Introduction to Leather Strops

A leather strop is a slender piece of leather used to sharpen blades. It’s an ancient tool used since the dawn of metalworking, when blades were used in everything from warfare to day-to-day tools and utilities. The popularity of leather strops has increased in recent years, thanks mostly to the work of knife and razor enthusiast. Stropping with a strop can give finely honed edges by first removing any burs or wire edges left over from using a sharpening stone and then straightening out microscopic burrs on the blade edge.

The process of sharpening with a leather strop is fairly simple. Firstly, you need to have a clean piece of leather, typically sided in veg tan leather but cowhide is also common. It’s important that whatever type you choose, your strop should be free from dirt or any other abrasive contaminants. Once you have determined the type you are going to use, it is important that you fully break it in before use by adding an abrasive compound such as stropping paste or diamond spray – these compounds not only help improve the sharpness of your blade but also help condition the surface so it will last longer. After conditioning the surface lightly rub your blade against the strop while exerting modest downward pressure – this action helps remove any leftover debris from sharpening stones and make sure that burrs are removed without damaging the blade itself. You can increase or decrease pressure depending on what results you want – sometimes less pressure is more effective if you want even finer results. Finally after using the strop for some amount of time, check how your edge looks; if there is still material left over from sharpening stones and burrs present, repeating stropping steps may be required until desired results are achieved.

Comparing Different Types of Strops

Sharpening leather strops, also called strop blocks, are special pieces of equipment used to sharpen and maintain knives and other tools that dull quickly. Strops are made of a variety of materials including leather, plastic and even canvas. Each type of material offers different advantages that contribute to the effectiveness of the strop.

Leather strops tend to be the most popular choice because they provide a smooth edge for sharpening and honing with minimal drag on the blade. The flexible nature of leather also helps prevent any nicks or blemishes from forming when it is drawn across a honing surface. Additionally, many leather strops have an abrasive compound embedded in them to facilitate more efficient sharpening. Further, leather is relatively low maintenance; it doesn’t require frequent replacements like other materials and can last for years with proper care.

Plastic strops may lack some of the attractive solutions found in a good quality leather strop; however, they can provide a far less expensive option while still achieving similar results over time. Plastic isn’t as flexible as leather and can produce more drag on more delicate blades; however, plastic offers better wear resistance than both canvas and leather varieties making it useful for everyday tasks which involve continual sharpening. In addition to this plastic will not absorb liquid when being used so it is easier to clean than some other materials which absorb oils or water-based pastes used in knife sharpening processing.

Canvas strops offer an interesting alternative as they are made out of thick fabric coated with a variety of abrasives on both sides. The fabrics may include burlap or denim which is then presented between two layers of adhesive plasterboard which makes them quite durable and resistant to wear over time due to continual use or exposure to moisture or oil products used during sharpening processing. Canvas typically provides less feedback than either plastic or leather hence it would be best reserved for occasional use or light duty applications where precision isn’t essential but longevity is important for getting your job done quickly and effectively.

The Benefits of Sharpening a Leather Strop

Sharpening a leather strop is an important step in preserving the longevity and effectiveness of your knives. Not only does it ensure that sharp edges can be quickly achieved, but it also helps keep them from becoming dull and needing frequent maintenance or upkeep. The leather itself acts as a honing compound, eliminating burrs and rounding off hard edges to return the blade to a state closer to its original level of sharpness. Leather provides for a polished finish by smoothing out irregularities on the edge to enhance performance and stability. The act of stropping also encourages improved flexibility and more uniform cutting surfaces as it removes tiny particles from the knife while you’re using it. Additionally, due to its unique anatomy and makeup, a leather strop offers much greater resistance when compared with other materials making them an ideal choice for sharper blades that are in need of precision honing.

What You’ll Need to Get Started

In order to sharpen a leather strop properly, you will need a few supplies. First, you will need the leather strop itself. This should be at least one to two inches wide and have a rough side as well as a smooth side. Additionally, you will need some polishing or honing compound to put on the strop in order to create the ideal cutting surface. There are several different compounds available which vary depending on the material of your knife and its sharpening needs. Lastly, you will need an item such as a rolled up magazine or newspaper in order to burnish or polish the edge of your knife after it has been stropped.

How to Set Your Sharpening Angle Properly

Sharpening your blade on a leather strop requires you to set the correct angle correctly in order to give you the desired result. The most common angle set for knives is 20 degrees. To do this, you’ll need a sharpening stone and guide such as a jig or a honing rod and place it at the edge of your stone with the bevel facing upward. Position the tool so that it’s touching both sides of one side of your blade. Adjust the height of the blade so that you can sharpen without worrying about dragging on other parts of your knife.

Next, check to make sure that your strop is held firmly in place and will not move while you’re sharpening. Place both of your thumbs at either side of the spine between where you’ll begin sharpening and slowly drag the blade across at an angle towards yourself, maintaining a consistent angle throughout. Be consistent and use multiple strokes so that all sides are evenly worked on. If needed, adjust the jig ever so slightly higher or lower depending on how well the knife blades going through it, making sure that the bevel stays at 20 degrees during each pass. When done correctly, this should give you superior results with a polished blade edge. With practice and patience, your strop will become significantly more effective giving an incredibly sharp edge.

Key Principles and Techniques of Sharpening

Sharpening leather strops involve a few key principles and techniques to master. First of all, it is important to purchase a quality strop that is the correct size for your knife or blade. Furthermore, make sure you have the right sharpening compound for the job. Common compounds are chromium oxide, diamond paste, and stropping compound. Additionally, be sure to adjust the angle of the blade correctly when stropping; this will vary depending on what type of material your blade is made from and its intended use. Start by stropping with light pressure and in one direction only; then alternate directions (for example stroke 5 times in one direction then 5 times in the other). This helps ensure an even finish on the blade. Regular stropping should also include finishing movements such as circles and figure eights as well as acute angle edge leading strokes. Lastly, take your time with each stroke; around 10 seconds per stroke is ideal for creating a smooth edge on any blade. With practice, sharpening leather strops can become incredibly easy to achieve good results quickly and efficiently.

Tips to Preserve and Protect your Leather Strop

1. Store your leather strop properly – Be sure to keep the strop in a cool, dry area, away from exposure to direct sunlight or any other form of heat. Sunlight over time can dry out the leather and cause it to become brittle, whereas high levels of humidity can encourage mold growth between the layers of leather.

2. Clean your Leather Strop before and after use – Before and after use, take a moment to clean off any accumulated wood chips and dust with a lightly dampened cloth. Oil-free leather cleaners are also handy and are great at tackling tough dirt marks without clogging up the pores on the leather surface. After you have completed cleaning the strop, apply another layer of oil if necessary and buff to restore shine and protection back into the surface.

3. Sharpen sparingly – Over sharpening on a regular basis can lead to rough edges on your knives which will compromise performance and reduce lifespan. When using sharper stones, stop early as an overly flattened bevel angle will create more cutting points resulting in weak blades with low edge retention capabilities

4. Monitor for damage – Take some time now and again to check for wear on both sides of the stropping belt or paddle) as well as any potential visible signs of splitting or cracking on the leather itself. Shoulder straps can begin to stretch over prolonged use so be sure watch out for that too! With proper storage, cleaning, sharpening with care, plus minimal exposure to access humidity levels – you should get plenty of use from your hard wearing piece of kit!

Praparation Steps Before Sharpening

Prior to sharpening a leather strop, there are some preparation steps that should be taken to ensure optimal results. The first step is to clean the surface of the leather strop with a soft damp cloth or paper towel. This will remove any dirt, grime and debris that may be present. Next, it’s important to add compound to the surface of the strop. This can be done with a block of solid compound or with pre-mixed liquid solution. If using a block, simply rub it in circles over the entire strop surface. For liquid solution, spray evenly across the grain of the leather material and allow it time to soak in before continuing. Once these steps have been completed, then you can begin sharpening your blade using light strokes back and forth against the strop.

Different Sharpening Methods

Sharpening with a leather strop is one of the easiest and most popular methods of honing and polishing straight-edge blades. It works by creating a microscopic layering effect on the edge, which helps to hold the sharpness for extended periods of time. A leather strop consists simply of a flat piece of leather that has been impregnated with abrasive compounds such as diamond paste or chromium oxide. To sharpen your blade, draw it across the strop away from you until you feel a burr forming along the cutting surface. Keep moving the blade back and forth in smooth strokes until you reach an evenly polished surface on both sides.Depending on the type of knife or tool being sharpened, other variations may be more suitable. Feather stropping, for instance, involves using one razor feather throughout the process instead of alternating directions each time. This method makes light work of honing even the toughest edges while providing a uniform finish without excessive wear and tear on the blade. If you’re dealing with softer knives or tools, then wet sharpening may be another effective option; this technique requires applying water or oil to either side of the tool while rotating and then sharpening against an abrasive stone — always followed by stropping to remove any remaining burrs. Whichever sharpening approach you choose though, safety should always come first; make sure to always handle knives very carefully and take extra precaution when working with high-grit stones or diamond-paste impregnated strops.

Finishing Steps After Sharpening

Once the edge is sufficiently sharpened, it’s time to finish the job with a leather strop. A leather strop is similar to sandpaper, but much smoother and more supple. It can be used to further refine and smooth the edge of a blade. To use, apply a light coating of stropping compound to the leather side of the strop and move your knife back and forth going in one direction. As you sharpen, enjoy the signature “ting” sound that you hear when honing your blade.

Once complete, wash off any remaining compound with a damp rag or rinse it clean with water. Then apply a light oil or lubricant like mineral oil on both sides of the blade for increased protection from rusting and corrosion. For even better protection, occasionally clean off old oil and reapply fresh lubricant after each use.

How to Maintain and Store Your Leather Strop

Maintaining and storing your leather strop is essential for getting the best edge out of whatever you are sharpening. To sharpen a knife, razor, or any other edged tool, the leather strop should be treated with respect. When not in use, it should be stored in a dry place away from direct sunlight and heat, so that it doesn’t damage the surface of the leather.

To keep the surface of your strop even longer and more effective for use over time, you can apply some mineral oil to it once every few months (or more if needed). If your strop is getting too smooth from using it too often, a light sanding with very fine grit can help restore its usability. For maximum performance out of your leather strop, use a good quality polishing compound such as green chrome oxide or white polishing rouge and buff it onto the strops surface in even strokes until it builds up an even layer across its entire surface. Doing this will create a slight abrasive effect which will help keep edges sharper and remain sharper longer when honed on the strop.

Troubleshooting Common Problems with Leather Strops

If you are having problems with your leather strop not performing well, there are a few common problems you can troubleshoot.

One issue could be that your leather strop is too dry. If your leather strop is dry, it won’t be as effective in sharpening knives and other blades. To remedy this, use a leather conditioner or beeswax to hydrate the leather strop and make it more effective.

Another issue could be that you aren’t using your leather strop correctly. The traditional approach is to apply honing oil onto the surface of the strop before using it for sharpening. This helps to lubricate the blade so it won’t get stuck onto the leather and also provides an added layer of protection against damage to both the blade and the leather itself. Furthermore, make sure you use even strokes and pay attention to how much pressure you apply on the blade while stropping— too much can cause damage to the metal edge of your knife or tool.

Last but not least, another possibility is that your leather strop isn’t suitable for grinding any longer because its abrasiveness has been worn down with extended use over time. Investing in a new one can help revitalize your sharpening sessions and bring back that razor-edge finish to all of your tools!


After following these steps, you should have successfully sharpened your leather strop. Sharpening a leather strop is an important part of maintaining the blade of any edge tool. Using the right technique, pressure and abrasive will ensure optimal sharpening performance and help you keep your tools in top condition.