Stropping a knife
To start with: let us first determine whether your knife is actually suitable for stropping. Serrated? No stropping. You will destroy the entire strop, a waste of effort and of your strop. Knife with a recurve (curved blade, like a peeling knife)? Only on a razor strap and not on a paddle. Make sure your knife is sharpened prior. Otherwise you will be busy for hours, without result.
Assuming you have read the above and have a suitable knife for stropping, let’s start! If you are using a compound, begin with the most coarse grain. You start by holding the front part of the blade, the tip, against the strop. In terms of setting the angle, it’s not that important with stropping. You will find out fast enough if you have the correct angle: when the side of the blade is shining instead of the cut, you know you need to readjust the angle. Do you hear a scraping sound? Then you can set the angle somewhat smaller.
A gentle start
Pull the knife across the strop carefully, towards the back of the blade. This prevents cutting in the strop. Feel carefully if you’re about right. You’ll notice it without saying when something goes wrong. You should cover the entire cut with the strop; move the entire knife upwards towards the tip, so the heel of the knife will also be touched at the end of the strop. See the images and video below for more information.
Note the center!
It would be ideal when you move the center of the blade from the tip down along the leather with one subtle but swift movement. That sounds harder than it is. It ensures that the center of the blade, the part that you use most, is as smoothly polished as possible. You press lightly, not too much. Pressing too hard damages the cut and increases the risk of accidents.
You repeat the above until you notice improvement is slowing down. You can now optionally switch to a finer grain size. When you feel that you are done, gently move the cut, with only the weight of the knife as pressure, along the strop. This is meant as the finishing touch and for cleaning your polishing work.
Roughening up your strop
At some point, you will notice the strop turning to a black color. This is a good sign! The black color is actually steel that you have polished of the cut. The strop will also start to gleam. That is not really a good sign, as it indicates that the effectiveness of your strop is decreasing quickly.
A strop is much more effective when it is a little rough. You will notice that you will polish faster with a rougher strop. Roughening the strop is not hard to do and can be done in several ways.
You can roughen up your strop with a wire brush. Do not attack the leather right away, but start gently to see how much pressure you have to put to be able to roughen it up. You can also do this with a saw. By moving the saw sideways across the strop, you will roughen the surface. Just be careful you do not damage the strop too much.