What Types Of Strops Are There?
Although, you might’ve heard people recommending you getting a knife strop, straight razor strop, or a sharpening strop; regardless how you’d like to call your specific strop, they essentially all work the same way.
Any smooth surface can technically be used as a “strop,” insofar as running any blade against it at a consistent angle will result in a “sharper” edge. To that end, you can find strops made of a variety of materials; balsa wood, canvas, linen, and denim are among the most common. In an absolute pinch, a blade can be stropped against the surface of denim blue jeans, though the danger this poses if your grip slips, both for your leg and for your jeans, should be obvious (not to mention the difficulty of maintaining a consistent angle, which means most of your effort will be self-defeating).
By far the most common type of strop is made of leather, and for good reasons. First, leather will work for any type of blade, no matter the desired stropping angle making it the superior choice for a knife strop and a straight razor strop. Second, as long as it is well-maintained, stropping leather is durable and long-lasting. Third, leather is naturally suited for stropping because it is porous and smooth, and is therefore ideal for preserving the long-term health and condition of the blade—especially if you are an inexperienced stropper.
The most user-friendly leather strops, such as the Green Elephant Paddle Strop, are mounted to a rigid base, usually made of wood, which has a handle for stability. Simply hold the handle to keep the strop still and slide the blade against the surface at a consistent angle and with gentle, consistent pressure. This type of strop is portable, easily cleaned, and will work for any blade.
Flexible, “free-hand” strops are essentially a glorified leather belt with a hook on the end. These stropping leathers must be mounted to a surface and then held very tight at a proper and consistent angle in order to function properly. Unless you are experienced at stropping, free-hand strops are very difficult to use because the belt will give under pressure; if the strop is not pulled tight and held immobile, you will not maintain a consistent and accurate angle when stropping the knife or a straight razor, meaning the “teeth” on the edge of the blade will become rounded—precisely the opposite result you’re aiming to achieve when you strop.