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Sharpening: Making a Leather Strop Using an Old Leather Belt

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Once you have sharpened your knife using your preferred method, you need to finish the edge, removing any vestigial burrs and giving the edge a mirror finish. The best way to do this is to use a strop. This is even more satisfying if you use a strop you have made yourself.

It is quite easy to make a strop using simple materials and the below tells you how to do it. 

What you need

1 x Old Leather Belt.

18" x 1" x Belt width piece of wood, MDF is perfect as the surfaces are quite smooth.

Contact Adhesive.

Sharp Knife (craft).

G-Clamps (optional). 

The process

Firstly, lay the old leather belt on the surface of the MDF. You need to make sure the wood is the same width as the belt or, that the belt edges slightly overhang the wood. Trim the belt lengthwise, so that at each end, there is a slight overhang. Avoid using any part that has rivets or holes. 

Next, making sure the surface of the wood is clean and grease free, apply contact adhesive to both the smooth side of the belt and the surface of the wood intended to be the recipient of the leather. Some types of glue require you to wait a set period before marrying up the two elements being glued together; the product instructions will help you here. When timely, marry up the two surfaces to be glued to each other. 

Make sure there are no air bubbles between the two surfaces. Then either place some weights on top of the project or put another piece of wood on top of the leather and clamp tightly using G-clamps or similar. Leave until the glue is dry. 

Once the adhesive has cured, remove either the weights or clamps. Then trim around the wood, removing any excess belt material using your craft knife. You have now made yourself a simple tool for finishing off your sharpened edge. 

Using Your Strop

Using this very useful implement for improving cutting edges is also very simple. You will need some cutting compound, Autosol, which can be obtained from most Motor Factors works very well. Squeeze some compound onto the surface of the strop you have made, making sure the entire leather surface is treated. The fibrous back of the belt acts as a wick for the cutting paste. Allow to dry. 

You are now ready to improve your edge. Make sure the strop is on a firm surface such as a table or worktop perhaps using some grip matting to prevent any slippage. Hold your knife with the edge touching the leather. The angle of the blade should be a fraction less than the angle you have ground it to. Draw the knife along the strop with a firm pressure, making sure you maintain your angle as you allow for the curvature of the blade. Do this an equal amount on each side of the blade. Several passes will be necessary. 

To avoid removing metal from the blade of your knife by sharpening it too often, regular stropping will maintain your edge with no metal loss.

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