Introduction to Using a Leather Strop to Sharpen Knives

A leather strop is an essential tool for creating a keen, sharp edge on a knife blade. It’s used to “strop” or refine the edge of the blade by removing microscopic imperfections and burrs, and then polishing it to create a smooth cutting surface. The result is a sharp knife that can easily and quickly slice through various materials. A typical strop consists of a piece of leather attached to some type of base like wood or plastic.

When stropping a knife, the user applies pressure with their hand while pulling the blade across the leather surface in alternate directions. This process causes the burrs to be removed and the steel edge gets polished up nicely. It may take several strokes with an aggressive angle before switching to lighter strokes at smaller angles in order to obtain optimum results. Stropping helps increase not just how sharp but also how durable your cutlery tools will be over time.

Using a leather strop as part of regular maintenance is important as it reduces then need for frequent grinding and gives you better results with less effort. Not only this, but using one regularly helps extend the life of your knives for many years of use.

The Mechanics of Using a Leather Strop

Step One: Position the Leather Strop
Lay the leather strop flat on a hard, stable surface. Make sure the strop is securely positioned and that it won’t move as you sharpen your knife.

Step Two: Preparing Your Knife Blade
You need to make sure that your knife blade is clean before you begin sharpening. Wipe off any debris from the blade carefully with a cloth, then keep your hands away from the cutting edge so that you don’t cut yourself.

Step Three: Applying Honing Oil
Using honing oil is essential for sharpening your knife properly with a leather strop. Liberally apply some honing oil onto both sides of the blade. As you sharpen, this will help reduce friction and prevent damage to the blade.

Step Four: Start Sharpening
Now that everything’s in place, hold your knife at an angle with your fingers placed firmly on the handle, and use long strokes to pull or draw the blade along the leather strop. Make sure you steady pressure throughout each stroke in both directions (away from and towards you). To ensure evenness, do this several times on each side of your blade until it produces a razor-sharp edge.

Note: Be very careful not to roll or twist the blade while stropping as this will ruin its edge-angle alignment causing it not to be sharpened effectively or safely

Step Five: Clean Up
When finished, remove any honing oil residue from your knife with a dry cloth and rinse off any fluids left behind on the strop using warm water and mild dish detergent. Lastly, if needed buff out any smudges with leather conditioner.

Benefits of Using a Leather Strop

A leather strop is a great way to sharpen a knife and maintain its edge. Compared to other methods of sharpening, using a leather strop offers numerous advantages.

Firstly, since the surface of the strop is made of soft leather, it helps remove far less material than if you were to use a hard stone or ceramic sharpener. This helps preserve an already existing blade and make the process of sharpening much safer. The use of the leather also produces an extremely fine edge which allows the user to easily slice through food items with precision and ease.

Another benefit associated with using a leather strop is that it requires very little effort on behalf of the user; as opposed to many other methods where some level of skill and knowledge is required in order to properly manage the angle when sharpening. A simple back-and-forth motion can create an incredibly sharp edge in no time at all. Furthermore, such strops are utilized for both straight blades as well as curved ones without compromising on performance.

Using a leather strop has clear advantages over several other techniques used for keeping knives sharp. The consitently fine edge it produces coupled with minimal effort makes a world of difference in how effective one’s knives are for slicing tasks, as compared to what one would otherwise achieve with different kinds of sharpeners.

Choosing the Right Leather Strop

Size: The size of your knife and the area of the blade that needs sharpening will help you determine what size of strop you need. You should ideally select a strop that is at least two inches longer than the length of your knife. This will ensure that your strop can provide you with reliable service for even larger blades if needed.

Grit: Grit refers to the roughness or coarseness of the surface of your leather strop. A higher grit indicates a smoother surface, while a lower grit indicates a rougher surface. Different types of knives require different grits, so make sure to select one that fits your needs.

Material: Leather strops come in many varieties and offer different levels of sharpening performance. Cowhide, horsehide, bison hide and kangaroo hide are all popular choices due to their soft quality and efficiency in creating an even finish on blades. Synthetic materials such as microfiber are also available, but they often don’t hold up as well over time as traditional leather options.

Sharpening Techniques for Different Knives

When looking for the best way to sharpen your blades, a great tool for the job is a leather strop. A leather strop consists of two leather straps attached to each other in an ‘X’ shape. It is then typically mounted on a wall or table in its open position, creating a surface wide enough for knives to rest between.

For kitchen knives – which have modern steel cutting edges and layers of stainless steel – start by honing them on both sides with a medium grit stone such as 1000-1500 grit (which is also suitable for pocket knives). Once you’ve achieved a burr on both sides of the blade, you can use the knife to create an even sharper edge. Take some honing oil and coat your strop with it evenly – if available, polishing compounds like chromium oxide are ideal – then spare the back of the blade against it gently 5-10 times each side. This should reduce any grinding marks on the edges and polish them up further.

At this point, you may want to take some very light strokes with a finer-grit stone such as 3000-4000 grit before stropping one final time so that your knife is severely sharp yet not fragile or brittle. The same process works for pocketknives – just keep in mind that they require extra care since their cutting edges tend to be quite thinner than kitchen knives and more susceptible to fracturing. Therefore, make sure you don’t apply too much pressure or use overly abrasive compounds during stropping because this could easily cause damage instead of sharpening them properly!

Caring for Your Leather Strop

When your leather strop is not in use, it’s important that you store it properly. The best way to do this is in an area with moderate temperatures, out of direct sunlight and away from humidity. Exposure to these three factors can cause the leather to dry out or react to the environment in an undesired manner.

Leather strops generally don’t require regular cleaning, but if grime and debris start to accumulate on them you can use a damp cloth or even a mild soap such as saddle soap to clean it. Just be sure that any cleaning solution does not have too much solvent content- otherwise it may break down the fibers of the leather and shorten its lifespan considerably. You’ll also want to refrain from using oil on the leather as this will eventually work against you when sharpening knives – for example, oil may cause the knife blade or bevel angle to become slippery and hinder grinding efficiency.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

1. Not honing the blade before stropping – Before you start stropping it is important to hone your blade. This involves running the edge of the knife along a smooth, flat surface such as a sharpening stone in order to return its edge to optimal sharpness and durability.

2. Not stroping at the right angle – When stropping, make sure that you are stropping your knife at the right angle, which will differ based on what type of blade you are using. The angle should be around 20°-30° depending on your particular knife and its intended purpose.

3. Applying too much pressure – Applying too much pressure when stropping can cause more harm than good by taking off too much material, resulting in a less effective strop and potentially damaging your blade beyond repair. Make sure not to apply any more force than necessary, relying instead on slow, consistent strokes for best results.

4. Not cleaning or conditioning the leather strop – In order for the leather strop being used to maintain its performance and integrity over time it must be kept clean and conditioned with a suitable leather conditioner every so often. Doing this will help extend its lifespan and ensure that it’s always performing at an optimal level when you need it most!


A leather strop is an invaluable tool for keeping your knives sharp and in good condition. Not only does it help to sharpen the blade, but also helps remove any burrs on the edge. Furthermore, regular use of a leather strop can help to extend the life of your knife and ensure reliability and performance. If you’re looking for a reliable and cost-effective method of sharpening your knives, a leather strop is highly recommended. It’s easy to use, doesn’t require much effort, and will help to keep your knives in great shape. So why not give it a try?