Stropping and honing have been used by many cultures throughout history to keep sharp tools in proper condition. The practice of stropping and honing dates back centuries to the Japanese sword makers and still remains popular in the martial arts community today. In Europe, stropping was a common practice amongst tailors, barbers, cobblers, leather workers and blacksmiths, who all needed a razor-sharp blade for precision work. Using strops coated with polishing compound, these craftsmen could keep their tools in top condition without the need for more expensive equipment or complex processes. Meanwhile honing has purposes outside of crafts and is traditionally used for knife sharpening, especially for home cooks and hunters who require keen edges on their blades. Honing also served as household chores such as razors or scissors were sharpened regularly at home using whetstones or other simple materials in preparation for daily use. Practitioners of both techniques continue to this day, with modern advancements allowing for greater control over shaping and polishing blades of various shapes and sizes to fit any task.

Advantages of Stropping

Stropping has several advantages when compared to honing. First and foremost, stropping requires far less time and effort to maintain a razor edge than does honing. With honing, special stones and materials have to be purchased and used regularly, which can be costly. Conversely, stropping merely requires a piece of leather or composition strop that is easy to acquire, inexpensive and lasts for years. In addition, stropping is likely easier to learn, since all that is required is running the blade over a clean, flat surface evenly while maintaining consistency in all other aspects of the process. This makes it easier for beginner sharpeners who may not have the skill or ability to use sharpening stones correctly. Finally, stropping can bring your edge back from dullness more quickly than honing on stones alone does.

Advantages of Honing

Honing is an essential part of prolonging the useful life of a blade. Not only can honing sharpen it, but it can also create a much smoother blade edge that will stay sharp for longer and won’t require frequent sharpening. Honing is also beneficial in removing burrs and minute chips along the blade edge which can otherwise weaken or break off during use, considering that these tiny slivers of metal could become lodged into whatever material is being cut with the affected blade. Ultimately, regular honing helps maintain a cleaner and sharper cutting edge, making it more efficient in everyday cutting tasks.

Choosing the Right Technique

Step 1: Considering the Condition of Your Blade

When determining whether to use stropping or honing, consider the condition of your blade. Stropping is typically used for blades with a good edge; honing is best for blades that are dull or need resharpening. The age and wear of the blade should also be taken into account. If your blade is very old, honing may be a better option as it can help restore the blade back to like-new condition.

Step 2: Understanding their Differences
Stropping involves running a whetstone or honing strop against the back side of the blade in order to maintain its sharpness on an already sharpened knife. Honing, on the other hand, gets more aggressive as it uses actual grinding to remove metal from the cutting edge of the blade while creating new tiny teeth along its edge surface increasing its sharpness.

Step 3: Evaluating Required Equipment and Time Investment
Stropping requires significantly less time and requires fewer specialized tools than honing does. However, if you intend to frequently maintain a set of knives or regularly sharpen multiple blades, honing with specialized equipment may be worth investing in because it can save you time in the long run when regularly maintaining your knives.

Step 4: Taking into Account Skill Level
Finally, take into account your own skill level when deciding between stropping and honing your blades. Honing requires much more proficiency compared to stropping and takes longer to learn how to do correctly and safely; however, it’s an invaluable skill that allows you numerous options for keeping all sorts of knives razor-sharp available at your fingertips

Understanding the Tools

Stropping is a method of sharpening knives, tools and other blades. It involves repeatedly drawing the blade across a sturdy surface that is covered in a fine abrasive material. This process causes microscopic adjustments to be made to the edge of the blade, allowing it to become sharper and last longer.

Honing is another method of sharpening knives, tools and other blades. While stropping focuses on making small microscopic adjustments to the blade’s edge, honing concentrates more on maintaining the alignment of the cutting surface. During honing, an abrasive material is usually placed onto a revolving rod or wheel and then pressed against the side of the blade in an “X” pattern. This helps to realign any imperfections in the cutting surface so it remains sharper for longer.



Stropping vs Honing

Stropping is a sharpening technique that removes the smallest amount of material from your blade. Typically, it’s used between sharpenings to keep an already sharp blade in optimal condition. It is often done with a leather, canvas, or balsa wood belt that has abrasive compound applied to it.

Honing is a more aggressive method of sharpening than stropping and requires the removal of more material. You may hear it referred to as “freehand sharpening,” since it usually entails using stones, rods, or steel rods with physical cutting actions. When honing, you should start with a coarse stone and gradually move up to a finer one until the desired level of sharpness is achieved. You should always use lubrication when honing for efficient cutting power.

Tips for Stropping:
-Use only special stropping belts that are compatible with your knife’s steel type.
-Strop one side at a time in continuous motion and use good pressure while stropping
-Apply light pressure against the belt while stropping; this will help to remove any remaining burrs on the edge left over from previous sharpening sessions
-Start with the dull side of your blade and switch sides after every pass on each side
-Always clean and lubricate your strop afterwards with mineral oil before storing it away

Tips for Honing:
-Choose stones specifically suited to your edge ahead of time – baseline grit count & hardness suitability depending on what type of steel we’re dealing with as well as desired finished edge geometry (knife/tool)
-With any honing stone pick one size at a time and always use same angle consistently – if necessary mark pommel or hilt accordingly so one can also document empirical notes regarding angles & stroke types they favored while honing certain blades on different stones/setup (or stick w/uniform style/type & only note variation in angles)
-Utilize adequate lubricant when appropriate – many people like WD-40 or Kroil when starting out but other specialty blends work much better in the long run
-Use plates instead of hand held cylinders & hone components specific parts separately if possible – bevels are easier worked on flat reference surface & dedicated rod set ups produce much faster results
-Stick w/# stokes if possible until comfortable enough w/procedure then experiment w/length & pacing if needed


Stropping and honing are two different processes used to sharpen knives. Stropping is a honing process that utilizes an abrasive material, such as leather or cloth, to reestablish the edge on blades. It isn’t typically done with coarse abrasives since it works only at a microscopic level. On the other hand, honing smoothens out irregularities in the blade’s surface but does not necessarily remove metal from the blade. Since strops can be more readily used in between honings for touching up your blade’s edge (without having to break out any abrasive material), they often complement honing very nicely.

For further reading about stropping and honing, we recommend Antique Knife & Sharpening Guide: Learn How To Sharpen Your Old Kitchen & Pocket Knives By Adam “Max Cutler”(which provides detailed information about how to sharpen kitchen and pocket knives with a strop or hone) and A Guide To Knife Sharpening (which offers an informative overview of both stropping and knife sharpening techniques). Additionally, you may read articles like The Art Of Stropping by Paul Kohlman ,Stropping Explained by Bob Terrall , and Stropping vs Honing Your Blades-What’s The Difference? available on popular websites such as,, Blade Magazine etc