Knife Sharpening Experts: Stropping it


st sharpened your knives. You know that they’re as sharp as can be because you’ve tested them. They have a burr that confirms it. Should you stop there?

You’ve got a burr on your blade edge and it should be removed. At this point, tiny bits of metal still cling to your knife’s edge. These bits feel like sand on the edge. But you’d like to get it as fine as it can be, even slippery sharp at that.

Maybe you’ve got knives that are going on display. Maybe they’re going to be included in a ceremony of some sort. Or maybe you’d just like to show off your fine knives to your friends and family. I’m sure you want your edges to be slippery sharp. Well, then. It’s time to strop it.

Stropping is a technique used to clean off a blade’s edge after sharpening. It is meant to bend and twist those clinging metal pieces until they fall off. It’s also done to realign the microscopic teeth created on the edge while sharpening. Stropping is done by swiping both sides of your blade’s edge over a leather strap. When you can no longer feel clinging bits, you have successfully stropped your blade edge. It should be shining nice and bright at this point. This is how stropping was always done in the past, but times are changing.

Who would’ve thought that one day you could electrically strop an edge? I sure didn’t. The world of electric knife sharpening has come a very long way. Some electric knife sharpeners are quite remarkable. Many of the high priced sharpeners are equipped with their own stropping abrasives. How about that? It’s true. All it takes is over $50 to a few hundred dollars to get a fantastic electric sharpener that’ll both sharpen and strop your edges for you. Just like that. Yes, I know. It seems like an awful lot of money for just an electric knife sharpener. But if you’ve got the means and don’t care to diddle with it, electric knife stropping is surely possible now. It is entirely up to you.

Let’s make one point very clear. Stropping is not sharpening. It isn’t, really. But stropping with a polishing compound or an abrasive compound sure is. When you do this, when you add such a compound to the strap, the stropping has now become its own form of sharpening. Now that it’s able to remove metal from the edge, it has become a sharpener. All by itself, however, the strap can do no more than strop an edge. Therein lies the difference.

For fine knife sharpening, stropping is always the last step. It is done after absolute sharpness has been achieved. It makes each knife edge as fine as it can be. They will shine and shine. Isn’t that special?