How To Strop A Knife For Beginners
Once you have made the investment for a fine set of kitchen knives, it becomes very important that you know how to properly care for your investment. Many different methods exist when it comes to proper knife care and which you choose to use is mostly a matter of personal preference.
Knife stropping and steeling are both methods that are used to maintain a knife edge. How to strop a knife or steel a knife is a useful learning experience for any home cook looking to care for their knife collection. Let’s take a look at the methods behind stropping a knife.
What is Stropping?
Both stropping and steeling are methods used for maintaining a knifes edge. These methods may be used to repair or even maintain the cutting edge on kitchen knives but is not a sharpening method. In fact, most of the damage that you would prepare by stopping is often caused by improperly sharpening knives in the first place.
Both stropping and steeling are the last steps in the knife sharpening process and are used to remove any excess wire edge while straightening the edge. The methods will also polish the knifes edge in the process. What is the difference between steeling and stropping?
Steeling is done by swiping the knifes edge along a butcher’s steel or steel rod.
Via Jake Wilson
The purpose is to realign the deformed edge back to its prior straightness. It can be a rather simple process but needs to be completed properly and accurate angles need to be maintained. The angle that you are holding the knife at needs to match the edges angle. The commonly used method is to swipe the knife along the vertical rod in the same way you would when cutting. When this method is properly done, it should take no more than 3-5 passes to straighten the edge, per side.
Stropping has an entirely different method with the same goal in mind.
Stropping is completed by swiping the edge along a piece of leather. It is done in the opposite direction of steeling; thus, you would drag the blade backwards rather than pushing it along. You apply very little pressure as you guide that blade along the leather and should also need no more than 3-5 passes to restore the desired edge. You may also find that many people choose a very similar method for sharpening. Using the same leather strop with an added compound can allow for similar sharpening methods.
Why Strop a Knife?
Stropping a knife may not sound like the most important part of knife care, however, it is the simplest procedure to maintain the life of your knifes edge. You may have seen that most people tend to use the long butchers steel that is included in most knife sets that you purchase. Experts would argue that using this grooved butchers steel is most commonly a mistake and done improperly.
If you were to strop your knife before and after every use, it is suggested that you could double its life span. While this may seem time consuming, once the art is perfected, it should take no more than a minute to strop your knife.
What You Need to Strop a Knife
Many different options are available on the market for leather strops and leather stropping kits. Most any quality made leather strop will do. There are two leather strops, one is very textured and the other is completely smooth for polishing. The strops are backed with a rubberized magnetic backing which is designed to magnetically attach to the steel base.
Depending on preference, you will also use a chromium oxide additive. This often comes in a small block that you would rub on the textured leather or a spray to coat it with.
Step-By-Step Knife Stropping
1.) Place your leather strop on the steel base. Begin by preparing your textured leather strop with chromium oxide. Rub the block across the textured surface or for a spray, shake the bottle and spray to coat most of the leather strop.
2.) Start dragging your knife backwards on the strop
.3.) Drag the blade backwards at a consistent angle for 5-10 passes. This will take less as you become accustomed to holding the proper angle.
4.) Do this for each side of the blade before moving on.
5.) To move to the smooth strop, change out the leather strops on the steel base.
6.) No abrasive, chromium oxide, is necessary for the smooth strop.
7.) Now, move the knife backwards along the leather strop, while maintaining the edges angle, for 5-10 passes on each side.
The result should be an even and polished edge without flaw. If at first you feel you haven’t quite achieved the edge that you are looking for, sharpen your knife and continue to strop it again. The process should become simpler and less time consuming once you have mastered the art of stropping. Stropping should be done often in order to adequately improve the life span of your knifes blade.
Knife stropping may seem like a fancy addition to sharpening for those of us who aren’t very knife savvy. However, if you are truly investing money into quality kitchen knives, you will want them to last as long as they can. A good quality knife that is well cared for, properly sharpened, and stropped on a regular basis can easily last most of your lifetime and possibly longer. Knife stropping can easily become a part of your daily cutting and cleaning rituals, you need the proper tools and slowly master the act of proper edge stropping.
It is important to remember that stropping is most certainly not sharpening and while you may feel as though the blade is sharper after stropping, it may in fact be, this is due to the realignment of the edge and should not be used in place of a sharpening stone.
Do you have any expert advice on knife stropping or added tips for our reader? Let us know in the comment section bellow