Questions answered – Strops

Dear Paul,

I recently saw you at the woodworking convention in Baltimore, Maryland. I purchased your book and DVD’s and I love them. I’m getting started with setting up a wood shop in my basement and after seeing how much it costs to purchase a strop, I’ve decided to make my own, but I wanted to know how you make yours. I’ve done some research on how to make one, but no two people use the same leather, adhesive, or wood to make their strop, so I have a few questions.

1. What type of leather should I use? Some people use the thick and tough stuff found at saddle shops and other people use a thin suede that tool pouches are made from.

2. What adhesive should I use to to bond the the leather to the block of wood? Again I’ve seen people use everything from rubber cement (contact cement), PVA glue, spray adhesive, etc.

3. What type of wood should I use? I noticed that you use plywood, while others swear by hard maple. I’ve even seen people use thin and flexible pine, which does not make sense to me if I’m going to sharpen chisels and plane irons. As soon as I get all my tools in order I’m going to build my first workbench per your instruction in the book/DVD’s. I’m really excited and can hardly wait to get started.

Sincerely,

Michael

Michael,

I have never spent any time thinking about the leather. I don’t like leather that’s hard; suede types seem fine as long s its not too stretchy. I use two coats of Contact Cement on the smooth side of the leather piece, allowing both to dry between coats and then one coat on the wood itself. Again, allowing this coat to dry before bringing the two pieces, wood and leather, together. I then place the two together taking care that there are no creases and use a bottle to roll out the leather so that itt stretches the leather onto the block. I have used pine, maple and plywood with no difference seen between the three. Hard maple is no better than pine and oak, ash, cherry and even MDF would be fine. No point making this any more complex than gluing leather of any type to any rigid material. They wear down, wear out and we chuck ’em or replace the leather as needed. My leather came from an abandoned couch on the roadside. It gave me enough leather for a hundred strops but I need only one or two. Oh! Just remembered, when in the US last week, John and I went into a Hobby Lobby in Fredericksburg, VA and found some small packs of scraps, enough to make 20 strops for under $7.

You should have a blast making your bench. One of my favourite things to do. Enjoy.

5 thoughts on “Questions answered – Strops”

  1. paul i used leather from an old coat soft leather and a piece of plywood works great. it brings my tools to a whole new level of sharpness. a level i struggled to get to before useing your method thanks for the help. dennis

  2. Howard in Wales


    .

    There’s a line of opinion – especially amongst some carvers –
    that repeated stropping on pliant leather tends to produce an unwanted rounding
    of the cutting edge over time.

    If this is a concern, or you can’t get decent leather, one
    alternative to leather is a piece of flat MDF or good quality plywood pre-oiled and loaded with the
    abrasive polish of choice.

    Ordinarily, I detest MDF, but it’s perfect for this. Strop or
    MDF, it’s largely a matter of choice.

    Starting with a line of Jewellers rouge down one side of a 9
    x 9 inch piece of ¾ MDF, finishing with a chrome polish (Autosol or the like)
    down the other, gives an excellent polished edge.

    It’s also very good for polishing the backs as you can lay your
    blade flat with no danger of damage to the edge.

    All Best

  3. After I gouged up my first leather strop pretty badly, I made a replacement out of a piece of mesquite (just happened to have it on hand) and some leather I saved from an old briefcase of mine. I think I glued it on with spray adhesive, but it’s been a few years now and I don’t really remember any more.

  4. Sergey Zolotaryov

    I made my strop by dropping by the shoe repair shop here in my town and he sold me an old worn boot for 5EUR. Then I glued it to a scrap piece of oak, which I planed first. And here it is 🙂 Keep it simple.

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