My focus has shifted back to issues of kitchen knife sharpness maintenance—and my surprising success in relying on a green loaded strop. It’s really only surprising if you think using wet stones is the only way. Critical demands for sharpness often rely on stropping, not stones. For shaving, here’s an example:
I think the word “strop” comes from the leather “strap” used for straight blade shaving. Mounted on a board—with two strips of leather attached, it is the sharpener of choice for woodworker tools, sporting knives, and pocket knives. For straight razors used at barber shops, the leather strop is often enough for blade maintenance, but for the other uses, the mounted strop is loaded with compound.
The most frequent practice I imitated was to load green compound on one side, and use raw leather on the other—so, that’s what I did. I didn’t expect much. The secret that I think made it work for me was that I discovered a consistent stroke I could use to maintain an approximate fifteen degree angle. Since fifteen degrees works for all my knives except the birchwood, I could standardize my stroke.
It worked! I could pass the paper test before/after. I saved my two honing rods for immediate touch-up and haven’t needed anything else since.
My new $30 strop, “The Viking Edge,” has wider (7.5 cm.) and longer (25 cm.) strips of leather: one rough, and the other smooth:
The two sides almost feel like they came from a barber shop, whereas the ones on my paddle strop feel like they came from a craftsman’s bench. Looking at both of them, side by side, leads me to imagine using them together: I could load both sides of my paddle strop, and use my new strop for polishing and refining: no loading.
I’ve loaded my paddle strop with green (fine) on one side, and red (ultra fine) on the other. I then will leather strop with my Viking Edge—first on the rough side, then the smooth. For my stroke, I’m still planning to always stroke away, from base to tip of the knife as I move from the near to the far side of the strop. For the return, I do the other side, bring the knife back toward me—cutting edge away.
What I’ve already proven to myself is that, with a home cook workload, I can maintain a sharp edge on quality knives as long as I have a hobbyist enthusiasm and attention to detail. Will my upgrade and new two strop strategy make a meaningful difference?
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