One of the things I learned quickly with leatherwork is that you need sharp knives. I thought I knew how to sharpen a knife before, but I was wrong. The last step in getting a knife scary sharp is to polish the steel with a strop. The strop I had been using was a four inch long scrap of unfinished 2×4 with a piece of 14oz saddle skirting nailed to it. Over the last few years I have worked quite a bit of jeweler’s rouge into it, so it worked pretty well. It just wasn’t pretty.
Earlier this week, my friend Mike Black approached me about needing a strop. He is an incredible craftsman who makes mandolins. Check out http://www.threebeansalad.net/Mandolins.html or http://www.facebook.com/Mike.Black.Mandolins for some of his work. I offered to make him a nice horse hide strop, and realized he might have some nice looking wood in his scrap bin. He supplied two strips of maple, and I added the leather and rouge. These are horse leather, which is harder and more durable than cowhide. I burnished the edges and cemented them to the wood.
To make a strop, you need a piece of leather on a solid surface. With the horsehide glued to the maple strip that was covered. The next step is working a polishing compound into the leather. I crushed red rouge, and put it into denatured alcohol. I then brushed this on to the leather. As the alcohol dissolved, the rouge was on the surface of the leather, and just under it. I worked it in more by stropping my knives.
I am happy to report that they work really well, and my head knife and swivel knives are nicely polished right now. This strop actually looks nice, and does a good job. Not sure if there is enough interest in making some of these for sale, but I might try it to see.