What strop should I use?
Choosing the right strop for your applications
So you want the perfect finish after an intensive sharpening pass? Stropping your knife is the best way to achieve that. But circumstances are different for each knife. A straight razor needs a whole different treatment than an outdoor knife. When is it better to use stropping belt or a paddle?
Stropping with a stropping belt
Stropping with a leather stropping belt is actually suitable for any knife. You will get a pretty sharp straight razor, pocket knife or survival knife by using a stropping belt. In particular, knives with a convex-grind are a very suitable to use with stropping belts. For example, the survival knives by Fällkniven. The more rounded profile of a convex-grind is very easy to strop because you can choose the applied pressure and angle yourself with a stropping belt. You can follow this round profile of the cut very easily.
Stropping belts are a good choice for daily maintenance as well. You can easily put a small hook in something to hang the belt on. In this way, you can easily maintain your knife on a daily basis.
You should keep in mind that you control the applied pressure on the belt yourself. You are therefore responsible for ensuring that the leather surface is actually flat. This can be a risk. So, if you are still a beginner, a stropping paddle for an outdoor knife or a razor strop for a straight razor would be a better option.
Stropping with a stropping paddle
A stropping paddle is simply a piece of leather applied to a hard surface. Because the leather is applied to a hard surface, you can easily apply more pressure to the blade. Especially when just starting with stropping, people tend to start with applying more pressure at the first few strokes than later on. The hard surface ensures that the leather remains 100% flat and constant. It also makes applying stropping compound easier.
For the stropping on the go, for example when (wild)camping or hiking, a small strop on a hard surface is ideal. Much more convenient than a stropping belt or razor strop. A large stropping paddle is useful when sharpening larger knives. You can think of outdoor knives, but also larger kitchen knives. Japanese kitchen knives can sharpened up to perfection after a sharpening pass on Japanese whetstones. This can be done with a razor strap, but also with a large stropping paddle.
Stropping with a razor strop
Stropping with a razor strop is a good choice between stropping with a stropping belt and stropping with a stropping paddle. A razor strop is in fact a thicker stropping belt that is applied to a frame. By rotating the handle you can adjust the tension on the belt. In this way, you do not have to keep an eye on the tension on the belt during stropping: the frame will do that for you. It is also very convenient that the leather a bit thicker. If you make a mistake, you can still correct it by shaving the cut off. If you would accidentally cut in the leather of a stropping belt, you would probably end up as the proud owner of two (half) belts. In addition, it is of course useful that you don’t need a hook to hang the belt on.
A razor strop can be used for outdoor knives, kitchen knives and straight razors.
Other materials to use as a strop
The most widely used material for a strop is leather. Popular choices for real stropping fanatics are Russia leather or even kangaroo leather. But in addition to different types of leather, it is also possible to use other materials as a strop. This is often done in conjunction with diamond spray or emulsion, such as those of DMT. Popular materials for this are simple newsprint, jeans fabric, balsa wood or maple wood.
You lay newsprint on a flat and hard surface as you spray with a diamond emulsion. Then you can very gently strop your knife with light movements.
For maple or balsa wood, you want to have a very flat piece of wood, without imperfections such as knots or other damage. You spray the wood with diamond emulsion as well. From there, you can start to strop your knife gently.
Depending on the grain size of the emulsion, you can get a great Result. For any kind of stropping, it is important to know that it is better to apply three gentle strokes rather than one too hard.