Stropping a knife with a belt is an old-fashioned skill that never goes out of style since you’ll always need a knife to be sharp to perform at its best. This sharpening skill is best known to be associated with sharpening straight razors, but this technique can be used to help any blade hold its sharp edge.
Stropping a knife with a belt should be done by rubbing the belt with stropping compound and passing each edge of the blade back and forth across the grain side of the belt. A belt can be converted into a strop by adding a placement loop and removing any parts of the belt, which might prevent the blade from moving smoothly across the leather.
Stropping a knife with a belt isn’t a difficult process and taking the time to maintain your kitchen knives and other blades properly can make using them much easier. Read on to learn more about how to strop a knife with a belt and why it’s a good idea.
Stropping a knife with a belt is a simple procedure and only requires a few supplies. Here are the things you’ll need for stropping your knife with a belt:
After preparing the belt with the stropping compound, if you plan on using it, you’ll need to lay the belt strop out flat, either over the top of your thigh, along the top of a flat surface, or hung from a secure hook. Once the strop is secured, you are ready to begin.
Here is how to use a belt to strop the knife:
As you can see, stropping isn’t difficult to do, but it has an important purpose when it comes to maintaining your kitchen knives and other household blades.
The purpose of stropping a knife with a belt is primarily to sharpen the blade and remove any burr left on the blade’s edge by sharpening the blade on a whetstone. This can make the knife’s edge both sharper and more polished.
There are several advantages associated with stropping a knife regularly (that is, whenever you notice that the knife’s edge is beginning to go a bit dull). Stropping should also be done afterward whenever you hone a knife on a whetstone first.
Here are a few of the advantages of stropping your knives:
There are plenty of reasons why you should regularly strop your knives, and it’s a simple process, so there isn’t really any good excuse not to do it.
Many people who first start researching knives may think that the terms “honing a knife” and “stropping a knife” are interchangeable, but this is untrue. Honing is the primary act of sharpening a knife that is typically done on a whetstone or with some other type of sharpening implement.
After a knife is honed, this is when stropping is performed. Stropping is the final act of polishing, sharpening, and cleaning the blade that helps remove any burrs or imperfections that might have been introduced to the knife’s edge by the whetstone.
When stropping is completed, the knife is gleaming, sharp, and ready to use.
Ideally, you should both hone and strop your knives regularly, especially if they see heavy use. This will help prevent them from gradually becoming dull and losing their edge. This is even more important if you use your knife to chop hard items such as bones during butcher work since these kinds of activities in the kitchen can dull a kitchen knife very quickly.
It’s fine to use a leather clothing belt as a strop for knives, but you can’t just use any kind of belt. Here are a few things you should look for when you’re considering leather belts for stropping:
When it comes to choosing a belt to use for stropping knives, flat, unadorned leather is best. Any genuine leather belt can be used in a pinch if you’re in a survival situation, but if you’re just trying to take care of your best kitchen knives, you’ll want to use the best strop you can find.
Just about any leather will do for stropping a knife in a pinch. However, there are two types of leathers which are favored above other types when it comes to stropping knives:
Even though these two types of leather are known as being premium leathers for making strops to maintain knives, any kind of genuine leather will work as long as it is smooth.
The best way to use a belt as a strop is to turn a leather belt into a dedicated strop. By doing this, you can’t continue to use the belt as an item of clothing, but it’ll be easier to make other modifications to the leather to make it a better strop for sharpening knives. Here is how you can take a leather belt (secondhand or new) and turn it into a leather strap for stropping knives:
After you’re done, you’re ready to start sharpening!
So, what do you do if you want to use a belt for a strop, but you don’t want to ruin the belt to do it? Can you still wear a belt after using it as a strop?
The answer is yes, in a pinch, you can use a working belt (that you actually wear) to strop a knife; you just need to clean it first to make sure that there isn’t any kind of debris just as fabric fluff from your jeans or anything else caught on the belt that might prevent the knife from making a smooth connection with the surface of the belt.
Keep in mind that using a belt as a knife strop can cause damage to the surface of the belt if it is used as a strop over time. Even a single time stropping with a belt may cause it to roughen or otherwise look different than it did when it was new.
This isn’t a good idea to do with a fancy or expensive belt that you’re planning on wearing with nice outfits. This is a good job for one of your broken-in, worn leather belts.
When you strop a knife with a belt, you have the option of using chemicals known as stropping compounds along with the belt to add extra polish and sharpness to your knife’s edge. There are three factors you need to look at when choosing a stropping compound:
There are two main types of stropping compounds that are used when stropping knives: diamond sprays, compound blocks, and compounding pastes. Both of these compounds are a good option for using with a belt strop, so choosing one depends on the preference of the knife owner.
If you want to change from one stropping compound to another, you’ll need to remove the old stropping compound from the strop. To change from one compound time to another, perform the following:
You don’t have to have stropping compound to strop knives on a leather belt—you can just use the surface of the belt alone and still achieve a good edge—but stropping compound can help take the sharpness and polish of your kitchen knives to the next level. Here are a few good stropping compounds you can use with a belt to maintain your knives:
No matter which stropping compound you choose, using one when you use your belt strop can greatly improve the result of your knife sharpening tasks.
Knives—especially kitchen knives—need to be kept sharp with a strop primarily for safety reasons. Many people have been injured by their own knives while using them when they’re dull. Many people may have a kitchen knife for years without ever thinking to sharpen it, and the duller the knife becomes, the more dangerous it becomes.
Sharp knives are also faster to work with. Anyone who has ever tried to prep with a dull knife understands how much more tedious this task gets when you don’t have a good edge on your blade. Not only do you have to use more pressure (which can cause you to become more fatigued over time as you do knifework), it also increases the chance that you’ll get an uneven cut.
Ideally, a whetstone or sharpener and a belt strop should be used together on knives to keep them polished and sharp. This is because the whetstone does a more thorough job of sharpening, but the stropping belt is what adds that final extra polish. A strop alone may not be strong enough to sharpen duller blades, while using a whetstone alone can cause the edge of the knife blade to burr.
When you use a whetstone alone, this can cause excess waste metal to build up on the edge of the knife. If you run your finger gently (and carefully!) along the edge of the blade, you can feel burrs as inconsistencies in the otherwise smooth surface.
A burr is an indication that the blade has been sharpened, but this catch in the metal should be removed for the blade to be brought to its sharpest edge. This is where a strop comes in. A strop can help remove burrs from the knife-edge and polish the edge at the same time.
While belt strops are most commonly associated with traditional shaving razors, a strop can be used with any blade around the house. This includes the following knives:
A strop can be used on just about any knife as long as it’s long enough to give the blade a good pass down the length of the leather, so once you have a good working strop, you can find plenty of uses for it around the house.
The one major type of knife that should not be used with a strop is a knife with a serrated edge. A strop won’t sharpen a serrated edge, but the serrated edge of the knife will end up destroying the strop.
Alternative Methods for Stropping Without a Leather Belt
So how do you strop a knife without a belt if you don’t have one that’s suitable for the task? There are other stropping implements available that can help you strop your knives if you don’t have an old belt you want to convert into a leather strop.
Here are some of the other methods people use to strop knives without a belt:
Even if you don’t have a belt available to turn into a strop, the tools above give you a few alternative methods to get the job done. These are also good backup options if you have discovered all your belts are unsuitable for stropping due to design aspects of the belt or lack of genuine leather belts. You’d be surprised at how many of your “leather” belts are actually faux leather.
Since you are working with sharp knives, there are a few precautions you need to take while stropping your knives with a belt. Performing this maintenance task recklessly can lead to a bad cut or worse, depending on how sharp your knives are and what damage is done when you lose control.
Here are some of the risks you take on when you strop with a leather belt:
If you learn how to use and build a leather strop correctly, you can avoid most of the pitfalls associated with this knife maintenance too. The most important thing is to be careful when working with any kind of sharp tool. Make sure that you have a first aid kit handy in case of any cuts and have a telephone nearby in case of more severe injuries. Never become complacent when working around sharp objects.
You might never have heard of the term stropping before you looked into knife maintenance, but even though this process is simple and doesn’t take long to perform, it’s a vital part of making sure your kitchen knives stay in good working condition. Otherwise, you are making your kitchen cutting duties more difficult at best and threatening yourself with an injury at worst.
Be sure to get a belt or some other tool to strap your knives to make sure your blades are always at their best edge!