Guide on Stropping knives with leather

Guide on Stropping knives with leather

We have to sharpen every knife every once in a while, to maintain its edge to a razor-sharp level. After sharpening the blade with a stone or sandpaper, we must strop it with leather, nice and gently, to polish it. You will usually use the loaded strop – a leather strop on top of which you spread the stropping compound.

Strop types for different blades

There are different types of strops, and some are handier for a specific blade than others. For example, a bench strop is leather onto a block of wood, that you can lay out on your dashboard and sharpen big and long kitchen knives. The best strop for knives is the bench strops with a silicone layer on the bottom to prevent it from being slippery.
Best leather strops for woodworking and woodcarving, on the other hand, are not the bench ones. These blades are usually shorter, and so it is much handier to use a paddle strop that you can hold up in your hand, or a simple piece of leather to gently brush over the blade edge.

What to keep in mind when choosing the leather strop

When searching for the best leather strops, you should keep your eye out for several features. Firstly, which strop type you are looking for, depending on your needs.

Secondly, which stropping compound you need with it (black, green, white), which will also depend on how sharp you need your knife to be. Black compound stands for rough grit, and it is essentially used to sharpen the knife a bit more than your sandpaper managed to. 

The green compound is the most common one you will use, and its purpose is honing and polishing the blade. White compound is used for delicate stropping, with very fine grit.

And lastly, the quality of the leather itself. Some leather strops will last you a lifetime – others not so much. Make sure to check the reviews from other buyers to know how long can a revitalized oiled leather strop last.
Common mistakes for stropping knives

Common mistakes for stropping knives

Stropping is a delicate, gentle process, with the purpose to additionally sharpen the knife and polish its edge. One of the most common mistakes people make is aggressive stropping. When you apply the compound on the strop, a few soft strokes of the blade with it are enough – no force is required.

Another common oversight when it comes to stropping the knives is that people forget to strop both sides of the blade. Once you are finished with gentle strokes of the blade onto the loaded strop, repeat the process on the other side as well.

FAQ on leather stropping

What kinds of strops exist?

Leather strops vary in shapes and sizes, but also the quality of the leather and its thickness. When it comes to the strop type, essentially there is a strip of leather attached to paddle, block, or not attached to anything at all.

What is the best strop for knives?

Depends on the knife. Big knives require bigger (and usually anchored on a hardboard) leather strops, but small knives can be stropped by a simple piece of leather you’d hold in your hand.

What are leather strops made of?

The most common leather used for stropping is horse butt leather. It can be processed in many different ways, the most common of which is vegetable-tanning.

Does the stropping compound come with the strop?

Some manufacturers sell the stropping compound with the strop, and it is usually the green honing compound. Sometimes you can even get a strop that has the compound already spread on top of it.

Which ones are better – one-sided or double-sided strops?

I personally prefer the double-sided leather strops, since that way I can apply two different blends on both sides and use a single strop for multiple processes.