Works great.

Edited by Muse

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Well, the horsehide is pretty hard and even at 8oz., you don't have to worry about rolling the edge. If you used 8oz. cowhide, unjacked, you can actually get a lot of give when pressing down. If I were to use cow, I would either use something hard jacked like a sole bend, or 3-4oz so there is not much flesh to push into. Horse butt is reasonably priced and hard, and I always have a lot of it around, so that is a good reason. It tends to fall off in thickness as you go down the flanks (the ends) so you will get only 2 or so strops my size out of one, but with 2 inch wide strops, you could get a few more. They compare favorably to the conveyor belt strops. I have not really done much testing to see if one type of strop is better than another. Anything is better than nothing.

Art

When you say conveyor belting what grade?surface?and synthetic material, as I have access to a lot of conveyor belting of all shapes and qualities.

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You got me there, I get it from Bob Beard or Weaver.

Art

When you say conveyor belting what grade?surface?and synthetic material, as I have access to a lot of conveyor belting of all shapes and qualities.

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Lonnie at Hackbarth is selling some of that conveyor belt stuff for strops. He had it and some diamond rouge paste for sale at the Texas Show. The belting was $15 (?) for a strip about 6" wide by 2 feet or maybe 2.5'. I believe the paste was $15 a tube. Give him a ring and if I am wrong please post the correct price on here.

Thanks.

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When you say conveyor belting what grade?surface?and synthetic material, as I have access to a lot of conveyor belting of all shapes and qualities.

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Which side of the leather is glued? I have been away from leather work for a long time, but I thought the strops we had in school were scrap leather with jewlers ruge rubbed into the rough side. That is what I have been using lately. Maybe that is why my swivle knife seems to drag.

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Use the smooth side Ken, glue the rough side.

Cardboard from a cereal box works good on a slab, use the inside of the box for applying the rouge.

Kevin.

Which side of the leather is glued? I have been away from leather work for a long time, but I thought the strops we had in school were scrap leather with jewlers ruge rubbed into the rough side. That is what I have been using lately. Maybe that is why my swivle knife seems to drag.

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Thanks, I'll try that.

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IIRC , lots of old skool razor strops were grain leather on one side and a very dense felt on the other . What was the felt used for ?

I'm a big fan of stropping , and have tried a variety of abrassives , and a couple of metal polishes - haven't settled on anything yet . Anybody tried any of the new diamond pastes ?

Chris

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Hi Chris,

I have seen canvas, not seen felt, or if I have I have assumed it was canvas. Two different levels of abrasion, sometimes the canvas/felt might have been loaded with an abrasive and the leather just oiled and naked.

I have used the diamond paste that came with the tormek and it works very well, a little more expensive than the block of green rouge I recommended.

Art

IIRC , lots of old skool razor strops were grain leather on one side and a very dense felt on the other . What was the felt used for ?

I'm a big fan of stropping , and have tried a variety of abrassives , and a couple of metal polishes - haven't settled on anything yet . Anybody tried any of the new diamond pastes ?

Chris

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I was checking out a website that supplies lots of straight razors etc , in addition to felt and canvas , linen is used on some strops . Some strops use fairly light leather , might just be a stiffener .

Europeans often use much thinner lighter leather than we do , witness some Euro. holsters , and knife sheaths .

One tip I got from a pretty good woodworker - don't glue the leather to the wood block , just stretch the leather over the block and secure the ends with nails or staples . Never tried it , but might be worth a look .

Chris

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Thank You Art

you pegged a problem ive had with strops ive made in the past never heard of oiling the leather before to help the compound to adhere.

Theve always came out blotchy, high and low spots where the compounds thick or thin. Will have to rework the ones i have so they are usefull.

Thanks Again

Joe

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The only thing I need to sharpen (at least at this point in my journey in leather!) is my diamond awl blade. I bought a Tandy awl haft and separate blade. I know many on here swear by other blades, but I'd like to get this one sharp before I give up on it!

I'm hoping to pick up an oil stone to get it half sharp in the first place, but for stropping such a small item, is it appropriate to just use a piece of scrap tooling leather (approx 9oz)?

Stohlman says to rub the blade back and forward on the edge of the oil stone, then he says strop it. Should I use the same action to strop the diamond awl blade (i.e. back and forward on all 4 edges)?

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A business card with some chrome compound on it will work fine for awls and swivel knives.

Art

The only thing I need to sharpen (at least at this point in my journey in leather!) is my diamond awl blade. I bought a Tandy awl haft and separate blade. I know many on here swear by other blades, but I'd like to get this one sharp before I give up on it!

I'm hoping to pick up an oil stone to get it half sharp in the first place, but for stropping such a small item, is it appropriate to just use a piece of scrap tooling leather (approx 9oz)?

Stohlman says to rub the blade back and forward on the edge of the oil stone, then he says strop it. Should I use the same action to strop the diamond awl blade (i.e. back and forward on all 4 edges)?

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Get some 1500grit wet dry paper at the hardware store too and use that. You want that awl sharp, smooth and oh so polished. :)

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Thanks Art and TTCustom

In order to sharpen just the tip of the diamond awl but leave the rest of the shaft nice and oval with no edge, can you recommend techniques for actually sharpening? I mean, which way do you rub the blade, what angle to hold it at, and how much to work it on e.g. an oil stone to get it initially sharp.

Is the technique / action for stropping the same?

Sorry, I am completely new to working with hand tools and want to ensure I do it properly!

Art: I've googled "chrome compound" and asked around (even spoke to a chem graduate!) but still not sure what this stuff is. Does it have an alternative name? Just need to find a place to pick some up here in the UK.

Is it the same effect as using honing oil? I have some of that lying around.

Thanks

Edited by hazymat

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Roll up to top of topic for picture.

This is a microfine compound I get from toolsforwoodworking.com, works for me, bought two (just because of shipping) and have never used the second one.

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Looks cool. Thanks for sharing!

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A trick i just heard about , rub mechanics hand cleaning compound into the leather , It contains mild abrasives , penetrates the leather well , even tho it discolours it some . On hanging strops , the back was often corse linen dressed with chalk , old canvas hose is also good .

A lot of woodworkers are going with diamond pastes on MDF offcuts - the MDF is stable( as long as it doesn't get wet ) - you can have any size hone/strop you want .

Chris

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other types of material that is good for stropping is dry wall gypsum board

i also use a flat piece of MDF and use a piece of 1200 grit wet sanding paper

and use 3M 77 spray adhesive to bond the sand paper to the MDF board

i use a regular piece of card stock on the other side of the MDF and use

the spray adhesive to bond the card stock to the mdf board

then I just rub jewelers rouge on to the card stock.

you don't have to prep the dry wall board just rub on some jewelers rouge

as others have already mentioned a piece of cerial box with jewelers rouge

rubbed on it on top of your stamping stone will polish up any edge very nicely.

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an old german saddlemaker back in australia showed me his strop makin.he found a metal shop n got a cup of fine metal grindings from under th bench grinder oil'd down a glued piece of chap on 2x4,applied th shavings n worked back n forth with a flat knife a lil oil a lil strop'n over n over until he had a good coating.on other side a ruff out piece of chap to clean strop works great too.

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