Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Nov 29, 2010 04:14 AM

Weekend project - made a leather strop!

I decided to try my hand at making a leather strop after visiting a couple of strop discussion sites [!!!] on the Internet and watching a bunch of YouTube videos about making and using strops.

This is what I came up with. It's made of a leather belt that I picked up at a discount clothing shop, some pieces of wood, and four screw-on rubber feet. I finished it with a couple of coats of clear stain.

Since I've never stropped a knife in my life, I put some little strips of wood on the side that are set at exactly 16 degrees to serve as a visual (and tactile) guide for setting the right angle for stopping my Japanese knives. You could put them at 20 degrees for European knives, or leave them off entirely if you think they are lame.

Total cost was probably about $25 because I bought everything new, but you could probably make one for almost nothing if you used an old belt and some scrap wood.

The many knowledgeable folks here at Chowhound got me interested in sharpening my knives with Japanese waterstones, and I feel that I'm starting to make some progress on the sharpening front. I hope the knife experts here can also share some pointers on how to use a leather strop.

I bought a little green brick of chrome oxide, but I haven't applied any yet. It seems you just rub it on like a crayon. How much should I use? Should I rough up the belt a little first? TIA!

PS. Here's a picture:

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Very nice strop!

    I find that the use of powdered or liquid chromium oxide is much easier to apply than the stick
    JKS has the powder plus diamond spray for honing.


    To find the correct angle, lay your knife on the strop and slowly lift the spine while slowly and carefully moving the knife in a edge leading direction. As soon as you feel the edge bit the leather you are at the correct angle. Strop with minimal pressure and when you get to the end of the stroke, stop and lift the knife off the strop. Don't try to mimic the method you see a barber use with the twist of the wrist. This will cause rounding of the edge. Stop-Lift-Flip-Find angle and repeat.

    21 Replies
    1. re: scubadoo97

      scuba: "...moving the knife in a edge leading direction." Really? Good 'ole Tanuki's going to be buying himself a new belt pretty often, don't you think?


      "Place the blade flat on the strop. In case of a hanging strop, keep it under tension continuously, because if you let it hang through, you will create a round and therefore blunt cutting edge. Pull the blade over the strop away from the cutting edge and in the direction of the back. If you strop the other way in the direction of the edge (which is the case during honing), you will cut through the strop, or you will cause knicks which will damage the razor."

      1. re: kaleokahu

        This is done very lightly as an angle finding technique not a stroping technique. I do this every time I strop and my leather is is great shape.

        I guess I should have added that stroping is done with a edge trailing movement. Thought that was a given.

        1. re: kaleokahu

          That's just to find the angle the edge is set at. If you do it on the strop, you only do it a the far edges of it, and you only push (gently, moving toward the edge) until the knife grips the leather. You don't keep cutting - you reverse direction and strop. The leather will be fine, less a few scratches at its edges.

          You don't even have to do it on the strop - any flat surface that's soft enough for the knife to bite into will work for finding the angle, though of course it may be less than perfect once you transfer it to the strop.

          1. re: cowboyardee

            When using my whetstones I have my stone holder on a cutting board and use this technique on the cutting board to find my angle before hitting the stones. I've never been successful with the "click in" method of finding the angle on my glass stones.

            1. re: scubadoo97

              What is your bevel angle? I think the click-in method works best for wider bevel. So swallower angle, thicker blade helps. Sometime I may not feel the click-in, but I can tell from the sound and the feedback from the stone when I am difting far from the angle.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                CK, I use angles in the 12-18* range depending. Glass stones don't give much feedback.

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  That is what they say, but I have never used a glass stone. I do know many people love the glass stones. Mark from Chefknivestogo loves them. By the way, is it true that glass stone does not dish like diamond stone (as in, they do not concave)? That is my understanding.

                  Yes, I agree with cowboy. I think your bevel is probably 1 mm or so, and that is pretty tough to click in.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Glass stones will dish but slowly. If I do a grid pattern on a stone after use there are high and low spots during flattening. You can't see it with the naked eye as dished but it will show up on the grid. I flatten after use most times because I want an absolute flat stone when sharpening. It doesn't take much to flatten. I've been using a DMT XC.

              2. re: scubadoo97

                By 'click in' method, I assume you mean finding the bevel by clicking down on it. That works when you have a large bevel to work with. Problem is, most knives with a large enough bevel use a smaller secondary microbevel at the actual edge, so clicking in doesn't get to to the edge itself.

                You're talking about something like this video, right?
                In that video, the Takeda he's sharpening has a primary bevel about 1/2 inch wide. That's what he's clicking on.

                Still useful for thinning behind the edge. Also, if the microbevel is small enough (and you're not only touching up on very high grit), you really don't need to find it - you can just grind a few degrees steeper than the primary bevel, since you're essentially grinding in a new microbevel anyway.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  Yes. I have Dave's video and also the water displacement method is used. Sometimes I can get enough water displacement to know I'm at the correct angle and other times not. In the meantime the method I advised tanuki to use to find his angle I continually use to make sure I'm on point with my sharpening.

            2. re: scubadoo97

              Thanks for the great tips, scubadoo97. I looked for the powdered and liquid chromium oxide, but couldn't find any locally. I live in Japan, and it's sometimes difficult for a Gaijin (foreigner) like me to find off-beat or specialized stuff. I did find the green brick, though.

              I was wondering -- if I start out with the brick, is there any problem switching to the powder or liquid later on?

              I also found some diamond spray at the Amazon Japan website. Would it be better to use that instead? It costs more than $50 for one spray can, so it's not exactly something that I want to purchase casually and throw away if it doesn't work out.

              Thanks again for your help!

              1. re: tanuki soup

                Chromium oxide is cheap and works well. I haven't used the diamond spray but those that use it find it makes the edges more toothy. One criticism of chromium oxide is it leaves the edges too polished and smooth.

                I started out with the stick but ended up taking it off when switching to the powder and liquid. A little sand paper will remove it pretty quickly. Use the stick since you have it and start getting acquainted with your strop. I strop as a follow up to the stones and then anytime the knife feels like it's loosing a little the strop will more often than not bring it back. When I see defects in the edge that will not strop out then it's back to the stones.

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  Thanks again, scubadoo97. As you advise, I'll start out with the stick (using cowboyardee's hair dryer tip) and try stropping my first knife this weekend. I guess I'll pass on the diamond spray because (I think) I'm looking to get a nice smooth, polished edge.

                  As a beginner at hand-sharpening, I'm still kind of feeling my way along. To get started, I bought two ceramic waterstones (Shapton Pro in 1000 and 5000 grit) and a ceramic rod from the nice folks at Edge Pro.

                  Up to now, I've just been using the 1000-grit stone followed by the rod. With that simple two-stage process, I can get my knives sharp enough to easily slice the corners off pieces of paper, but there is still a hint of a "tearing" sensation, and I'd like the feeling to be a little smoother. (I also touch up the edge with the rod every couple of days.)

                  Given the above, I'm wondering what you think the best sharpening method would be:

                  Method 1: 1000-grit stone -> strop
                  Method 2: 1000-grit stone -> ceramic rod -> strop
                  Method 3: 1000-grit stone -> 5000-grit stone -> strop
                  Method 4: 1000-grit stone -> 5000-grit stone -> ceramic rod -> strop

                  Although I enjoy sharpening, I don't really want it to take over my life, so I figure the fewer steps, the better.

                  Also, for touching up the edge between sharpening sessions, do you think I should switch from the ceramic rod to the strop?

                  Thanks again. I really appreciate your taking the time to help out a newbie.

                  1. re: tanuki soup

                    I am jumping in here because scubadoo is nice. He and cowboy know a lot and I learn the most from these two along with deeznuts. I definitely agree with you that you should forget your diamond spray for now. I think 1000 to 5000 can be done, but it would be easier if you have another stone in between like a 2000 or a 3000. It actually takes a person longer from "1000->5000" than "1000->2000->5000". The reason is that it takes a 5000 stone longer to smooth out the scratches from the 1000 stone. Fewer steps do not always equal to less time. :D

                    The edge pro ceramic rods appear to be 1200 grit, so I will just skip it:


                    If I am you, I would use either method 1 or method 3 you wrote above -- depending how fine an edge you need. To put this in perspective, most Shun knives are finished on 1000 grit stones, and people tout about the sharpness of Shun knives:

                    "Regular shun pro is finished on a sharpening machine using 1000 grit, just like the rest of the Shun line."

                    So when you finish your knives on a stone >1000 grit, you are creating a pretty good edge that most people have never experienced.

                    Again, if money allows I would get a 2000 or a 3000 grit stone, one reason is that it will save you time as mentioned. The other reason is that for touch up, I think 1000 is too much, so your regular touch up can be just 5000 or 2000->5000.

                    I have a 2000 and a 5000 stones. I regularly touch up using a 5000 stone. if it does not work, then I use go from 2000->5000. I do this about once a week or once every two weeks.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Thanks, CK. Based on your advice, I just ordered a Shapton #2000 ceramic stone from Amazon Japan. I'm hoping that I can do a full sharpening (#1000 stone -> #2000 stone -> #5000 stone -> strop) maybe only once a year or so. For touch-up, I'll probably use the #5000 stone and the strop (or maybe just the stop) from now on. The Edge Pro ceramic rod will probably be retired to a drawer. Thanks again!

                      1. re: tanuki soup

                        Use the rod to sharpen your vegetable peeler. Just peel the rod up and down and your peeler will be supercharged. it's about the only thing I use my ceramic rod for.

                        As CK mentioned it's nice to have something in between the 1K and 5K. I have a full run of Shapton glass stones from 220 to 8K and use the 1k, 2k and 4k the most. I often just touch up on the 4k and then strop.

                        Oh and after using your 1K stone which cuts paper well but still has a tearing sensation, try the strop. It will whoosh through the paper after that. You may find that for normal kitchen duty the 1000k and strop will keep you sharp enough

                        1. re: scubadoo97

                          Thanks for the follow-up, scubadoo97. I'm really looking forward to trying out the super-simple #1000 stone -> strop procedure this weekend.

                          1. re: tanuki soup

                            I agree with scubadoo. You should not have any problem slicing a paper after a 1000 grit stone. If you do, then it is probably because there is loose burr on the edge. In my experience, my knives ofteny have problems slicing paper when finished on a 1000 grit stone WITHOUT deburring. So what you experienced seems very normal to me. When you strop, you will deburr.

                            I think your ceramic rod can still be useful say for a boning knife. Usually, a boning knife does not need to be extremely sharp and it get abused a lot because of its use. Alternatively, you can just give the ceramic rod to a friend.

                            Last thing I like to add is that there are other methods to deburr. Mark from Chefknivestogo use a cork to deburr. Scroll to 1:10 min mark:


                            In this kiya website, deburring is done by using the wood stand on a sharpening stone (scroll to the bottom).


                            I heard people deburr using their jeans too.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              I use a cork as a first step but often still feel a little burr. Hard rock felt is one of the best things to deburr with. I've tried most methods including wood and cork but the hard felt really pulls it off completely.

                        2. re: tanuki soup

                          I still use my ceramic rod for my "regular" stainless steel knives. I've got three Forschners & an unknown soft-cheese knife that the rod brings back to a sharpness level better than anything I'd used prior to a year ago. (I may start putting the Cutco to it, too, but I'm still sharpening that one on the Spyderco medium ceramic only.)

              2. Wow, very nice. Man, you are good. After sharpening your knife, test the knife before and after stropping and I think you will notice the difference. Test it by cutting meat or by slicing paper or even by shaving arm hair.

                As for the stroping part, scabadoo is correct. You can find the angle by going very slowly and very gentle in the edge leading direction. That is pushing the knife with the edge in front. Do so very gently or you will cut your leather. Alternatively, if you already have a very good idea of your knife edge angle, you can just strop at that angle in edge trailing direction. That is you pull the knife. Try to strop without the chrome oxide first and see how you like it.

                Mark from Chefknivestogo has a video on just stropping:


                There are plenty other ones.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Thanks for the kind words, CK. I've gradually replaced all my knives with Western-style (i.e., sharpened on both sides) Japanese steel -- mostly Globals, a Glestain santoku (my go-to knife), a Tojiro-Pro square-tipped vegetable knife, and a Masahiro cleaver. I've been sharpening all my knives at an angle of 16 degrees, so I figured (as you said) that I should strop them at the same angle. I'll be sure to check out the video when I get home tonight. Thanks!

                  1. re: tanuki soup

                    Not only you have a nice custom made (by yourself) leather strop, you have a lot of good knives. Globals, Glestain, Tojiro PRO, Masahiro.... etc.

                    You can strop a touch higher than your sharpening angle. So if you have 16o edge angle, you can strop at 16-18o. You don't want to strop way too high, or you will end up rounding your edge as scrubadoo has pointed out.

                    Try stropping without the chrom oxide, it should be effective in removing the loose burr and make your edge sharper right away.

                2. Awesome stropping block! I like your angle guides too, that's a clever use of the space on the side of the block.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cannibal

                    Thanks, cannibal. One of the guys who posted a video on You Tube suggested drawing angle guidelines on the side of the strop with a permanent marker. My minor refinement was to use little strips of wood so you could also feel the angle with your fingertips.

                  2. Very nice indeed. Much nicer looking than mine.

                    As for applying the chrome ox, I wouldn't rough the strop up, but it is much easier to apply if you thoroughly warm up the leather with a hair dryer first.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      Ditto on the niceness relative to mine. I used some leather conditioner to get the powder worked into the leather.

                      On my Japanese knives it does the trick to get them back in wicked shape with a few passes. Not so much for the German ones, which need serious help.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        Thanks, cowboyardee. I'll be sure to follow your hair dryer tip. Although I haven't used it yet, the green brick seemed really hard to me, and I was anticipating problems getting the chromium oxide to stick to the leather.

                      2. A quick follow-up and a BIG THANKS to everybody for their great advice.

                        I couldn't wait until this weekend to try out the new strop. The chromium oxide went on quite smoothly after I heated up the leather a bit. Got a nice thin, even coat - kind of a transparent green tinge.

                        I stropped my Glestain santoku maybe six times per side with moderate pressure, then three more times per side with light pressure.

                        What an incredible difference! Before stopping, I could easily "slice cut" pieces of paper by sweeping the blade across the edge of the paper. But after stropping, I could actually "push cut" paper by placing the blade against the edge of the paper and simply pushing right into it. I've never felt a knife this sharp before. It really is amazing to hold up a sheet of paper, slowly push the blade straight into the edge of the sheet, and then feel absolutely no resistance as the knife glides through the entire sheet until it falls in half.

                        Thanks again, guys! I'm looking forward to many enjoyable visits to the emergency room with severed fingers, hands, and arms ;-)

                        25 Replies
                        1. re: tanuki soup

                          At least they will be clean cuts. Seriously better curl those fingers out of the way.

                          Sounds like you are on the right track.

                          1. re: tanuki soup

                            OK, now you've convinced me to make a strop. I've been using an old belt, but not fixed to a block & w/o any CrO2.

                            And, thanks to Chem& scuba, I guess I'll get a 3000 stone along with the CrO2. Oh, & I suppose it's time for a flattening stone as well.... (sheesh, I'm supposed to be buying xmas presents for other people!)

                            1. re: Eiron

                              throw in some rogain on top of all that other stuff, to help regrow the missing patches of hair on your arm from testing your edge :D

                              1. re: cannibal

                                Yeah, no kidding! I just sharpened a co-worker's knife before Thanksgiving & sacrificed a few more spots. It's a good thing I only have 3 Japanese knives of my own to sharpen!

                                1. re: Eiron

                                  I do that. There was a time that I shave my arm hair with every knives I sharpen and I basically shaved all my arm hair on both arm. Yeah, I have to say the arm hair test is even better than the paper test.

                              2. re: Eiron

                                Give your friends and family member a self made paper certificate of "Eiron's Sharpening Service"

                                They be like "What the heck is this?"

                                1. re: Eiron

                                  Here is a picture of my cigar box strop. The leather from HandAmerican that I picked up at Woodcraft. I removed the top of the box and applied the leather then attached it to the bottom of the box.

                                2. re: tanuki soup

                                  "But after stropping, I could actually "push cut" paper by placing the blade against the edge of the paper and simply pushing right into it. I've never felt a knife this sharp before."

                                  :) What did we tell you?

                                  There is ok sharp and there is real sharp. Most people have never actually use a real sharp knife and I do mean it. Most people think if you can slice a paper with a knife, then it is very sharp. As you know now, that is simply ok, it is funcational, but not really sharp.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Yeah, you're right, CK. I thought that my Globals came from the factory as sharp as they could ever be, but it seems clear to me now that FACTORY sharp is just a good starting point for making them REALLY sharp.

                                    1. re: tanuki soup

                                      You have taken your first steps into a larger world :)

                                      1. re: cannibal

                                        Yet, it is a path which may consume him.

                                      2. re: tanuki soup

                                        You will also feel the sharpness of your knife when you cut into your foods. Admittedly, it will be more notieable for some foods over others. Having a sharp knife allows you to do cut things finer, to have more control, and less tiring going through a large amount of works.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Yes like with tomatoes which are one of my benchmarks. It should feel like the tomato is not there and you are slicing in air.

                                    2. re: tanuki soup

                                      tanuki (& scuba): what did you use for glueing the leather down?

                                      I have Goop & Gorilla Glue, but don't know if either of those is the best choice.

                                      1. re: Eiron

                                        I used Gorilla glue but only a light smear as it tends to expand

                                        1. re: Eiron

                                          When I made mine, I used 3M spray adhesive. Seemed to work. Mine is a lot uglier and more 'thrown together' than Tanuki's though.

                                          1. re: Eiron

                                            I found something called "wood and leather glue" at my local DIY shop. It came in a tube and had the consistency of thick rubber cement.

                                            I applied a thin coating to both the wood and the leather, let it sit for a few minutes, stuck them together, weighted the leather down with a couple of heavy books, let it sit overnight, and finally used a razor blade to trim off any excess that had squeezed out from the edges. Worked great!

                                            PS. I haven't used it, but they sell a special version of Krazy Glue called "Wood and Leather Formula".

                                            1. re: tanuki soup

                                              Thanks guys! I really appreciate the info.

                                              I picked up my leather this afternoon. Way more than I need, but it was at a good price.

                                              scuba, what are the dimensions on your cigarbox strop?

                                              CBAD, what size strop have you found most useful and/or effective?

                                              1. re: Eiron

                                                Mine is 10 1/4 X 5 1/2 inches. I really like the extra width.

                                            2. re: Eiron

                                              OK, here's what I ended up with:
                                              Two strops, each made of deer leather affixed to 3/4" thick by 22" long planed, sealed oak boards.
                                              The "narrow" strop is 3" wide. I had just enough 3M automotive trim adhesive left from a car headliner replacement to attach the leather to the wood.
                                              The "wide" strop is 6" wide. I used Rhinyl Grip adhesive here. I had it on-hand, but it was a royal PITA to use on this wide & long of an assembly. (The leather kept sticking in the wrong location & made it very difficult to get in place.) Nasty fumes, too, so it wouldn't be my first recommendation to anyone.

                                              The deer leather is softer than cow or horse hide, so I made them both smooth side up. The split side wasn't really split, but full nap. It seemed way too shaggy for stropping. They both have small self-stick urethane feet to keep them from moving on the counter when I strop.

                                              The Kantesune gyuto now falls thru paper under its own weight. Schwe-e-e-eet!

                                              1. re: Eiron

                                                Dammit, Eiron! After seeing your strops, I wish I'd made mine wider. :-P

                                                1. re: tanuki soup

                                                  LOL! If I remember correctly, you said you live in an area that provides you with plenty of crafting time? Nothing like another project, eh? :-D

                                                  Actually, the 3" width seems "wide enough" for a decent strop. It's the 22" length that makes it a nice pull against the leather. The extra width of the 6" might be a little overkill, but I had both oak planks just laying around in the basement & the leather was only $10 for enough to cover both of 'em. So I did. :-P

                                                2. re: Eiron

                                                  Awesome, buddy. Looking forward to read more in depth details about your experience. Your wide strop is really wide, man. I presume you are using them naked without charging with with those abrasive micro particles. I am doing the same, but may one day get a charged strop, but then I don't think I have any knife which worth that sort of treatment. Greg, what was your highest grit stone? I cannot remember.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    No, the wide strop is CrO2 charged (green brick & hair dryer application, then worked in with fingers). Since I had both boards I decided to do one of each, charged & naked. I pull on the charged 6" first, then pull along the naked 3" as a finishing strop.

                                                    The only waterstones I have are a 1000 grit (Splex) & a 6000 grit (Suehiro). I still want to get a 3000 grit (& a Nagura) from Epicurean Edge, but I'd like to see if they ever have sales or offer discount codes. I don't check often enough to be well informed about that, though. Any idea if they ever run coupon codes anywhere?

                                                    1. re: Eiron

                                                      Ok, that makes sense. The strop is partly green afterall. Nah, I don't know much about Epicurean Edge coupon deals. I was just wondering if your highest grit stone can match your the charged particles on the strop.