Sharpening your knife properly involves more than just running it a few times over a sharpening stone. There are several important aspects of the process. Stropping is one such factor. You may have seen leather straps that barbers use to sharpen their razors. The same process also plays a key role in achieving an impeccable edge on a knife. Read on to learn what it is and why you must do it on a regular basis.
What is stropping? To put it simply, stropping provides the finishing touch to the knife sharpening process. When metal is removed from the edge during sharpening, it leaves imperfections. In addition to removing these inadequacies, stropping also enhances the sharpness even further.
Stropping will also help in prolonging the life of your knife. When you strop, this reduces the need for constant sharpening. This means you will be removing a lot less metal from edge thus prolonging its functional life.
Why do you need to strop? Your knife’s edge can be as small as 2.5 microns. To give you an idea, a single red blood cell is 3 times larger than that. When we use the knife, the edge develops microscopic bends and rolls. Strops have very fine abrasive materials attached to them that whip the edge back into shape without compromising its functional integrity.
The difference between sharping and stropping: Some people use the terms stropping and sharpening interchangeably, which is of course incorrect. The fundamental difference between the two processes is the tools used.
A knife is usually sharpened on a water stone or with an electric sharpener while softer materials such as leather and balsa wood are employed for stropping. There are some similarities between the two procedures in that you have to maintain a certain angle and use a swiping motion over the surface to achieve the desired result. An important tip is to use trailing strokes while stropping so the sharp blade doesn’t cut through the soft leather.
How to strop your knife: Stropping leather will usually come with its abrasives compounds. The process is quite easy.
To start off, evenly apply the abrasive material on the strop
Then run the knife in swiping motion over the strop maintaining a 22.5 angle and repeat a few times.
Check for sharpness. Also, while stropping don’t force it or apply high pressure otherwise you will end up damaging the stropping leather.