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How to Use a Leather Strop

Updated April 17, 2017

Unlike honing, which is another blade sharpening technique, stropping a knife or straight razor puts a final, smooth finish to the tool's edge while polishing the metal. People have used strips or blocks of tanned leather for centuries to strop blades of all types, from farm implements to weapons, household tools, knives and razors. Strops can be made from any type of tanned leather, including old belts, boots and leather scraps from craft stores. While tools, knives and straight razors should be honed several times a year, regular use of a strop will keep a blade sharp and shining.

Attach the strop to a secure base and smoothly apply the compound to the leather according to the manufacturer's directions.

Work the compound into the leather by hand or with a clean cloth to soften the compound until the strop is evenly coated with a shiny surface.

Grip the free end of the strop in one hand and pull it taut. Hold the knife or razor in the other hand and lay it flat against the leather strop with the back or spine facing outward. Draw the tool away in a smooth motion, applying light, even pressure on the blade until reaching the end of the strop.

Reverse the knife or razor and draw it inward, keeping the blade flat on the strop to avoid cutting into the leather or damaging the tool's edge. Continue drawing and reversing the tool up to 50 times per side or until achieving a smooth, shiny edge.

Wipe the razor or knife blade free of compound with a clean, dry cloth and carefully test the edge for smoothness. If you find any burrs or irregularities, re-strop the blade until smooth.

Tip

If stropping more than one item, add compound as needed. Look for any dry areas on the strop.

Warning

Do not quickly flip the tool when turning it over, as it will blunt the edge of the blade.

Things You'll Need

  • Leather strop
  • Stropping compound
  • Sharpened knife or straightedge razor
  • Clean, soft cotton cloth
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About the Author

Sue McCarty, a writer and copy editor since 1994, penned a newspaper humor column for several years. She assisted in her husband's motorcycle shop for 20 years and was also a professional gardener and caterer. While earning her Bachelor of Arts in communications, McCarty began her journalism career at a Pennsylvania daily newspaper.