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1 Introduction

Stropping is the way to maintain the edges of your carving tools. You can strop in one or two ways: by hand or with power wheels. It's up to you.

Stropping by hand still works! It's been used by carvers for hundreds of years. It's quiet, reliable and costs hardly anything. Power honing/stropping with a machine is a lot quicker but can easily lead to mis-shapen cutting edges and over-heated blades.

Woodcarving Workshops has plans to deal with power sharpening/honing some time in the future but in this short series, I'll take you through the fundamentals of hand stropping, from equipment and abrasive paste to the way to do it.

For more on strops and stropping, see my book, Woodcarving Tools, Materials & Equipment, vol. 1


| 16 May 2014 17:52

Claire - If you put "600grit silicon carbide paste" into Google, you'll come with all sorts of stuff, including that it's used for lapidary and stone polishing and I think you'll find a supplier.. Mix the paste (or powder) with the tallow/suet to bind it to the strop.

| 14 May 2014 05:04

Hi Chris, i'm finding it hard to find the 600grit silicon carbide paste - it seems to be 200grit - might you be able to point me in the right direction of where sells it?

| 12 May 2014 22:35

Hi Chris - For a while now I have been using a 3/8 inch board cut to a shape I like with a piece of cereal box glued to it. Leave the inside up so it will accept abrasive. It does give a hard surface like you mention. I find it does an excellent job for a final stropping. and is also easy and cheap.

| 08 February 2014 07:21

Raul - You want a hard surface; I go for any thin leather, glued to plywood or similar. I have seen 'horse butt' leather that is thick and hard as wood. That would do. I've also seen thick leather that's quite soft. That won't - the bevel will sink in and round over, leading to that higher cutting angle.

| 07 February 2014 18:53

Hi Chris. How thick leather? There are several types cow, horse, buffalo. Are any better or is not important?

| 23 December 2013 18:29

Reginald - You've got it: the harder the stropping surface, the better; so THIN leather on a HARD surface is the way to go. However, although, as we strop, we try to keep the cutting angle low, there is always the tendency to lift the handle at the end of the stroke, which slowly but surely rounds the bevel. You probably won't notice the increasing cutting angle until you have a break from using the tool and then the tool doesn't seem to carve as it should do, and you see the bevel is rounded. The tool is still sharp - it's been stropped - but not cutting so well - the rounded bevel lifts the cutting angle as it fattens the 'wedge' of bevel metal. So you flatten the bevel and start again. And there's the interesting fact many carvers don't realise: the life of a carving gouge cycles between 'stropping' and 'bevel flattening', rather than 'sharpening' and blunting'...

| 17 March 2013 09:38

Ann - That seems a little over-complicating the matter. I've always found just the one strop does the trick - it's all in the choice of abrasive: too coarse and you might as well use the bench stone; too fine and you won't see results. You could set up a little test and see which abrasive works the best? On the other hand, my vote would be to throw all 3 pastes into the tallow/suet mix and see what happens!

| 16 March 2013 09:25

Chris, would you suggest keeping 2-3 strops for each level of grading paste: that is, one for coarse, one for medium and one for fine?

| 02 October 2012 02:45

Eric - Sorry, I don't think I know the answer to that. What you are looking for is a hard surface that will take the abrasive. So either very thin leather glued to a board, or thicker leather that has been cured extra hard. Whatever is available at the time I guess.

| 01 October 2012 05:15

Chris- What has made leather the choice for strops through history? Out of curiosity, are there other options?

| 01 June 2012 11:56

Thomas - Thin leather from old bags etc at thrift/charity shops. Thicker leather from local leather workers, saddle makers etc, who will often have offcuts. Use undressed side for the paste.

| 31 May 2012 21:37

Hi Chris, Do you know where I can get some hard leather from? Thanks

| 01 May 2012 08:09

Abdul - We are even now planning lessons on power sharpening/honing. It's an important topic, so asap!

| 30 April 2012 20:24

Hi chris, can you please show how to do final smooth sharpening using power tools i.e type of wheel and honing wheels, thanks

| 01 April 2012 18:02

I am so happy I signed up for these woodworking classes. In each lesson, I have learned so many things I did not know. Chris, you make things so easy to understand. Thank you.

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