Strop - compound vs no compound

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Gday everybody,

I am wanting to pick all of your brains and see whether a leather strop with no compound vs a leather strop with green compound is better? I don’t have a BESS machine so am unable to buy more strops and compare myself, so thought I’d ask you guys before I spend money that would be better in my own account! Cheers!
 

Nemo

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I find that strops without any give in the them are easier to use than leather. They behave much more like a fine stone.

I use a rock hard felt strop loaded with 1 micron diamond spray. I also have a lapped balsa strop loaded with 1 micron diamond paste, which was easier to source in Aus but works just as well.

Even easier to get is a strop made of cereal box (or similar) cardboard. The brown side, not the shiny side. It can be put on any flat hard surface, or even folded over the edge of your bench. Can be loaded with an abrasive but the cardboard itself has a decent amount of bite, so this isn't absolutely necessary.
 
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So a bit of backstory, I have the Suehiro double sided strop (long) and have green compound applied to the rough side, and the smooth side has nothing. I honestly feel like the entire strop is **** quality, but have found that the rough side with compound creates a vastly sharper edge than the smooth side.


All and all, I don’t need to use cardboard etc. I have a strop but at trying to figure out if it’s worth buying a new leather strop that is better quality. I have considered gunny juice as apparently it’s excellent.
 
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I have tried smooth, rough, green compound, white compound etc. I started using 1 micron diamond paste from CKTG on a rough strop a couple of months ago. I haven't used a BESS but in my opinion this gives me the best edge I have tried. I typically only do about 2-3 light passes per side but I definitely notice the blade grabbing the pads of my fingers (toothy) more with this than any thing else.
 

Mariner

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It depends on what results you're going for. Compound introduces more abrasive than bare leather, meaning it will clean up apexes with remaining issues. That comes at the cost of potentially rounding your edge, especially with overstropping.

I prefer bare newspaper with super light strokes - or even the jeans I'm wearing if available. The idea here is that I'd like to know if I messed up on the stones and the lighter the stropping, the easier it is to determine your work on the edge.
 
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Traditionally I’m almost certainly guilty of overstropping.

I used to do 10x chrome, 10x diamond paste, 10x rough leather, 10, smooth leather. Basically 40 strokes per side after every use. I never noticed any particular issues, as a home user it always caught my nail and push cut paper fine.

That being said I’ve cut back to 5 strokes on smooth leather only to try and reduce how much metal I assumed I was slowly sharpening away with the compounds. I’ve noticed my blades are losing their bite much faster now, they used to maintain that edge for multiple months and now it might be a few weeks.

Logically it makes sense, since both chromium oxide and diamond are abrasives so they’d do a better job of keeping an edge in shape.

Leaves me with the weird question though, is it better to do that tiny amount of sharpening with the strips every use more frequently, or go to the stones for a touch up more frequently?

I always found diamond gave the best bite for stropping mediums, almost like tiny serrations that make it work better on flesh and slippery materials like vegetable skins. I took some photographs through a crappy 100x microscope a few months back which seemed to confirm it, curious if anyone has run into the same though.
 

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I used coated leather (1 micron diamond paste) for a long time, but gave it up. It polish the edge to much for my taste losing its bite faster.
I get longer lasting edges with a few edge leading strokes on a jnat.
 

deanb

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I have a dozen or so strops. Some are loaded with CrO2 of different grits, some with diamonds, and some with no loading. The best strop I have, though, is a pre-loaded 12” X 3” strop made from chap leather that I got from Knives Plus. Amazing strop!
 

Tapio

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It depends on what results you're going for. Compound introduces more abrasive than bare leather, meaning it will clean up apexes with remaining issues. That comes at the cost of potentially rounding your edge, especially with overstropping.

I prefer bare newspaper with super light strokes - or even the jeans I'm wearing if available. The idea here is that I'd like to know if I messed up on the stones and the lighter the stropping, the easier it is to determine your work on the edge.
Bare newspaper works really well. I would even say that it’s ideal for soft European steel.
 

Tapio

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I find that strops without any give in the them are easier to use than leather. They behave much more like a fine stone.

I use a rock hard felt strop loaded with 1 micron diamond spray. I also have a lapped balsa strop loaded with 1 micron diamond paste, which was easier to source in Aus but works just as well.

Even easier to get is a strop made of cereal box (or similar) cardboard. The brown side, not the shiny side. It can be put on any flat hard surface, or even folded over the edge of your bench. Can be loaded with an abrasive but the cardboard itself has a decent amount of bite, so this isn't absolutely necessary.
Leather can often be undesirable soft for stropping but there is also some rather stiff leather available. I like silicate rich stiff leather a lot. I use it when I need to remove just a minimal amount of steel. For faster steel removal I put some diamond paste on news or office paper. A clean piece of paper doesn’t contain too many big abrasive dirt particles which ruin your mirror polish. When the paper goes black from the removed steel, it’s easy just take a new clean sheet.
 
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Steampunk

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I'd say it depends on the type of leather it is, what steel(s) @ what HRC('s), what your intention is for stropping, and what sort of edge you're looking for...

I personally like stropping on horsehide after I finish sharpening on stones. Horse-butt leather contains more natural silicates than most leathers, as well as being very firm and tough. The feel of the edge against the strop tells me how well I've done at deburring, and improves the shaving ability ever so slightly without destroying the micro-teeth from my stones. It works well on carbon steels; less so, on high-HRC PM steels with lots of tungsten and or vanadium, like HAP-40, SG-2 / R2, CPM-S30V, etc... Even on very hard steels with lower carbide volumes, like Aogami Super or ZDP-189 @ 65+ hrc, it has some tiny effect, but not much... I like stropping my knives on this unloaded horse-butt strop before they start properly dulling, but are just only starting to lose that 'fresh' edge; before use, or before putting them away. It seems to help maintain that 'fresh off the stones' edge just a bit longer, with little or no metal removal... The effect of a bare horse-butt strop can actually be quite profound on very soft carbon, or stainless knives. 'Enthusiastic' usage on a Swiss Army Knife (SAK), or an old Sabatier can actually restore a mildly dulled edge to shaving sharpness without adding any extra abrasive compound, but the result does tend to be smooth, and not very toothy. It's also very useful on Mora's, for routine touch-ups while woodcarving.

Normal cow hide doesn't have that same effect. It tends to be too soft, easily rounding very slim edge bevels on well thinned knives (Even without compound.), and really needs compound to have much sharpening effect... On convex, or insanely steep edge bevels (Like those crazy 3-dps or so edges that Akifusa's shipping, these days.) it works, though.

I don't tend to be a big fan of CroX for culinary edges outside of maybe those intended for fish, herbs, or very fine garnish work... They're sharp, but even just a few strokes can kill the bite that most kitchen knives need. Even then, I prefer 0.5-micron or finer diamond.

1-Micron diamond paste is sort of a sweet-spot; especially Norton, as it has a wider grit spread (Normally a negative feature, but for food prep tends to be a positive on gyuto and such.). It'll restore mildly dulled edges on just about any steel, and has a good blend of shaving sharpness and tooth for food prep. Any finer, unless you're making a BIG grit jump (Like up to 0.1 micron or finer, for just a few strokes; just to help clean up a slightly ragged edge from a coarser stone.), and the edges just tend to get too smooth.

If you're stropping because you're in a "My knife is dull, and I'm in the weeds!" sort of situation, I'm becoming a fan of the JRE Black Compound... It's not great on the really high tungsten/vanadium steels (CPM-M4, S30V, S90V, etc.), but it'll get even moderately dulled knives up to SRS-15 and R2 licked back into shape within about 20-strokes either side (If it needs more, it's time to hit a 1K or coarser stone.), and leaves an edge with some good bite. It's also cheap...

For compounds, I tend to prefer 'hard' balsa (Sounds like a contradiction in terms, but there's different densities of the stuff. The type used for model airplanes, sold at craft stores, is just too soft.) to avoid edge-rounding; at least on compounds 1-micron and coarser. The natural silicates in balsa tend to leave random coarser scratches deeper than 0.5 micron, that ruins the polish. For finer compounds than than 1-micron, I prefer leather.

This is just my experience. Hopefully it helps.
 
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Kawa

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Used some different leather strops, and for me the firm, smooth leather works te best. It gives me the most feedback about where the burr remnants are.

Ive tried red rouge, 1 micron and 0,5 micron paste/spray. I agree that 1 micron seems to be the sweet spot for me. 0,5 makes the edge too slick, removing all the teeth. While 1 micron makes the knife sharper then red rouge (yes, I've tested it on the BESS scale), it's not the best solution for low quality soft steel. The red rouge (which is somewhere between green compound and 1 micron) makes the edge last longer (keeps more teeth) compared to 1 micron on low quality steel.

Also, keep in mind you have to think about the gritt size. Just like on stones, going from 220 gritt to 8000 doesnt make sense (not talking about hybrid lovers) if you want to achieve an 8000 edge. So when finishing a knive on 2000 gritt, you should get a stropping compound gritt that accomplishes that final stone.

So a low quality steel that you finish at 1000 gritt and then want to strop on 0,5 micron (30.000 gritt). Thats useless, it just has barely any effect.

Butt when finishing your knive on 8000 gritt and then stropping on a very rough green compound, thats also something to think about. Do you really want a strop thats coarser then your finishing stone?


BESS scale shows me, the higher the gritt (stone or strop), the sharper the result.
But that is not the same as best use/ nicest feel in kitchen use.
 

Delat

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I just got a couple strops from BST ( @matchplay18 - highly recommend him) and was dying to try them out even though none of my knives really needed sharpening.

Here’s the buffalo leather loaded with 1 micron diamond compound. The knife is a Birgersson with unknown steel, probably spicy white or similar would be my guess. It’s still on the OOTB edge and you can see from the video still decently sharp but not what I’d consider “fresh off the stones” sharp. The strop + compound did a great job of getting it allllmost to the edge I get off my SG4k. A few more strokes might’ve gotten there but I didn’t want to polish the edge too much. IME this type of strop touchup is less effective on my R2 knives, but impressive on my high carbons.

I also got an unloaded hose butt strop that I’m planning to use for immediate post-stone cleanup, and the loaded buffalo for between-stones touchups.

Apologies for the IG link, I don’t have the video on this device.

 

cotedupy

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ALWAYS go Green... 2 Free Strops With Every Case!!!


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(T&Cs apply)
 

cotedupy

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Also - what @inferno said. If you load a strop you'll get a different edge, for better or worse, depending on your preferences. Even leather I find noticeably reduces the fidelity of a stone's finish in comparison to cardboard/paper. (Not saying one is better than the other, they're just different.)
 

cotedupy

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I know a very capable sharpener that strictly uses cardboard. He sometimes "loads" it with stone slurry or wetted charcoal dust from the grill that he lets dry.


I shan't put myself inn the 'very capable' bracket ('mildly capable' might be closer), but I likewise only use cardboard or paper. My VB strop above wasn't a joke - that's the kind of thing I use. It's easy and I prefer the edges to leather. Cotton's nice too, though I don't tend to have a load of it lying around and the missus goes spare when I use the tea towels.
 

konsuke

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I used coated leather (1 micron diamond paste) for a long time, but gave it up. It polish the edge to much for my taste losing its bite faster.
I get longer lasting edges with a few edge leading strokes on a jnat.
Is there a cheaper jnat that can be recommended for that or am I pipe dreaming?
 

Chef Doom

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I used coated leather (1 micron diamond paste) for a long time, but gave it up. It polish the edge to much for my taste losing its bite faster.
I get longer lasting edges with a few edge leading strokes on a jnat.
I also find a jnat to be good for stropping. I never got into the leather or felt strips and micro compounds or diamond sprays. Maybe if I was sharpening knives as a side hustle but for myself I found it to be overkill.
 

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bsfsu

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I strop on stones and wood and leather and paper and cardboard, depending what is at hand. I've used some compounds, but generally don't because I ended up stropping too much (the edge gets shinny and my magpie brain takes over) and removing sharpness rather than increasing it 😂
 
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