For more information on the Strop, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.
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.
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.