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Thread: What do you strop on?

  1. #1

    What do you strop on?

    Well, if you don't know by now, I am one of those that has to experiment. I blame my dad, who is an engineer, and for engineers, "if it ain't broke, take it apart and fix it anyway." I got some scraps of saddle/tooling leather first, and it works. After hearing a number of comments about how thicker leather can flex under pressure, which can round over your edges, and watching Eric Lofstrom, a well known turner, I went for thinner leather. Vegetable tanned and in the 1 to 2 oz. thickness. That worked as well. Eric used kangaroo leather because 'it doesn't compress'. I tracked some of that down, and really liked it. Glued it to some poplar. I also just tried applying the compounds to some poplar that I first surfaced with my hand planes. Thus far, I think I like that the best. With the leathers, it seems that I have to strop both sides of the cutting edge a couple of times to remove the burr. On the straight wood, once seems to be enough. I do have pine, but rejected that because of the early/late wood grains, which I would expect to eventually create ridges, kind of like what happens to it if you take a wire brush to it. I rejected MDF because the surface is really rough. I have yet to try cabinet grade plywood, but think that could work well. I have also heard of using canvass, and/or old jeans, which should hold the stropping compounds fairly well. I did use the jewelers rouge and that green 60,000 grit compound, and that does leave a better final edge. So, what do you all use to put your stropping compounds on? I guess I could also ask what compounds do you use?

    robo hippy

  2. #2
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    Canvas and jeans work maybe in a pinch. They load too fast and they don't hold enough of polishing compound so results are just so so.

    I don't think that compressing leather is an issue for woodworking unless the substrate is a kitchen sponge. The amount of rounding is way below any thresholds a human can reliably detect: look at Dave W's photos of unicorned edges, they were buffed on a wheel an order of magnitude softer than glued leather and with linear speed an order of magnitude higher than any hand stropping. To detect the rounding a metallurgical microscope was required and the absolute numbers were in one millionth of an inch ( inches, a true microbevel) - below what most calipers can detect. So discussions whether the leather should compress or not is at the level of figuring whether a moon should be waxing or waning for the best chopped mortises (when Moon is close your mallet blows carry less energy btw).

    Where did you get a rough surface MDF? Mine is way smoother than even a cabinet grade plywood, even after cleaning my MDF strop with a scraper a few times. Can't tell a difference from a leather strop or another buffing compound, though for the past couple of years I strop on a buffer.

  3. #3
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    Recently I decided to experiment with strops. For some years I have been using Veritas green compound on planed hardwood or MDF. It has worked pretty well. I have three horse butt leather strops, all glued to plywood. I scraped them down to a clean surface, and tried them in three ways: naked leather, green compound, and 120K grit diamond spray. I did not like any of them, feeling that the leather had a spongy feel. None improved on the green compound on hardwood.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  4. #4
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    The only tools I strop are my carving tools, I made a ~9" diameter wheel from MDF, covered it in a couple plies of heavy calf skin belting, turned it to be perfectly round, and spin it about 1500 rpm. I use a green compound of unknown grit that gives me a lovely edge and mirror polish. Those tools never see a stone of any kind unless there is a disaster with one of them. The tools definitely have a convex curve to the bevel after a couple years of use, but according to my teacher that's fine, even desirable for carving tools, and they seem to work just fine.

    I was recently introduced to the idea of using a convex bevel skew for pommel and face cuts on the lathe. I have to say it works spectacularly-- much easier to control, I'm using the leather power hone to sharpen that as well.

    My teacher also has a set of shaped MDF wheels particularly for the inside of gouges, but also for more aggressive sharpening, to take out small nicks, for example. The secret, he says, is to mount the wheels of whatever source on an arbor, true them in place, and then never, ever move them on the arbor lest you introduce eccentricity.

  5. #5
    I have used clean leather since 1965.

  6. #6
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    The old work belt that was used to carry around my nail bags when I worked as a Carpenter.....Rub it a few times with the green compound..

    Yes, I do use jeans....but, the pair I am wearing while sitting down at my bench, while chopping joints, and sawing same...a few quick swipes on the back of the chisel, a few on the bevel, one last one on the back of the chisel..back to work...yep, right on the pants leg...

    Other times..the "strop will be a cloth wheel on the grinder, charged up with the green compound....it is called The Unicorn....
    A Chopping Day, 9 done .JPG
    When you have this many to get done...and still have 18 more to do....I do not have the time to go set up some sort of Sharpening Bench....

    Oh, and Warren...it was my understanding that the Old Timers like yourself just used the palm of your hand.....or, rather, the callouses on those palms...
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  7. #7
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    MDF, charged with DuPont Perfect-it III paint rubbing out compound.
    If the thunder don't get you, the lightning will.

  8. #8
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    I use several, I have an old German (West German to give you an idea how old it is) razor strop, it's four-sided, one side has slate on it, the other three are wrapped with leather. The thing came with two compounds, one was Jewler's Rouge the other Tripoli and one face was left clean. I used that for years, now I use it only on knives. Then I made a strop from an old weight lifting belt. I tacked the entire thing on a board and had a strop that was huge! It was divided into sections, Rouge, Tripoli and clean. Later I cut a rectangular section out of the middle, mounted on a thick board so I can trap it in bench dogs. I have that in the well of my bench pretty much all the time.

    I strop pretty often while working rather than just when resharpening, especially when carving.

    I recently bought a few two-sided strops with paddle handles and gave one each to my boys for Christmas, I kept one for myself, it came with several different compounds. But I'm not sure which to use, I haven't determined which is finer or coarser- but I haven't really looked into it. I just use it clean and the compounds just sit in the back of the drawer.

    About compounds, for years I would just rub neatsfoot oil into the leather then rub buffing compound into it, iike coloring with a big crayon. Works like a charm and one of the sticks is basically a lifetime supply. But I always finish up with clean leather.

    DC

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    Last edited by David Carroll; 05-20-2023 at 10:37 AM.

  9. #9
    As for rough MDF, any piece that has stayed around the shop for 6 or so months feels very grainy. At present, I like the stropping compound on poplar. Might get around to trying alder. I have seen a lot of horse butt strops, but the roo is better, as far as I am concerned. I would guess part of the 'rounding over' of the edges that many warn against, comes from people pushing too hard when stropping. For sure, you don't need much pressure. Saw one cook who used olive oil to clean the old compound off of his strop. For sure, the oil would soften the leather. Will continue to experiment.

    robo hippy

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reed Gray View Post
    I would guess part of the 'rounding over' of the edges that many warn against, comes from people pushing too hard when stropping. For sure, you don't need much pressure. Saw one cook who used olive oil to clean the old compound off of his strop. For sure, the oil would soften the leather. Will continue to experiment. robo hippy
    I think you are correct about the "dubbing" of the edge, it's too much pressure on the strop, particularly on resilient leather. The cure for this is a lighter touch and more strokes, using a harder leather, or switching to some other substrate. The reason I apply the oil isn't so much to soften the leather as it is to dissolve the buffing compound enough to apply it, so it isn't so dry, chunky, and so it spreads easier.

    Incidentally, the compounds that came with the German Razor Strop I spoke of were the same type of abrasive compounds that the Dico brand polishing compounds are made of (I think) the difference is that they were suspended in some type of oil to make them into a thick, but spreadable paste, rather than a hard wax (that the heat from friction generated by a spinning buffing wheel would loosen).

    After only 10 years, I used up the German paste and couldn't find replacements, so I switched to the Dico compound and used that for 30 more years. Recently, on a whim, I looked online and found that the same company (Streich-Reimen) that produced the strop is still making a version of it, I found sombody on the auction site selling new old stock of the compounds! So I bought some. Same packaging, same stuff after nearly 40 years! Only the price was different!

    I'm not sure I will live long enough to use it all up, but here's hoping!

    DC

  11. #11
    I have been experimenting with stropping directly on wood. I use Poplar dowels to use on concave gouges and draw knives. I decided to try softer woods, for flat strops, so I bought a block of Basswood. I apply white (AlOx) to the wood after flattening, and it works well. I also bought a few 1/8" sheets of Balsa and laminated to Poplar. Then I flattened the Balsa and pasted with the compound. The softer wood gives a nice "draw" when stropping, which I like. More like good leather. And, like leather, I have to be really careful about not nicking. Shouldn't be too difficult to re flatten, or replace. I got several sheets from Amazon, so will last, and is a lot cheaper than good leather. The Basswood works quite well, also.

    73,
    Rick
    Last edited by Rick Dettinger; 05-21-2023 at 11:20 PM.

  12. #12
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    Now a days....
    Shop Clean Up, Unicorn set up .JPG
    Seems to work quite well...
    Shop Clean Up, refreshed tools .JPG
    Even when I have a lot to "Refresh"
    A Planer? I'm the Planer, and this is what I use

  13. #13
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    I use smooth cowhide mounted to a wood block or Horse butt mounted to a wood block. The cowhide strops are charged with Veritas Green Compound and the Horse butt strops are charged with Flexcut Gold compound. I use the strops most often at the bench while chiseling dovetails and the like. A few swipes every couple minutes keeps things razor sharp. I also use the strop as a last step in sharpening plane irons. It seems to make a bit of a difference.
    Sharp solves all manner of problems.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by steven c newman View Post
    Now a days....
    Shop Clean Up, Unicorn set up .JPG
    Seems to work quite well...
    Shop Clean Up, refreshed tools .JPG
    Even when I have a lot to "Refresh"
    In high school our woodshop teacher thought us to sharpen lathe tools (especially gouges) with a buffer. I’m a believer. I made a bowl out of maple and it was like turning soap.
    Sharp solves all manner of problems.

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