Stropping vs Honing…I just use the palm of my hand!
In this article, I talk about why you need to learn to strop and your stropping material options and methods. But first, let’s define what the difference is between stropping and honing. There seem to some confusion understandably.
Honing is the process of sharpening on a sharpening stone or sharpening system.
Stropping is when we want to get an even sharper edge by removing the ‘wire edge’(burr) or stropping can be taken to the next level with abrasive compounds to refine the edge further.
When we sharpen our chisels or plane irons or even the humble knife the final stage has to be the stropping off the burr is otherwise known as the wire edge.
Stropping can be done with either a leather strop or just the palm of your hand. There are other materials that make usable strops.
The primary reason why we strop our plane irons and chisels
The sharpening process on the oil stone or diamond sharpener leaves a burr on the cutting edge. This burr needs to be removed.
The process of stropping basically Bends the burr back and forth until it releases itself from the cutting edge. Exposing the very sharp edge.
Leaving the burr on the cutting edge will end with the burr folding around the edge. This will artificially make the edge blunt.
The secondary reason for stropping
Straightening the edge is something you probably feel stropping will have no effect on it. But you’re so wrong. Yes, thicker blades such as chisels have steeper more durable second grind edges. These thicker blades are still effected but require more effort to straighten the edge with a strop
Finer low profile secondary grinds such as paring chisels or knives, not just cutthroats are repetitively stropped to a straight. Fine-tuning with the strop will make a massive difference to the final edge.
The third reason for stropping
If the previous two reasons were not on par for you then the most effective technique is this. Stropping to hone the edge. The First and secondary grind can be impressive but stropping with abrasive compounds can produce insanely sharp tools. The process of stropping the tool with decreasingly finer grades of paste can produce a fine crazy sharp edge.
Methods of Stropping your tool!
Stropping can be done with either a leather strop or just the palm of your hand. First, you need to ask yourself if your goal is to remove the wire edge then hand or leather stropping is fine. But, if you are looking to further sharpen the edge then a leather strop and abrasive compounds are a must.
- Load Leather strop with cutting compound: FIG 1
- Pass the Plane Iron over the loaded strop: FIG2
- Repeat on the reverse of the plane iron: FIG3
- Reload leather strop with finer paste or cutting compound stick
- Until you are satisfied with the edge make repeated passes
- Test by shaving the back of your hand or the dog!!
Using your hand to strop sharp tools
When people see me stropping my plane iron using just the palm of my hand and I do get some I’m worried looks.
Stropping the plane iron by hand is a technique that I have learnt from my father. It took me many years to perfect the technique without injury. Many a drop of blood has been spilt.
If you’re not comfortable using your palm of your hand and you can make your own strop from an old leather belt or purpose-made strop.
Can I strop a chisel with my hand?
The simple answer is yes. Stropping your chisel by hand is a little more tricky than stropping the plane iron.
Hand stropping technique
The technique required to hand strop your plane iron is has evolved from the process of stroking the blade away from the Dangerous bit! When I stroke the blade with a palm of my hand. I pass it away from the blade so that my hand doesn’t make contact with the edge itself but only the bur.
Hand stropping is only good for removing the Burr that has been created from the sharpening (honing)process.
Wide chisels are easier to stop with the palm of your hand than a narrow chisel. With practice, you’ll be able to strop narrow and wide chisels with just the palm of your hand.
Step by Step stropping the palm
- Start with the plane iron back facing your palm: FIG 1
- Lift the iron vertically against your palm: FIG 2
- Exiting the palm clear: FIG 3
- Repeat the process on the downstroke: Fig 4
- Start slow and practice
- Remember if you cut yourself you did it wrong!
Stropping to sharpen the blade.
If you are stropping the blade for more than just removing the burr? in other words, you want to sharpen the blade further past the edge created with the oil stone. You will require good quality strop and some cutting compounds.
Like Sweeney Todd and his cut-throat razor you too can use the strop with a cutting paste. There are different grades of cutting paste but not only strops the cutting edge but also so with practice can enhance it.
The strop can either be used on its own or you can use an abrasive lubricant.
The compounds will impregnate the leather strop converting it into an abrasive sharpening tool. Working from the corse grits to the finer grits will give you you a superb super sharp Edge. This concept has been used for centuries we have seen it in many a western film with those precarious cut-throat razors. Give me a safety razor any day.
The art of stropping
Stropping is a skill which requires some practice to perfect. Like any skill with practice, you will gain muscle memory. When you start you will be a floppy mess not necessarily improving the edge but give it time and you will be more concerned that the edge is just ‘TOO Dam Sharp’.
You can buy ‘Stropping Paste’ and ‘Strops’ on Amazon.com
Knife Sharpening Stone Kit, ASEL Professional Water Stone Set, 2 in 1 Grit 400/1000 3000/8000, Bamboo Base, Flatting Stone, Polishing Compound, Leather Honing Strop and Leather Razor Strop.
Parker’s Handmade 3″ x 27″ Brown Latigo Leather Straight Razor Strop – Made in The U.S.A
LAVODA Polishing Compound Fine Buffing Compounds
Garos Goods GG4SSC-BRK Four Sided Strop with Compound
While you are here why not have a read of our other blogs on sharpening?
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About Us, I Suppose You Might Be Interested?
We have lived and worked here in the Limousin Nouvelle Aquitaine since 2010, building window shutters and external doors. Our Volet manufacturing business is based at our home property as a ‘Cottage Industry’. We are a small business operating partly off the grid and try our best to practice our woodworking ethically.
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