After knife sharpening, no rule states you cannot simply go ahead and use the blade that way.
However, even when you sharpen your knife blade the right way, there is a huge chance that there are some microscopic inconsistencies to take care of on the blade. Without addressing these, the knife does not give a truly razor-sharp experience.
That is why everyone should learn how to strop their knife, especially after sharpening.
How to use a strop for your knives
Stropping a knife – the right way, that is – is not something that I can tell you. It has to be shown so that you get it done the right way.
So, I did what I do best and researched the best stropping content I could find out there. That brought me to this down-to-earth, easy-to-follow guide.
Even though the guy used a pocket knife for his illustration, you can use the same technique to polish your kitchen knives and just about any other kinds of knives too.
Besides the video, you’ll also love his shirt. I know I did.
Do you need to strop a knife?
If you don’t care about your knives, there is absolutely no reason to strop them.
For those who want that cutting edge, straight razor on their sharp blade, though, stropping is non-negotiable.
This might sound sentimental, so allow me to introduce you to some of the many advantages of taking your knives to the strop.
Sharpening the blade with appropriate equipment helps increase the usability but stropping gives the knife that polished, finished look. It enhances the final output by making the blade even sharper while removing any unevenness that might have resulted from the sharpening.
Sharpening a knife is just fancy terms for slowly wearing away the metal part of the edge. This is why I do recommend testing the sharpness of your knife so that you don’t have to sharpen it at all times.
With a leather strop, you can maintain the knife’s edge for longer without having to worry about the induced damages from grinding all the time.
Following from the above, a regularly stropped blade keeps a sharp edge for longer than one that suffers inadequate stropping.
While that is good news for your kitchen knives’ longevity of use, a sharp knife also makes your work easier and prevents injuries.
What angle is best for stropping a knife?
Ignore all of the noise about what angle to strop your knife at.
The desired angle you want to adopt is the same one at which you sharpened your blade.
In this whetstone sharpening guide, I discussed the various kitchen knife sharpening degrees; including the best angle and what makes it so.
Once you settle on the desired knife sharpening angle, maintain the same degrees on the strop.
Can you strop a knife without stropping compound?
A stropping compound is an abrasive wax applied to the stropping leather surface. The stropping compound comes in a variety of grit sizes and is usually color-coded to determine the different grit levels.
That said, you can strop your knife without rubbing the compound.
However, you do this with the risk of damage to the strops and a less fine finish on the knife itself.
The stropping compounds are not sold for the fun of it. They are usually bundled with wooden strops because manufacturers and experts know that they help to polish the knife to the best taste.
If your stropping board did not come with a compound, or you want to get one for your homemade strops, I know you will love this one (link to Amazon).
Stropping vs Sharpening: What’s the difference?
Stropping and sharpening are geared towards achieving a sharper edge on the knife but they are not the same thing.
Some of the areas where they differ include, but is not limited to:
- The use of a whetstone (I developed a guide to using whetstones properly) or
- Other unconventional methods (learn 11 ways to sharpen your knives without a sharpener)
For stropping, most of the guides that I have seen (and tried) used leather strops. They are available in different kinds and sizes (I love this one, though) so you can get what works best for you. Just make sure to buy from a trusted manufacturer lest you get poor leather.
That said, I have also seen some guides on using basic leather belts to get your strop on. If you know what you are doing, and are far away from a conventional leather strop board, that works too.
Although not so common in some parts, I have also seen tools like mounted abrasive belts (the kinds that come with machines) used to strop knives. There is this particular one that works quite well that I have shared in a video below.
When you sharpen a knife, the idea is to, well, get a cutting-edge blade.
Stropping takes that slightly further by ensuring the knife surface comes out as smooth as possible, maintains the right angle such that one side is not uneven compared to the other, and that there are no excess metal grains left on the surface of the knife.
The final appearance of a knife after stropping does look better than after just sharpening.
From the video above, compared to this knife sharpening guide, you will see that stropping requires less pressure applied to the knife than sharpening.
For the first part (sharpening), you are trying to chip small microns off the surface of the knife to give way to a sharper under-surface. With stropping, though, you don’t need too much pressure to get the knife-edge polished and looking good again.
How to strop a knife with a belt
I mentioned somewhere up there that you could use a piece of leather belt to strop your knife blade too.
If that sounds like something you are interested in, follow the video guide below to do that for yourself.
This is a better alternative when you don’t have a conventional stropping board at home. Don’t rely too much on this process, though. For the best effects, get your stropping board (link to amazon).
General Best Practices when Stropping
After everything else, I have compiled a simple, straightforward guide to stropping/ polishing your knife perfectly without making any mistakes.
- Tip #1 – make sure to have sharpened the knife correctly. Go here if you are not sure how to do that.
- Tip #2 – take note of your knife sharpening angles. You will apply the same degrees when stropping. If you want the best effects, anyways.
- Tip #3 – Ensure you are always careful and practicing the best knife safety tips at all times of handling
- Tip #4 – get your stropping compound ready and at hand. If you don’t already have one, I recommended this one above.
- Tip #5 – have a quality leather strop at hand. This could be a normal stropping board (here’s one with great value for money) or an old leather belt you repurposed for this effect.
- Tip #6 – don’t rush the process. Done right, you should not spend too much time on stropping anyways. Take your time.
- Tip #7 – don’t apply too much pressure when polishing your knife. Remember that the point is not to sharpen the blade again.
- Tip #8 – if using proper strops, make sure to put it on a stand.
- Tip #9 – have fun while at it. Enjoy the therapeutic, slow, repetitive stropping motion.
It’s a Wrap
That just about sums it up.
From the basics on how to strop a knife to everything else you might have wanted to know about the process, I’m sure we’ve had it all covered here.
If there is something I missed, please do let me know in the comments. In the meantime, share this piece with your friends and loved ones if you found it useful too.