Howdy all. Long time no write. Life has taken me in some interesting directions over the last several months. I finally had a moment to sit down and write an article near and dear to my heart. It is all about stropping. More specifically it is about how I strop blades. I can strop any size blade up to 2 feet long using this pattern.
There are several stropping patterns and several dos and don’ts. However, I have a particular pattern unique to me – at least I think it is as I have never seen anyone else use it before. I don’t use the X pattern. I don’t use a rolling pattern. I don’t use any traditional stropping pattern.
Every strop I use is a hanging strop. I prefer not to use a board backed strop because I want the flexibility and give inherent to a hanging strop. They lend themselves well to my style. Board backed strops require more finesse and pressure awareness because the board provides more resistance. Mind you, hanging strops are by no means a thoughtless approach. They require presence of mind as well, just not so much on pressure.
Angles and Pressure
When stropping you have to mind angles and pressure. You want a light touch on the blade. You almost want the only the weight of the blade on the strop. The lighter the knife the less pressure you want to apply. The larger the knife the less pressure you have to apply as the blade’s weight does it all by itself.
The angle you want to use when stropping will in part depend upon the edge profile you have on it ( scandi, convex, hollow, etc.). I can only suggest that the shallower the angle you use, the better…up to a certain point. The best way I have found to get a good angle is to lay the blade flat on the strop and just slightly lift the spine off the strop while the edge remains in contact. You want a shallow draft as you strop because you are using the minimal fiction provided by the strop (and compound) to align the micro-teeth and polish the remnant burrs off the blade.
My Unique Stropping Pattern
*Caveat* Beware that knives are not toys. They may be dangerous and are hopefully sharp. When you strop; please be aware of your surroundings, nearby people, and impediments such as workbenches and tools so as not to injure yourself or others.
I use a crescent shaped pattern/movement when I strop a blade. I start with the base of the sharpened edge near the ricasso facing me laying gently on top of the strop. I then run the blade, spine first, along the strop away from me with a slight angle as I go. As I reach the end of the strop I gently pull the blade to the side and strop the tip as the blade comes off the strop. See below:
I then place the blade on the far end of the strop and invoke the inverse motion towards my body. When the blade gets near my hand holding the end of the strop, I again gently pull the blade to the side and strop the tip as the blade comes off the strop. As the blade comes off the strop, I gently swing the strop a couple inches sideways, away from the blade. The blade is never at an angle that could hurt me. My hand/forearm will always hit my body before the blade does. The blade always ends up in the space between my body and the strop. See Below:
This does several things for me. One, it ensures a safe motion while stropping. Two, it ensures I have a fairly safe area while stropping and run very little risk of hitting anyone else. Three, it also allows me to use a smaller strop for a longer blade. Four, it prevents me from rolling the edge as I have to intentionally place the blade on the strop at the beginning of each stroke.
I’m not sure if this pattern is unique or not. I have never seen anyone else do it. I have seen the “Z” pattern, the sweeping up/down patterns, rolling patterns, etc. I don’t like them because they are either complicated, fail to strop the entire blade effectively, or cause more problems than they solve. All I know is this works for me. Give it a try and see if you like it.