Woodsmith last issue Woodsmith current issue

Keep up to date with

Sign Up for Our FREE Newsletter

Give a Gift FREE Issue
Share Page:

Get Razor-Sharp Edges

By: Chris Fitch
There's no doubt that sharp tools work better and deliver top-notch results. When results really matter, try this technique to give your tools the ultimate edge.

Every woodworker I know has an opinion about the “best” technique for sharpening. And often the debate centers on what constitutes the “sharpest” cutting edge. Stropping is considered by many to be the final step in producing the ultimate, razor-sharp edge. Stropping takes place after the normal sharpening steps of grinding and honing. Traditionally, a blade is stropped by pulling the bevel across a firm piece of leather. Stropping removes the nearly microscopic strands of metal that remain on the cutting edge of a blade after the wire edge, or burr has been honed away.

Some woodworkers prefer to charge the leather strop with abrasive compounds. But others argue that stropping is not really meant to abrade the metal. Instead, it is intended to burnish the edge by bending the strands until the metal fatigues and they fall off.

There’s no doubt that stropping produces a razorsharp edge. But I’ve found it to be overkill for most common woodworking tools. The fact is, waterstones, oilstones, or sandpaper on glass all produce an edge sharp enough for most woodworking needs. There are, however, exceptions to every rule.

If you’re a carver, stropping may be the best method of keeping your tools ready to go. A drill press-mounted wheel charged with different grades of abrasive compound can polish the edge of a gouge in no time.

Paring chisels and carving knives can be made razor sharp on an inexpensive, profiled strop like this one charged with honing compound. Stropping will leave the blade polished and razor-sharp. Only you can decide what’s “sharp enough” for your needs. If you want better results than your current method provides, you may want to give stropping a try.

Published: Feb. 4, 2016
Share Page:
Topics: None

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.


WSM Sidebar Ad_PlywoodProjectsSIB

Newsletter Articles