View Full Version : Strop sharpening

SGT Rock
2007-08-19, 13:55
I tried searching for this over at blade forums but it keeps coming up with a blank page, and since I have some educated users here...

Hollowdweller said he sharpens up his khukri with a strop, I've never used one. So, for a total idiot on this subject, someone want to break down for me what I need and how to get started?


2007-08-19, 14:12
Woo! good post! I also really want to learn this technique. I have gone the same route as Rock, looking at bladeforums, but I got a bit overwhelmed with terminology and specific technical data that is obviously second nature to the experts.

All ears.

2007-08-19, 14:44
I have done this before just playing around to see how it works but by no means an expert. All I used was a worn leather belt that I placed buckle end in a drawer and held it closed with my foot. This allowed me to pull it tight with one hand while I worked the knife blade back and forth over the leather to “polish” the sharp edge. The knife must have a razor edge already before starting this process. All you are looking to do is polish it up a little. It will make the knife sharper but for my use I find it is usually not worth the trouble. I carry a 2 inch blade pocket knife all the time and when skinning game have several different knives which I use for this purpose. I have several different sharpeners that I use to produce an edge that I can shave the hair off my arm but I sure would not want to try and shave my beard off with them. This has been all I need 99% of the time. If I am working on something that requires a “razor edge” I simply use a box cutter.

One thing I should say incase you are unaware. When sharpening with a wet stone, you pull the blade into the stone as you are trying to cut a slice out of the stone. When stropping, work the knife edge backward and firm against the leather at the same angle as sharpening on the stone.

2007-08-19, 16:01
For years I have used a strop to finish the edge of carving tools, chisels and hand planes and it IS worth the extra few strokes across the strop. My strops consist of heavy leather straps - belt material works well - saturated with oil for softening and they will hold a stropping compound - and I have them in a couple of different sizes to suit the tool that I am polishing. It only takes a few swipes across the strop and you will achieve an edge that is not possible from a stone. Bear in mind that there are times that a little "tooth" left on an edge from the stone is also desireable.

Leonard Lee - owner of Lee Valley tools spent 30 years studying sharpening systems and from Lee Valley www.Leevalleytools.com you can get leather for strops and Honing compound (0.5 micron chromium oxide) - $7.00 will buy you a lifetime supply. Lee also wrote a book Complete Guide to Sharpening and as well as made a video about sharpening. I have not seen the video but the book is highly recommended

2007-08-19, 16:17
I always finish an edge with leather, it removes that last "wire edge" if it is done at the right time. Anyone who's ever worked steel with a grinder has seen how a little flap of steel will be left after the disc cuts it's chip. The same thing happens when you sharpen, it is usually too small to see unless you are using a really coarse stone but it can sometimes be felt. In my experience this is more of a problem with stainless steel than carbon, any machinist will tell you that stainless is harder to machine because it "galls", that is, it doesn't want to chip clean. The theoretical point where two planes intersect is called an arris, the more acute and finer this is, the sharper the edge. For cutting flesh however, you want a microscopic "saw", not a brilliantly polished edge like that required for a plane iron. In any event the only time you want to leave that wire edge is when you are sharpening a scraper.

2007-08-19, 16:29
Wow, I was under the opinion that every knife fanatic used a piece of leather to attain that super sharp edge. As always, what works works. I use a cow hide leather belt with auto wax on it ( carnuba I think it's called ). But I also cheat to get the edge. I hate whetstones. I used the Super Sharpener ( http://www.huntingmag.com/hunting_gear/ss_0427/ ) to get the initial edge, then leather to get an edge you can shave with, no shit. The SS in the pic is the hand held model. They make a bench top model that I prefer to use.

2007-08-19, 16:43
Oh shoot, to answer Rocks initial question...

You know me, el Cheapo. I use an old belt, 100% cow leather. Soak in soap or a degreaser to remove most of the sweat, butt stink, tanning stains, etc. Allow to dry 95%. Treat the shiny side of the belt with honing compound ( or cheap route - polishing wax ) but not too much. The leather does the work, the honing compound ( or wax ) just keeps the knife moving smoothly, no matter what some expert tells you. You work the blade in reverse direction of a stone, butt side toward the leather, and the angle is not super important, just get it close. Dont over do it, 3-4 passes each way max. This is how barbers the years over kept straight razors sharp enough to shave men with, so yes, it works and works well.
On a side note about the necessity of honing compound, I know they are nearly extinct, but try to find an old barber who ever used anything on his barbers strop. Once the leather has be used enough to get it baby butt smooth, nothing is really needed unless the leather starts to dry out.

( three separate uses of the word "butt", all eliciting different mental images... :biggrin: :cool: :rock: )

2007-08-19, 16:55
Canoeblue, For the purpose of carving, yes it would be worth the extra effort. But for me with knives I use over and over it is NOT worth my time and effort. They are just going to get dull again and when they do, a few passes over my stone, steel, ceramic sticks, or diamond stone will shave coarse hair and that is good enough for my use.

SGT Rock
2007-08-19, 17:07
I've been usinga DMT Bifold for a while now - it works great on my D2 RAT, but it is hard to get that curve section on the Tom Brown Tracker. If anyone is familiar with the knife and that curve section that connects the chopping area to the straight blade, how do you sharpen that curve? Seems like a rod would be the only solution.

I love this discussion BTW. I have to go get some leather now...

SGT Rock
2007-08-19, 17:19
This got me thinking...

I've decided on a section hike this March to include my Becker Necker in my pack next year for my thru. To keep the blade up would it be feesable to just take a small peice of leather to keep the blade dressed up nice or would I need something like this DMT sheet in addition to that:


2007-08-19, 22:33
I've found the DMT "stone" in blue (I think it is 220 grit, maybe it is 400) with a steel will give a serviceable edge on most knives. Not wanting to tote a four ounce steel around, I started examining different pieces of kit to see what else would work. I found that the edge of a folded up leatherman micra will give an edge that will barely shave, plenty good enough for general use. That coarse edge on a Gerber steel really brings a razor edge for me, and if I were in a survival situation, or had a lot of game to clean, I'd carry it. A thru hike isn't supposed to be a survival situation I'm thinking.

SGT Rock
2007-08-19, 23:39
My DMT bifold works great for my D2 RAT-3 knife, the Becker Necker, and any other of my knives with normal blades. With the red side I can get them sharp enough to shave with. I figured with a credit card sized shapener I could keep my BN sharp along the AT. I've carried smaller knives before but always seem to have more fun with a 3" blade.

2007-08-20, 02:42
I use a strop but only on my straight edge razors.

- I shave with a straight edge razor - they stopped making my razor blades several years ago and I don't like dual edge razors or electric which is about the only thing available anymore, so I pulled out my Grandfathers razor and taught myself to use it.

If I need a edge before stropping I put a drop of water and a small amount of toothpaste on a mirror and move the blade in small circles. After sharpening I wash the blade. This sharpens it well it but often leaves a false wire edge and requires stropping.

The others have told you about how to strop. The only thing I can add to that is that if you don't have a leather strop available all is not lost. I've used a piece of canvas, and on another occasion a green willow branch as a substitute and both worked to warm the blade and remove the false edge.

I don't use a strop on a working knife as I don't feel it is needed and I think too fine an edge on my knives just leads to me dulling them quicker.

I'm not disagreeing with the way others sharpen their knives or use a stone, there are many ways to do it and just because they're different doesn't make them wrong. Different uses require different angles and methods in sharpening.

I was taught to sharpen knives as they would be used for a butcher or in a commercial kitchen and I have continued to sharpen them this way my entire life.

2007-08-20, 12:32
Here's my little strop I take with me sometimes.

One side is mousepad. I use that for convex edges with sandpaper strips(see pic) The other 2 sides are rough and smooth leather loaded up with chrome stropping compound.

I can't find a picture on the net, but I have also seen a cool sharpening kit made out of an altoids can. One side has mouse pad glued on. One side has leather glued on, and then you can store the sandpaper inside it along with other stuff like a small whetstone or diamond rod for big jobs.

2007-08-20, 12:38
This is another cool little sharpener that is pretty good for touching up flatground blades. It is high grit so it wouldn't be useful for major edge profiling.

It's a "Viking Whetstone" that www.ragweedforge.com sells. Ragnar, the owner sells a lot of Moras and other Scandi grind blades and this little stone works well to keep them touched up.

2007-08-20, 12:42
Speaking of knives here's a nice scandi grind I picked up recently that I really like.

It's the "Skookum Bush Tool" made by Rod Garcia and based on some of the Canadian Outdoorsman Mors Kochanski's ideas about knives.

I'm going to take it camping soon for a good test but so far it seems to cut great and it is 1/8" so it slices well also. Not sure how the neck sheath will work out once I start sweating but it does make it easier to get when I'm wearing a pack belt. I guess the idea for the neck sheath is Kochanski's because he talks about having your knife around you neck making it harder to lose than on your hip where you can't see it:ahhhhh:

2007-08-20, 15:30
I have a strip of horse butt glued to a board, dressed with rouge. I only use it to polish the edge on razors before lacing and skiving leather. I'm happy with my honing iron for kitchen knives.

2007-08-21, 11:35
Hey! My friend Stu found it for me!

Here's the thread with the Altoids convex sharpening kit pics:beer:


2007-08-23, 16:23
[QUOTE=SGT Rock;20329]This got me thinking...

I've decided on a section hike this March to include my Becker Necker in my pack next year for my thru. To keep the blade up would it be feesable to just take a small peice of leather to keep the blade dressed up nice or would I need something like this DMT sheet in addition to that:


I also use an old leather belt to strop my blades after using a stone on em.I just secure one end onto a chair or something and hold the other end in my hand. Just slide the blade up and down more or less at an angle like you use on the sharp stone to get the tiny burrs and such off.

To keep a good edge on the trail without the weight of a stone ,I carry two pieces of emory cloth ,one course and one fine.Emory cloth can be found at Wally World,Rite Aide etc with the nail care accesories ,Like nail files and such.

SGT Rock
2007-08-23, 16:57
Emory cloth...

I'll have to look for that.

2007-08-25, 13:18
Emery is another name for Carborundum- the mineral also found in sapphires, if that helps you when shopping- garnet paper would likely suffice as well.
hope to help, Betsy

SGT Rock
2007-08-25, 13:51
Good news - My WWII Khukri came in today. I'm waiting on the Ang Khola. Now I will have a Khuk for me and one for my oldest boy when doing trail maintenance. Now to make a strop to sharpen 'em on.

SGT Rock
2007-08-25, 14:40
Pictures coming later - but I took it out today to cut some brush - definitely not up to the edge Hollowdweller's Khukri has. Got some work to do.

2007-08-25, 15:40
Garnet paper works well for hand sanding wood, the garnet residue glued to the sheet continually "fractures" giving sharp edges to cut the wood. It doesn't last very long however. I don't think it would be a good choice for sharpening steel. Wet-dry sandpaper, like you use for auto body work, would probably last a lot longer. Emery cloth has a more durable backing, but I'm not sure it'll outlast anything else before the grit is worn out. It is good to use doing gun work, you can cut it into strips and wrap it around things to polish them.

2007-08-27, 14:20

Humungous knife making site...more than you'll ever need to know about the care and feeding of knives!

2007-08-27, 23:14
Wet dry paper is what you want to use on the khukuri.

What I do with a new one is I have a Jemico adjustable handle leather strop.

I adjust the tension to where it is a little slack and lay a strip of 2, or 300 grit paper on it and strop the khukuri. Gradually you will thin down the edge and I work up 400, 600 and 1000 or 1500 then just strop with the leather.

It takes time. Most khuks are too thick edged and will glance more easily and do not penetrate deep enough for me. A lot of people want a really thick edge for chopping hard wood or splitting. I personally like a thinner edge that will catch and cut a small branch rather than break it off:biggrin: so I thin my edges down. Sometimes it will take me a week or more picking it up each day and stropping/sanding it some to get the edge all even.

Once it is even 600 to 1500 grit is all you usually need to maintain it. I am not a power chopper so I rely on placement and the sharpness to cut well. Power choppers like thick edges because they often stick the thinner edges in the wood.

That khuk of mine you have Sarge I even cut a chainsaw out of a log with once. When I was done the blade looked almost SERRATED where I was hitting the much harder chainsaw chain with it. I took a file and filed the edge back past the chips, started the 200, 400, 600 etc, and it was as good as before:adore:

SGT Rock
2007-08-30, 12:15
OK, so I need to go get some wet/dry paper. I got me a leather strap the other day.

300, 400, 600, 1000, and 1500 grit. I have taken my Khkri down to a nice edge since I got it, but I want to make it an edge that will last.