Introduction: Decorative Leather Barber Strop
Learn how to make a beautiful leather barber strop! This strop can be made for decoration or can actually be used as a strop for a razor. The strop in this tutorial features hand stamping and is dyed using Fiebing's Pro Dye in Walnut and Saddle Tan.
What You'll Need:
- Veg Tanned Double Shoulders, 8-9 oz. (11-1200)
- Veg Tanned Natural Strap Leather, 4-5 oz. (04-530S)
- Scratch Awl (CSO4-2)
- Steel Square (65-3039)
- Snap Off Knife (65-2860)
- English Point Strap End Punch, 1-1/2" (00078-11-2)
- Round Strap End Punch,1" (00076-1)
- Mallet (65-2520)
- Poly Cutting Board (65-2916)
- Round Hole Punch, 1/8" (00082-2)
- Stitch Groover (8069)
- Edge Beveler (00080)
- Marble Tooling Slab (65800-)
- Dressing Sponge (50-1985)
- Veiner Stamping Tool, Large (67-6959)
- Continuous Mules Foot (67-6983)
- Camouflage Stamping Tool, Medium (67-6958)
- Swivel Knife (65-2480)
- 1/8” Flat Chisel Set (4pc) Stitching Chisels (67-7254)
- Wool Daubers (50-1950)
- Leather Balm (50-2188)
- Fiebing's Leathercrafter's Cement (50-2124)
- S-18 All Purpose Cement (50-2131)
- Hand Rougher Tool (65770-10)
- Metal Roller (65-2540)
- Ritza Tiger Thread, 0.8mm (77-7300)
- Stitching Pony (65-2949)
- Needles (L3912)
- Magnetic Tack Hammer, 11" (CSO237)
- Fiebing's Pro Dye, Saddle Tan (50-2030)
- Fiebing's Pro Dye, Walnut (50-2030)
- #2200 Double Cap Rivets (02200)
- #3 Ring, 1-1/2" (00003)
- Rivet Setter (65-6275)
Step 1: Draw Your Pattern
Before cutting any leather, you need to have a pattern ready to go. You can either create your own barber strop pattern from scratch, or use this pattern that was created by Weaver Leather Supply's Chuck Dorsett.
After printing your pattern or drawing it on paper or other material, go ahead and cut it out. You should have one main body pattern, and then two smaller patterns for the decorative overlays. If you used our printable pattern, make sure to tape the main body's separate pieces together as directed, or trace onto a larger piece of paper WITHOUT overlapping the edges of the copy paper.
Though not included in the printable pattern, you can also choose to create inset patterns to follow when stamping the overlay pieces. To do this, just take your upper and lower overlay patterns and copy them, dropping 1/4" on each side.
Step 2: Trace Pattern
Trace your overlay patterns onto your leather with your Scratch Awl. We recommend using 4-5 oz. weight leather for these pieces that we will be stamping for the best results.
Next, use your awl to trace your main body pattern onto your leather and mark where you will later punch your rivet holes. For the main body, we recommend using 8-9 oz. weight leather. In the video tutorial, Chuck uses an 8-9 oz. double shoulder.
Remember, these are just recommendations; this is your project and you can use whatever kind of leather or material you prefer!
Step 3: Cut Out Main Body
Carefully cut out your pieces using your snap off knife and a straight edge/ruler. For right now, you can ignore the tapered end of your strop and just cut the entire piece to be 2-5/8" wide, with a rounded end.
Step 4: Cut Taper
On your pattern, measure 4" in from the tapered end of the strop and mark this point. It should be right above the lower rivet hole. Using the pattern as a guide, mark the 4" point on each side of your leather. You want these marks to be parallel to each other.
Next, use your straight edge and knife to cut from each 4" mark out to the end of the strap. The end of your strap should now split into three pieces, shown in the photo above.
Step 5: Punch Out Your Taper
Once you have your taper cut to the 4" mark, you're going to use a 1-1/2" English Point Strap End Punch to punch out the taper and create that smooth transition from the 1" tapered end to the rest of your strop.
Take your punch and drop one end right onto the end of your cut. Then adjust the angle of your punch so that the middle of the punch meets the edge of the strop. This curve should match up perfectly with the curve on your pattern.
Once your punch is positioned correctly, use your rawhide mallet to punch out the taper.
Repeat this step on the other side of your strop.
Step 6: Round the Tapered End
This step is optional, but creates a more finished and professional look.
Using a 1" Round Strap End Punch, round the tapered end of your strop.
Step 7: Punch Out Rivet Holes
Punch your rivet two rivet holes using a 1/8" Round Hole Punch.
Step 8: Trace Overlays
Lay out your overlay pieces where they will be placed on your strop. Use your scratch awl to mark where these pieces end on the main body, so you know where to apply your glue in later steps.
Step 9: Groove the Main Body
Use your Stitch Groover to groove along the edges of your main body piece. This gives the edges of your project a finished look, even without sewing.
Tip: You do not need to groove edge areas that will be covered by your overlay pieces. You also do not need to groove the round tapered end of your strop if you're not comfortable grooving such a small curve. In this case, no groove looks better than a bad groove.
Step 10: Edge the Main Body
Use your #2 Edger to edge the face of the main body of your strop, outside of the overlay areas. You want to be more accurate here than when you were just grooving; Start and stop your edge right where the overlays begin. This ensures you have a clean meet on your leather between the main body and the overlays.
Turn your project over, and edge all the way around the back of your strop.
Step 11: Case Your Leather Overlays
Move your overlay pieces over to your tooling slab for stamping. There are two different ways you can stamp your leather.
For the first method, use a dressing sponge to wet your leather. Apply enough water that the color of the leather turns a few shades darker. Wait 15 seconds for the moisture to soak in a bit, and then stamp your design into the damp leather.
The second method is called casing. Casing leather is a much longer process, but delivers the best results. Chuck demonstrates this process in his video tutorial.
To case your overlays, you first need to soak them in water for 8-10 seconds. Take them out and place them on a flat surface to air dry for about 45 minutes. This allows some of the water to evaporate, while some sinks into the leather.
After 45 minutes, your overlays should be starting to return to their normal color. They should be a bit damp, but not excessively wet.
Next, place a plastic pattern sheet on top of your overlays, and your poly cutting board on top of that. Wait about 8 hours, or overnight.
After 8 hours, remove the cutting board and plastic sheet. Allow the overlays to air dry for another 45 minutes.
Step 12: Stamp Your Overlays
There are endless creative possibilities when it comes to stamping your leather. You can create whatever design you want for your overlays, using any stamps.
If you're following Chuck's design for his overlay borders, you'll need three stamps: a Continuous Mules Foot, a large Veiner, and a medium Camouflage Stamping Tool.
First, lay your stamp inset patterns on top of their respective overlays. You can measure to center it exactly, but eyeballing works just fine with such small pieces. Then, use your awl to lightly trace around the inset pattern to use as a guide while stamping. You want to keep your stamp design as close to this scribe line as possible, without going outside of it.
Once you have your scribe line to follow, start stamping, using your rawhide mallet to make a deep impression in your leather. For Chuck's design featured in the video, use a Continuous Mule's Foot stamp in the four corners of each overlay piece. On the right and left sides of both pieces, use the Veiner stamp once, centered on each side. On the top and bottom of each piece, stamp twice with the Veiner tool, leaving room in between for the Camouflage stamping tool. Finally, use the Camouflage tool to stamp in the center of the top and bottom of both pieces.
This step is optional, but for an even cleaner look, you can use a straight edge and a swivel knife to edge the scribe line around your stamp design. This can really highlight your stamping. For the curved edge of the lower overlay, you can trace along your inset pattern with the swivel.
Once you're satisfied with your stamping, allow the leather to fully dry for 4-5 more hours.
Step 13: Groove and Bevel Your Overlay Edges
Use your Stitch Groover to groove your overlay edges, on the front face only.
Using a #1 Edger, bevel all of the edges on the front face of your overlays.
Step 14: Chisel Holes
Move your overlays back to your punch table to drop in your chisel line.
Starting with a single tine 1/8" Flat Chisel, chisel all 4 corners on each overlay, and the tip at the top of the upper overlay. Then use your 4-tine, 2-tine, and single tine chisels to fill in between the corners with evenly spaced chisel holes. Do this around all of the edges on each overlay.
(Tip: Place the first tine of each chisel in the last hole you made to keep the spacing even.)
Step 15: Dye the Main Body
Before dying your leather, prep your area to protect your workspace from the dye. Cover your workspace with a plastic garbage bag, or something similar. To prevent any spilled dye from pooling, place a layer of paper on top of the plastic. This can be butcher paper, wrapping paper, or anything that will soak up excess dye.
For the main body, dip dye the leather with Fiebing's Pro Dye in the color Saddle Tan. Fill a plastic container with enough dye to submerge your strop.
With a piece of wire, create a small hook and hang the strop from the top rivet hole. This is an easy way to hold onto the leather and pull it out of your dye bucket.
Slowly dip your strop into the dye then pull it out, allowing the dye time to wick into the leather. Maneuver the strop to make sure that the entire piece gets coated evenly.
Once you've dipped the entire piece, place it on your paper-covered work station and wipe off any excess dye laying on your strop. Allow to air dry for about 4 hours. You can also use the wire hook to hang it somewhere out of the way to dry.
Step 16: Dye the Overlays
Next, dye the overlays with the Walnut Pro Dye.
Fill a small container with the dye, then dip the edge of a dressing sponge in it. You don't need to submerge the entire sponge.
Lightly swipe the dye across the overlays, and try to get as much coverage with the dye on your first pass. Then swipe the dye along the edges.
You can also dye the back of your overlays if you choose to do so. Though it's technically not necessary here since the pieces will be glued down, it's good practice to dye both sides of your work.
Allow the overlays to dry for about 4 hours.
Step 17: Apply Leather Balm
Finishing your strop with a leather balm will give it a nice gloss and enrich the color of your Pro Dye.
Using a cotton rag, apply the leather balm in light, circular swipes, moving from one end of your strop to the other. You don't want to do one long swipe, because that can cause streaks and bubbles to form on your leather.
Try to get as much coverage as you can on your first pass, but make sure to use the balm sparingly.
Apply the balm to your overlays in the same way.
Step 18: Buff Your Leather
With a dry cotton rag, buff your strop for about 15 seconds, using circular motions. This will make the leather a bit more matte, but it should still have a nice gloss to it when finished.
Buff your overlay pieces as well.
Step 19: Glue Your Overlays
Next, attach the overlay pieces to the main body using S-18 All Purpose Cement. Right now, your main body piece is pretty smooth from applying the leather balm. The cement is not going to adhere well to the smooth surface.
Using a Hand Rougher Tool, go over the leather on the areas that the overlays will attach to. You should still be able to see the scribe lines you made earlier that show where the overlay pieces will lay.
With your hand rougher, scrape the top grain of leather around the edges of the marked area. Make sure to go parallel to the edges, staying about 1/8" from the actual edge. Then scrape the rest of the area using the rougher. You should now have a good surface for the cement to attach to.
Next, take your contact cement and apply it to the overlay areas. Again, get within about 1/8" of an inch from your scribe lines. You're going to sew this part down anyway, and you don't want any excess glue to squeeze out from underneath the overlays onto the rest of the leather.
Make sure to apply the cement all the way to the edges of strop's face, without getting any on the actual edge of your strop. You want the edges of the main body and the overlays to come together so that it looks like one piece of leather.
After applying the cement to the main body, apply it to the backs of your overlays as well. Pay particular attention to the corners, so that they don't dogear when applied.
Give the cement 2-3 minutes to set and become tacky, and then carefully place your overlays on the main body. Make sure they are lined up exactly with your lines and the edges of your piece. Press the pieces down with the palm of your hand to ensure they are completely attached. You can also use a metal roller to apply pressure, but for a small project like this, hand pressure is more than enough.
Step 20: Chisel Holes
Moving back over to your punch table, use your single tine and 2-tine chisels to punch stitch holes all the way through the overlays and the main body of your strop.
Use the holes you made earlier in the overlays as a guide. Use your single tine chisel in the corners, then fill in between with the 2-tine chisel. Using these smaller chisels will make it much easier to punch completely through two layers of leather.
Step 21: Sew the Strop
Next, you're going to hand sew your strop. It's helpful to use a stitching pony to hold your project comfortably in front of you.
For this project, you're going to use a Saddle Stitch. Cut your thread to be about 4-1/2 times the length of what you need to stitch. Thread each end through one of your Saddler's Needles. You should have a needle in each hand, with your length of thread in between.
Thread one needle through your first hole. Pull it through so that the thread length is even on the front and back of your project.
On the second hole, push your front needle in, but don't pull it completely through the leather yet. Then insert the needle on the back side of your project into the SAME hole. Now, in your second hole you should have two needles threading in opposite directions. Go ahead an pull them completely through, so that they end up on opposite sides from where they started.
Once again, you should have one needle on each side of your strop, with the thread pulled evenly between them. Repeat this stitch on the third hole, and so on. Stop when you reach the last hole.
On your last open hole, come through from the front only. Now you should have both needles and thread ends on the back of your strop. With your thread ends, tie a simple square knot (right over left, then left over right) on the back of your strop. Trim up the ends close to your knot.
Repeat on the other overlay.
Step 22: Hammer Down Your Stitch Line
Using a Tack Hammer, lightly hammer your stitch line on the front of your strop. This will close up your chisel holes, spread out the thread, and helps the thread sink down into the groove.
Step 23: Add Rivet and O-Ring
To finish your strop, you need a 5/16" Double Cap Rivet and a 1-1/2" O-Ring.
Slide the ring onto the tapered end of your strop. Fold the tapered end backwards and underneath, so that it loops through the ring and the two rivet holes line up on top of each other. You can slide your strop to the end of your tooling slab so that the ring hangs off the edge. This allows you to get a flat set on your rivet.
Place your rivet through both of the holes (one cap on each side of the strop), then set it using your mallet and rivet setter. Your decorative barber strop is now complete!