What the heck is stropping!? These were my thoughts exactly when I was a newbie trying to piece together this fascinating topic called knife sharpening. If I am honest I'm still a newbie.....best to accept it and continue to improve my skills gradually. Anyhow, back to the question at hand: what is stropping and why bother doing it? Stropping is a vital process in knife sharpening that does the following: realigns a knife's cutting edge, removes any excess metal, and last but not least polishes and smoothens the blade. Since the purpose of this instructable is to show you how, I'll refrain from going into the nitty gritty, super technical details of what happens when you strop. For now, a general understanding will suffice. Before I get started here, I want to mention when and how often I strop. I usually strop after sharpening my knife, and so I strop every time I sharpen (this varies with each knife).
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Step 1: Preparation & Getting Your Tools Ready
Here's where the process may differ for you, unless you use the same tools as I do. I really like the stropping system that comes with the Work Sharp GSS, so that's what I'm using for this demonstration. Important: You don't need to use what I use! If you already have a leather strop, cool, If not then you can click the link and check out 3 of my favorite leather strop recommendations here http://myelectricknifesharpener.com/knife-sharpening/3-awesome-leather-strops-for-knife-sharpening.html Before I start stropping I give my knife a quick rinse under the tap.
Step 2: Cleaning Your Leather Strop
This step is only necessary if you have a used, loaded strop. If your strop is new and you're doing this the first time, you can skip ahead to the next step. So here's the thing: Every time you strop, you leave metal residue along with with any previously applied stropping compound. Since you want a clean piece of leather, you will need to get this gunk out. I've found that rubbing alcohol works really well for me! Apply a couple dabs on a cloth or paper towel and scrub away at your leather strop till you get all or most of the gunk out.
Step 3: Apply Stropping Compound
What the hell is stropping compound? Stropping compound helps to refine and polish your edge. It's available in different grits and is usually in the form of a bar. I typically strop with an extra fine compound, as I've found It works best. Before applying the compound, I add some petroleum jelly and coat the leather evenly. Then, I apply the compound by coloring it in as if it were a crayon. While you should aim to get an even coat, be careful to not add too much!
Step 4: Understanding Your Angles
Alright, almost time to strop! But before we do, let's talk angles. Typically, you'll want to strop at the same angle you sharpen i.e. if you sharpen at 15 degrees, also strop at 15. A quick way to get your angles straight is to hold your knife perpendicular to the surface i.e. at a 90 degree angle. Half of this is 45, and another half is 22.5. This will give you a good idea on where you need to be.
Step 5: Let's Get Stropping!
We're finally ready to strop. Important: Stropping is the opposite motion of sharpening. You never ever want to cut into a strop, so you always pull backwards. Here's how to go about it:
1. Place your knife on the leather strop at the desired angle. Remember you will be moving from heel to tip.
2. Slowly draw your knife in a backward motion from heel to tip. Remember to maintain the angle throughout the whole process.
3. Flip your blade to strop the other side. Repeat steps 1 & 2.
4. Repeat for a total of 7 alternating passes. Do one draw on one side, followed by one draw on the other side, until you have completed 7 passes on each side.
The images above correspond to each step to make it easier to understand. Once you are done, make sure to clean your blade with warm water. Also, don't forget to clean your strop! It'll be easier to do it right away than waiting to do it after (reference step 2 for more instructions on how to do this). I hope this gives you a better understanding on stropping and how simple it really is. If you have any questions, please let me know!