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Thread: Question re: leather for homemade / DIY strop

  1. #1
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    Default Question re: leather for homemade / DIY strop

    Okay, so I think I've done enough research on the topic since I started googling it 2 hours ago (just kidding, more like 4), so now I'd like to ask some questions!

    Smoothness:
    How smooth is smooth? If it has small but visible wrinkles like those on your knee or elbow but you can still run your hand along it just fine, is that smooth enough? Or does it need to be even smoother, like (exaggerating a bit here) glass?

    Suppleness:
    I picked up and held a few pieces at the store today, some of them felt sort of like...plastic. It bent, it wasn't totally stiff but wasn't exactly what I imagine as "supple" either, though maybe this was due to the size. Is there some sort of standardized scale or good tests for suppleness?
    - Is this different from softness?

    Leather types:
    Okay, so it sounds like a properly made strop with top-grade material is the most important thing, so what exactly should I ask for? Vegetable tanned? Grade one?

    - How would you rank the various types of hide in terms of quality? I ask because I'd like to purchase a high-grade "top-tier" hide (horsehide or shell cordovan? doubt we have kangaroo here...), and maybe also pick up a piece of high-grade "mid-tier" hide, like latigo or something (are there different types?). So basically a high-end and mid-range leather that I should try out.

    Blade Type
    So I have an extra-hollow ground blade (4/8" I think), and I hear it's more prone to curling at the cutting edge if stropped improperly. Does this affect the type of leather I should get, and the set-up (hanging vs. strop)?

    Paddle vs. Hanging strops
    What's better for a newbie who 1) needs to learn technique and 2) makes a lot of mistakes?

    Width:
    Also, optimal width? For hanging vs paddle? Most of the pre-cut strips at this store are 2" across and fairly long.

    Thanks in advance, looking forward to trying to build a strop instead of shelling out $40 for one at AoS or someplace similar!
    Last edited by ak1m; 03-27-2012 at 02:02 AM. Reason: additional questions

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    Forum mogwai thebigspendur's Avatar
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    Just to answer the important questions; Smooth means smooth. Wrinkles of any kind are a defect in a strop. It should be supple enough that it has some give to it. Plastic is not OK. As far as leather types go I don't think that's important functionally. Different leathers or tanning will give differering feels to it which you may or may not prefer or the draw will vary. Width is a personal thing. Some like wide like 3 inch and some prefer the narrower types. Hanging strops are the classic way to hone. paddles are easier to use. Most paddles are narrow and are used for travel purposes. There are also bench strops which are wider and longer.
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    As above,is more voodoo about strop leather than there is about hones,Geeez.
    Go get a pce of leather,Bovine,equine,whatever,makes no diff,just get it thick enough (7/8 oz.) about an 1/8th in.Make sure it has no scars from barbed wire,tick holes,bullits, etc.
    You want it BBS smooth? sand it down to about 1200 grit,chamfer the edges,break it in,just use it.
    Will serve you well for the rest of your life.

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    May your bone always be well buried MickR's Avatar
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    As per above advice, however I use grade 1, veg tanned leather only. I refuse to buy leather that has to be sanded smooth as there is always a chance something remains behind from the sanding process that will be unwanted. The leather should be free of any defects. My personal preference for minium width is 2.5". I also have a preference for 'roo hide, so I would have to disagree with pixelfixeds comment with regard to leather weight.


    Mick

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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    To OP was looking for a cheap alternative,not Roo hide at $22 USD/sq/ft.
    The benchmark for leather strops has always been 7/8 Oz. material +++,I use Grade 1 Euro single bend from sweden,nothing needs to be done to it.
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    May your bone always be well buried MickR's Avatar
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    I wasn't having a go at you mate, I was just offering up my thoughts. I'm sorry if you thought I was attacking your comment.

    I have no idea why you blokes would be able to obtain 'roo hide at a cheaper price than us here in the land of Skippies though . I don't recall the new prices offhand, but the price here, for a first grade hide, before the price increase, was AU$145 per sq metre (3 ft sq). We must be taxing ourselves stupid over here (Nothing surprising about that!).


    Mick

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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    No Offense taken.your thoughts are well respected.
    Actually I can get grade A roo hides at $18/sq/ft w'sale,but thats well over $150 USD per sq yard,spendy stuff.
    Regards,Bill

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    Regarding the best leather, well It's pretty much been said above, its all about what you prefer to use.

    If you have a leather shop nearby or a saddlery, you could go in and check out the leather's first hand to see what you like. There's a number of different leather outlets on the net and I'm sure if you call them or email them, they'll tell you the differences in the leather they have.

    Myself, I use two different leathers, horsehide and oil tanned blacksmiths leather, I think is actually cowhide. My buddy gave me a piece to make 4 strops with it.

    The blacksmiths leather is actually suppler than the horsehide and I use it for my wedges. The horsehide is smoother and harder and I use it more for full hollows and etc.
    Last edited by twogun; 03-29-2012 at 08:06 PM.

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    Happy to have found this thread, as old as it is. Been looking for answers to these very questions.

    Thank you, gents
    SB
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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    So first leather is leather. Different leathers will provide some what different results, mostly draw. I am always surprised by how well suede polished a bevel, but worry about the edge. It does work well for tools and I have a Kankayama fine suede strop that gives a polished bevel and nice edge.

    I have made strops from many kinds of leather and really they all perform pretty much the same, I recently purchased a Roo hide, that I have been told produces the finest polish for steel, but have not got to that project. So far the best substrate I have found is paper. I use a paper fabric and polyester canvas sail cloth for best results with or without paste/sprays.

    So it depends on what you are trying to do with your strop. There is really much more you can do than just polish a bevel for maintenance.

    Lately I have been experimenting on stropping between stones when honing with good results.
    Hanging vs Paddle. For a novice I don’t think it matters, the key is keeping the spine on the strop until the razor stops moving. For a novice I believe a nylon or Polyester strop is great for learning. Nylon or Poly will polish a bevel as good or better than leather, especially with a novice where technique is more important than the substrate. That and Nylon/Poly is almost cut proof. And that is the biggest problem for the novice… you will nick or cut your first strop until you acquire the skill, even then it only takes one second of inattention to nick a strop.

    For your first strop Veg tanned leather works fine. A 16-18 in X 3 inch is a perfect stropping size for hanging, 12X3 for paddles for razors, 4 inch width paddles for knives. If you make a paddle, you have to have a handle or built in securing system, clamping, rubber feet or sticky bottom.

    A paddle will create a different bevel from a hanging strop. A paddle will leave a flat or flatter bevel than a hanging strop that will couture the bevel to an apple seed shape, I believe a stronger shape for a razor edge, especially so with a pasted strop.

    Get the smoothest leather you can find, though I do not think wrinkle or defects matter all that much. Most of us have stropped on nicked or uneven repaired strop for years with no ill effects. I have a Latigo strop with a thin wrinkle that runs down the middle and it has no effect on the results.

    I also, contrary to sage advice, treat my leather to make it suppler. I have used all kinds of oils from WD40 to Ballistol with good results. Softer gives more draw as the soft leather has more contact with the leather and resulting polish. You will have to experiment and find what works for you. WD40 will clean a vintage strop very well even remove almost completely Chrome Oxide and other paste from vintage strops and leave the leather very supple. Ballistol will make any stiff leather soft.

    There is much folklore about leather, leather strop making and maintenance. And there are new 21st century substrates that are as good as or better than leather, so experiment.

    My preference for razor stropping is a hanging strop with a 2in D ring on each end, one for attaching to a door knob with a paracord lanyard the other for hooking your thumb through to tension the strop.

    How do you plan on attaching your hardware?
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