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How To Hone A Knife With Leather: A Quick Guide

How To Hone A Knife With Leather: A Quick Guide

A sharp knife is a good knife, no matter what function the knife serves. Honing your knife is the best way to maximize your knife’s capability, and leather is an excellent honing tool. It is not all about knowing how to properly sharpen your knife, however, honing your knife is equally - if not more - important.

In this article, you will discover a quick guide that explains how to hone a knife with leather. It is a fairly simple process and one that will prove quite beneficial for your knives and their future uses. However, if not done properly, there are many ways your knife could be damaged. By reading below, you will learn about the following information:

  • How to hone a knife with leather
  • Variations in honing compounds
  • The purpose of honing a sharpened knife
  • Why you should use leather to hone your knife
  • How often you should hone your knife

How To Hone A Knife with Leather

Whether you are using a knife for outdoor activities or cooking dinner for the family, the sharpness of your knife can greatly affect the outcome of the project you are using it for.

As mentioned before, the honing process is simple, and when done correctly, it will provide maximum results that will increase the efficiency of your knife. Although it is an easy task, you must still keep in mind that honing a knife requires a gentle touch and an organized method.

Follow the steps below in order for the best results when honing a knife with leather.

Gather Materials

You only need a few things for this: your knife, a leather strop for honing, and a honing compound. With only three necessary items, it is still important to follow the steps of how to hone a knife with leather very carefully. Each item must work together in order to create the smoothest, most fine finish possible on your knife.

Knife The knife will be used against the leather strop coated with the honing compound.
Leather strop A solid, rectangular piece, usually made of wood, in which one side is layered with rough leather, and the other layered with soft leather.
Honing compound Usually found in a wax form, but also comes in paste and spray form, the honing compound is coated onto the leather strop for a more efficient honing process.

Make Sure Your Knife Is Sharpened

Before you begin honing your knife, you need to make sure that your knife is already sharpened. Otherwise, the honing process might not work as well as it could. Honing a knife is not the same as sharpening it, as you will read later on. If you try to hone a dull knife, you may not see noticeable results, and you might even damage the blade on your knife.

However you choose to sharpen your knife is up to you, whether it be with a stone, a piece of steel, or any other object you might have for such a purpose. Just note that once your knife is sharpened, it has not reached its fullest potential. With the honing process, you can greatly increase the ability of your knife’s function.

Prepare Leather Strop with Compound

After you have your sharpened knife ready, you need to prepare your leather strop with the honing compound. Not all people use a honing compound, but it is recommended by many who want the smoothest blade possible.

Honing your knife on a leather strop without compound may not work the best because you will be missing out on an additional coating that will keep your blade up to necessary standards.

The purpose of the compound is simple: as you slide your knife’s blade across the leather strop, it picks up some of the compounds, which helps coat the blade with an added layer for a smooth surface while also bringing rugged surfaces to a connecting bind, further sharpening the edge of the blade.

Putting the honing compound onto the leather strop can also protect the leather from any accidents in honing the knife. If you accidentally put too much pressure on the blade during the process of honing your knife, you can cut through the leather. This will allow the leather to last longer for later uses.

  • Take the compound and apply it to the leather strop. Honing compound typically comes in wax form. Rub the compound on both the rough and soft sides of the leather strop, providing an even coat over each surface without causing too much buildup.
  • If your honing compound is in paste or spray form, the process is similar, besides the fact that a paste will require a spreading technique, and a spray can be sprayed directly onto the leather strop.
  • Once you have coated your leather strop carefully, you are ready to begin honing your knife. Examine your strop to ensure that there are no clumps are areas of buildup of the compound that might disrupt the sweeping motion of your knife.

Hone Knife

The actual honing of your knife is still rather simple if you carefully follow directions. However, if you try to free-hand the process without knowing what you are doing, you can damage your blade. Read below for the detailed process of making your knife look and function to its highest standards.

  • You must hone each side of your sharpened blade in equal amounts for the best results. Without making sure your strokes are even, you risk a lower quality finish.
  • Take your leather strop, which has already been coated with a honing compound. You can place it on a flat surface, or if it feels better to you, you can hold it at a bit of an angle if there is a handle on your leather strop. First, place the rough leather side face up.
  • Assume that, holding your knife perpendicular to that of the leather strop, the blade is facing you. Hold the knife handle in between your fingers and palm, allowing your thumb to stretch out and put pressure on the flat surface of the blade.
  • Keeping your knife at a steady angle, slide it along the rough side of the leather strop, pushing it away from you and making sure that the entire edge of the blade is passing along the leather strop. Repeat this six to ten times.
  • After you have honed the first side, flip your knife over so that the blade is facing away from you and position it at the end of the strop farthest from you. Obviously, honing the opposite side of the blade will require an opposite motion.
  • Again, while keeping an even angle and applying equal pressure, slide the blade along the leather strop, this time pulling it towards you and making sure all of the blade passes along the strop. In single strokes, hone this side also about six to ten times.
  • If you are comfortable using both of your hands dominantly, you can flip the blade over so that, supposing the handle was in your right hand for the first run through and is now in your left hand, you can push the blade away from your body, as the blade will still be facing towards you.
  • Flip the blade again and hone it one or two more times. Flip it back to the second side and hone that side one or two times. You want to guarantee a total hone of both sides of the surface of the blade.
  • After you have honed both sides of your knife on the rough leather side, flip the strop over to the soft leather and repeat the honing process.
  • The soft leather is meant to leave a fine polish on the blade, so three or four single strokes on each side should get the job done.

To recap, there are a number of factors to take into account when you are honing your knife with a leather strop:

Do not overcoat the honing compound. If you apply too much honing compound, your knife might gather too much of it up, causing clumps and rough edges on your blade.
Hone your knife with equal pressure on all parts of the blade. If you do not put the same amount of pressure on your blade while you are honing, some sections might be less polished, and thus, less fine than others.
Make sure that the entire blade passes along the leather strop. To further ensure an even hone, make sure that your blade passes along the leather in its entirety, even up to the tip of the blade.
Slide your knife along the strop slowly for best results. If you hone your knife too quickly, you might put too much or too little pressure on some parts of the blade.
Make sure to hone your knife on both sides of the blade and both pieces of the leather. For the most even hone possible, slide both sides of your blade the same amount of times, making sure that you are using both sides of the leather strop equally as well.

Types of Honing Compound

There are different types of honing compounds based on the fineness of the grit in the compound. A finer grit aids in producing a more polished, smoother finish to the edge of the blade, while a less fine grit can produce similar results on a thicker blade.

The different forms of compounds, like wax, spray, and paste, are further expanded upon at, but below is a general classification of different compounds.

Wax compound ●     Most common honing compound
●     Affordable and long-lasting
●     One bar can last for many uses on many different knives
●     Easily applicable
Paste compound ●     Another popular compound
●     Works similarly to wax compound
●     Less product; may not last as long
Spray compound ●     Easiest to apply
●     Can cover a large surface area if needed
●     Likely to last longer than a paste but probably not as long as a wax compound
Powder compound ●     Less common than other compounds
●     Very powdery product; will likely require re-application over the course of one honing project

Another distinction between honing compounds is how fine their coarseness is. This coarseness is measured in a Greek measurement called microns, but this measurement is easily converted more understandably to grit rate.

The grit of a compound is calculated by how much friction it reduces when applied to the knife’s blade. The higher the grit rate, the finer the finish.

For A Coarse Finish

Obviously, you are not likely to want the worst possible result, but coarser finishes will be the result of a coarser blade. If your blade has not been sharpened, it is not suggested that you hone it.

If you do decide to hone it, however, a grit rate between 150-250 is best for this process. This grit rate of compound is generally not even used on most small knives, however, so it may not be essential information.

In the case that you are honing a larger knife, you might need to use a lower grit rate compound. Using a higher grit rate might not provide enough protection and added functionality for your blade, and therefore might render your actions useless.

For A Fine Finish

With a grit rate between 800-1800, this type of honing compound can be used on most average-sized knives. Honing a knife on a leather strop with this grit rate compound can bring it back to what it likely came out looking like when it was first manufactured.

Choosing a compound with this range of grit rate will be beneficial for your knife, but it is possible to do better. However, if you are just looking to slightly improve your already functioning knife, this grit rate compound can help.

For An Extra Fine Finish

Compounds with a grit rate between 2500-5000 are probably the most popular for kitchen knives and those similar to them. Honing with this grit rate of honing compound will give your knife one of the smoothest, sharpest edges possible. It is entirely sufficient for most types of knives, although pocket knives might be able to handle a bit finer, larger grit rate finish.

As this is the most popular grit rate range of honing compound you will find, it is also likely what you will see most commonly in stores or online. That is because it is substantially more reliable than lesser grit compounds and not as extreme of a honing supplement as larger grit compounds.

For A Mirror Finish

A mirror finish is the top dog of all finishes, providing the sharpest and smoothest edge available when honing your knife. The grit rate of compounds that provide mirror finishes is between 12500-100000, which is sure to finish a blade in the finest fashion. Although it is not entirely necessary, a mirror finish compound will yield the best results.

Mirror finish grit range compounds will likely be used for professional instances such as professional chef work or some form of advanced blacksmith work, but it is possible to get your hands on it if you are interested.

What is the Purpose Of Honing A Knife?

As you can see, the process of how to hone a knife with leather is quite easy and not very time-consuming. But if your knife is already sharpened, what is the purpose of honing your knife? Does coating a compound on leather and dragging your knife across that leather not dull your blade? Read below to understand why honing your knife is necessary.

Even Blade

When a knife is initially sharpened, it might have what seems like the sharpest edge possible, but if you use a rotating stone or piece of steel, you might not realize any tiny uneven parts. A spinning object running against a knife’s blade might cause a few rough patches, even if at the same time it sharpens those edges.

When you hone your knife with a compound and a strop, you polish any remaining rough edges of the blade. By running your knife’s blade along the coated leather strop, the compound is squeezed between the leather and the blade, sort of rolling itself onto the edge of the blade and patching up uneven ridges in the sharpened blade.

Increased Lifespan

The honing process does not just maintain the sharpness of a blade for the next use. Rather, with the compound coating onto the blade, it provides protection for the longer-lasting function of your knife.

With a sharpened knife that has not been honed, the sharpness of the blade might start to dull itself out after just a couple of uses. Honing your blade while making the edge as even as possible provides protection in the long run.

If you regularly sharpen your knives, you probably know the struggle of how quickly a knife’s usefulness can run out. You will come to find that honing your knives will relieve you of the problems that might come from over-sharpening.

Added Safety

Honing a knife is also beneficial for your protection. If you use a knife, for whatever reason, that is not as sharp as possible. Your knife might be more prone to slipping or getting caught, which can cause risk of an injury. You might think it is highly unlikely for a knife to get caught on whatever it is cutting. However, even the most microscopic unevenness can threaten a knife’s functionality.

Keep in mind, however, that honing will also greatly improve the sharpness of your knife’s blade. This means that you must also be careful to take necessary safety precautions when using your knife, especially if you use a compound with a higher grit rate. A better blade requires better care.

Added Efficiency

Of course, there is the most practical purpose of honing a knife: to make it as useful as possible. A honed knife provides the smoothest and sharpest edge possible, and having such an edge will allow for the most efficient and easiest way to cut through something. Again, honing a knife can apply to any type of knife, whether it be a pocket knife for small labors, a hunting knife for preparing game, or a kitchen knife for cutting the Thanksgiving turkey.

Why Leather Is the Best Material To Use For Honing A Knife

A leather strop is the most common object used to hone a knife, but there are other alternatives. Some people claim that household items can work in the case of not owning a leather strop.

Newspapers and cardboard are two at-home remedy choices that, according to some, work well. Others say they just use their hands. Still, others claim that a leather belt works just as well as a leather strop.

The problem with these methods is that none of them are constructed specifically for honing a knife. In the case of newspapers and cardboard, such material is simply not strong enough for necessary results.

On the other hand, you do not want to use a material that is too tough because that might damage your blade. Using your hand is just simply not very smart, and a leather belt will likely not give results similar to a leather strop.

  • The reason a leather strop works so well is that it is a soft material supported by a more solid material.
  • The wood that the leather typically sits on when a strop is constructed provides the support that a thin piece of leather would not have on its own.
  • Conversely, the leather works as a soft material to provide the gentle touch necessary for honing a blade.
  • The rough leather side of the strop works well because, though it is rough comparatively, it is still soft enough to guide the unevenness of the knife’s blade, allowing the compound to coat the blade evenly.
  • The soft leather side of the strop further polishes any small parts of the blade that might not have been completely smoothed out by the rough leather.
  • This combination of different types of leather is a great support system for the fragility of a sharp blade.

How Often Do You Hone A Knife?

A generalization estimating how often a knife should be sharpened about every three to four months. However, this time can be greatly extended if you hone a knife with leather.

As you probably know, every time a knife is sharpened, it sheds some of its blade. This is necessary for the blade to develop a fine edge, but over time, extensive sharpening will lessen the lifespan of your knife.

In order to prevent this, you should make sure to hone your knife. With this additional polishing process, your knife can last for many more weeks - and even months - at a time.

Your knife will last longer, and you will not have to sharpen it as much. Therefore, it is a good idea to hone your knife every time you sharpen it, but doing so will require sharpening less often, which in return, will require honing less often.

As with sharpening, it is important that you do not hone your knife too much, either too often or with too much pressure. Doing so can lessen the results of your occasional honing and might even cause the edge of your knife’s blade to become too rounded to function up to its highest potential.

Benefits of Honing A Knife With Leather

Overall, there are many factors that make the function of a knife better when you choose to hone it with a leather strop. Ultimately, there are no actual cons of doing so. The whole process is meant to improve your knife.

If you do hone your knife If you do not hone your knife
Honing your knife will clean up the rough edges that might form from the intense sharpening process. Without additional care to a sharpened knife, your blade will not be as smooth and sharp as possible, which can result in a sub-par performance.
The entire process of honing your knife is considerably affordable, especially since all the materials used in the process can often be used a number of times in the future. The investment is worth the results, so again, if you do not hone your knife, the blade may not successfully complete a task you have at hand.
Honing your knife makes its sharp edge last longer. Without a nice hone, the quality of your knife will more quickly deteriorate over time.
When using a leather strop specifically, you are more likely to complete the honing process with the best result. Not honing at all or honing with a random household item you have might cause damage to your blade.


The process of how to hone a knife with leather is fairly simple and produces great results. It is best to further develop the fine edge of your blade after sharpening by solidifying the blade as one smooth piece with a hone.

While there are a number of at-home honing tricks you might find on the internet, it is recommended to use a designated leather strop built for the purpose of honing a knife.

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