A leather strop is necessary for anyone working with woodworking tools to hone or sharpen their instruments making them razor sharp. While most people tend to find their leather strops purchased from stores, making your own leather strop can have a lot of advantages. In this article we will be going over everything that you need to know before making your own first leather strop, so, how do you create your own leather strop?
To make you own leather strop you will need: a leather strip, a wood board, glue and honing compound. Start off my leveling the wood piece, then glue the leather strip to the wood, cut off any excess leather, let the glue dry and then add honing compound to the leather. Compound paste should be applied from the middle or if using a stick just run it on the leather a few times from one side to the other to spread evenly.
Having a sharpening leather strop is important when you want proper care for your tools. Using the leather will keep the edges sharper than ever while also making using them safer. Without further ado let’s get into the steps to making your own leather strop.
Materials to make a leather strop
The board should be cut in the size you want your sharpening strop to be. Most types of wood can be used depending on your need or what you have available at hand. MDF, plywood is usually a safe choice to use for a strop.
A leather strip which covers the wooden board fully should be used. Leather which is untanned is recommended for the purpose of making a leather strop.
Any industrial strength or “super” glue can be used however the best option is normal wood glue or an epoxy.
Most times, to use a leather stop you will have to apply compound. The honing compound comes in a paste or you can buy the compound stick. Any of these can be used depending on your preference. We recommend the Honing Compound PA-70 for the paste and Fine Green Buffing Compound for the stick.
Step By Step Guide To Making a Leather Strop
Now let’s get into a comprehensive guide to making a leather strop on your own:
1. Cut the wood to the required length
Whether you are using MDF or any other type of wood to make your leather strop, you need to cut it to your requirements. Ensure that the wood is level before moving to the next step.
PRO TIP: you can use sanding paper to even out the edges on the wood to make it smoother and thus easier to hold and use.
2. Check the leather size by securing it over the wood
This is an optional step but it will ensure that the leather is attached tightly to the wood thus ensuring its functionally effective.
3. Apply glue to the wood and stick the leather to the wood
Once your wood piece is ready and level, apply glue to the wood (apply evenly to the whole wood taking extra care to cover the edges and middle properly) and set the leather piece to the wood by pressing firmly. You can lock it in a vise for a few hours to ensure it is glued properly.
4. Cut the excess leather
Once the glue has dried you can cut the excess leather from the sides to make the strop more visually appealing and functional. Use a sharp knife blade to make the cutting easier and accurate. Also, do check for any glue leak on the sides after cutting off the excess leather. If you see any, you can use a block plane or sandpaper to smooth it over.
5. Apply mineral oil
Apply a decent amount of mineral oil to both the wood and the leather. Again this step is optional, however, the oil readies the leather and helps it combine with the compound to make it more effective. You can apply the oil by rubbing it on the whole leather and wood surface. Afterward, dry it with a clean cloth.
6. Add honing compound
Now you can apply the honing compound to the leather. If using a paste, apply it to the center of the leather strop and then rub it via a flat metal tool to apply evenly on the whole leather. If you are using a compound stick apply it by running the compound from top to bottom a few times so that the application is even.
For a demonstration of the steps involved in making a leather strop watch the video below:
- Make sure to glue the “shiny” side of the leather to the glue. This side sticks to the glue much easier and the “rough” side is more effective to be used as a strop.
- A leather strop is used for honing/polishing the cutting edge of chisels, cutting irons, and knives
- You can use any scrap wood and leather to make a leather sharpening strop although higher quality leather is a better idea
- Measure the width of the leather and sand off edges using sanding paper to clean up the edges
- Before applying glue, rub the shiny side of leather with sanding paper
- Check for any glue leak on the side after its dried.
What Kind of Leather Do You Need To Make a Strop
Any leather which has silicate naturally in its makeup is the best to use for a leather strop. Vegetable tanned leather has the highest level of natural silicate as compared to oil/chemical tanned leather. Leather with a high amount of natural silicate is desired most for leather strops because other types of leather with the absence of silicate require the use of compounds to be fully functional. An example of such leather is buffalo leather.
Buffalo leather is the best leather to use for a leather strop. Whether it is in “raw” form or “finished” buffalo leather with its high silicate level and strength and durability is the best overall choice.
Latigo leather is the most budget-friendly leather to use for a strop. It can be used both with and without compounds and is quite durable and flexible.
Equine leather is the leather to use for a strop if you require that extra “glossy” finish on your tools. This is due to its evenness throughout the whole hide which is completely different from the uneven spots found on the buffalo and cowhide leather.
Depending on the tool and your preference you can choose to use suede or smooth leather. Suede leather requires the use of compounds while the smooth variant can be used without a compound if you wish. Woodworkers mostly prefer to work with suede while knife users favor smooth leather. You can always make a double-sided strop and have both!
Can You Make a Leather Strop From a Belt
In most cases you can use a leather belt to make a leather sharpening strop however there are certain conditions that must be met so ensure you use the right belt if you want to make it into a leather strop.
The belt should be free from stitching, and free of inlaid design and embossing. The belt must also be genuine leather as the artificial variety is treated with many chemicals which are damaging to bladed tools. The belt leather with smooth, even surface is essential in order to be used as an effective strop.
Using Your Leather Strop
If you don’t have a lot of experience using a leather strop here is a short guide to help you out. If you would like to read a more descriptive version of how you can use a leather strop to sharpen your tools, check out our very helpful article A Guide To Leather Sharpening Knives and Wood Carving Tools
A leather strop is usually used after using a diamond plane and or a whetstone in order to give a shiny finish to your tools. Before using your strop you should decide whether you need to use it without a compound or add honing compound to the leather. Only a little, even layer of compound is required so no need to get carried away.
If you are using a compound block/stick apply it on the leather to get it evenly across the whole surface. For a compound paste just place some paste on the middle of the strop and spread it on the leather using your fingers.
Ready the cutting blade you want to use the strop on (make sure its clean and dry), hold the blade edge with medium pressure against the strop surface, and run it against the strop surface. Flip it over and repeat on the other side as well. It is important to keep a constant angle when running the blade up and down the leather strop, the optimal angle differs from tool to tool, we talk more about it in our leather sharpening article. As long as you move the tool towards the opposite direction of the sharp edge of the blade then you will ensure that the sharp edge does not cut into the leather and damage it, as well as a sharper knife that is easier and safer to use.
We have gone through the uses of a leather strop and how you can make your own sharpening strop if you so require. You can use any type of leather and scrap wood you have lying around to make your very own leather strop. Even a leather belt can be made into a strop depending on your preference and requirements.
While using your leather strop (especially for the first time) make sure you follow the instructions so you don’t unintentionally damage your cutting tools. Depending on the tools you use you can decide to get a “suede” or normal leather. For certain tools you can use the strop without a compound, however, for most uses, you should apply honing compound.
Making your own strop is inexpensive and it’s just as effective as the strops available in the market. So try your hand at making different types of sizes of strops. Thank you for reading our article, we hope you enjoyed it and learned something new. Be sure to surf the website for a little longer if you want to find more interesting and helpful articles about woodworking.