Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

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marshmallow
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Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby marshmallow » Mon May 25, 2020 8:43 pm

Some say stroping is key in sharpening. Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping or is sharpmaker needed? I understand if a knife is severely dull, a sharpmaker is essential, but what about general sharpening?

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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Ric » Mon May 25, 2020 9:10 pm

If a knife is severely dull the Sharpmaker is not my first choice. If so than with diamonds rods.

For your approach some kind of paste is required.

Leather does only straighten the burr/steel but not remove much.

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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby RustyIron » Mon May 25, 2020 9:23 pm

No. You can't really sharpen a knife just by stropping. Sharpening is cutting away dull metal (or grinding away, if you will) until sharp metal remains.

Imagine the crayons you used as a child. They came nice and sharp out of the box. Then through use, they became dull. If you were careful, the crayon would stay sharp a long time. If you were a hamfist, then the crayon dulled quickly. To restore the sharpness to the crayon, you put it into that hole in the back of the box, where there were cutters that shaved away all the dullness of your crayon. Sharpening wasted crayon material, but it's what was necessary if you wanted to do good work with your crayon. Knives are exactly the same.

You might be able to "sharpen" your crayon by rubbing it on a chunk of leather. But more than likely, you'd quickly realize the futility of such an exercise, and buy the proper tools for the job. Get yourself the Sharpmaker, and it will meet the majority of your needs.

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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Albatross » Mon May 25, 2020 10:56 pm

It's possible to take a knife from making cuts that rip paper, to shaving sharp, with a strop and nothing else. It's also possible to do that multiple times. If you originally started with a clean, crisp edge, you can restore sharpness, fairly easily, with just a strop, so long as there is little to no edge damage. The problem, is that over time you're fatiguing the steel, which means you're losing edge retention every time you strop your knife back to sharp. Stropping too much, without sharpening, tends to convex the edge quite a bit, which is going to lower edge retention as well. Once the knife is properly sharpened, normal edge retention will be restored.
sal wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 3:01 pm

...But in general, I'm all about high performance, Ergos, safety. That's why I've been accused of "deigning in the dark"...

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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Pancake » Mon May 25, 2020 11:00 pm

Yes and no.

A lot of times your edge is not completly gone, it just need to be straightened. And stropping could do it. So in theory, you could keep your knife sharp, if you strop it after every light use.
In practice, after so much of stropping, your edge will be too weak and it will not be able to support itself - so you have to grind the weakened steel away with sharpening.

Personally, I am not a big fan of stropping. I include stropping in my sharpening process, but just as a final step, not as my only option. Some people says that when they have a knife that is a bit dull, they strop it for a few minutes and they are good to go. I would just do 10 passes on medium ceramic stone for 30 seconds and I would have the same result as for 3 minutes of stropping.

And beware, you can easily round your edge with stropping.
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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Wartstein » Mon May 25, 2020 11:07 pm

marshmallow wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 8:43 pm
Some say stroping is key in sharpening. Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping or is sharpmaker needed? I understand if a knife is severely dull, a sharpmaker is essential, but what about general sharpening?

Who says that?! I don´t know a whole lot about sharpening, but a knife can get very sharp without stropping! (Look also here: viewtopic.php?t=85096)

So for general sharpening I would not say "stropping is key", but perhaps if you want to achieve a certain kind of edge (very polished, non-toothy...)
Top three going by pocket-time: Endura 4 in VG 10/Micarta-scales; Stretch 1 in VG 10; Endura 4 in HAP 40

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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Wartstein » Mon May 25, 2020 11:10 pm

Albatross wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 10:56 pm
It's possible to take a knife from making cuts that rip paper, to shaving sharp, with a strop and nothing else. It's also possible to do that multiple times. If you originally started with a clean, crisp edge, you can restore sharpness, fairly easily, with just a strop, so long as there is little to no edge damage. The problem, is that over time you're fatiguing the steel, which means you're losing edge retention every time you strop your knife back to sharp. Stropping too much, without sharpening, tends to convex the edge quite a bit, which is going to lower edge retention as wellOnce the knife is properly sharpened, normal edge retention will be restored.

Did not know that... so you say stropping fatigues the steel, while regular sharpening does not? Why?

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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Sharp Guy » Mon May 25, 2020 11:39 pm

Wartstein wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 11:10 pm
Albatross wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 10:56 pm
It's possible to take a knife from making cuts that rip paper, to shaving sharp, with a strop and nothing else. It's also possible to do that multiple times. If you originally started with a clean, crisp edge, you can restore sharpness, fairly easily, with just a strop, so long as there is little to no edge damage. The problem, is that over time you're fatiguing the steel, which means you're losing edge retention every time you strop your knife back to sharp. Stropping too much, without sharpening, tends to convex the edge quite a bit, which is going to lower edge retention as wellOnce the knife is properly sharpened, normal edge retention will be restored.

Did not know that... so you say stropping fatigues the steel, while regular sharpening does not? Why?

-
Not sure but I think he means it fatigues the steel at the very edge. When you're stropping you're basically straightening the edge. Think about what happens when you bend a piece of aluminum foil or other soft metal over and over. It eventually breaks at the seam where you've been bending it. I assume something similar happens when your stropping the edge

I have a strop but I've never really used it. I'd rather use a knife until it needs to be touched up and then I give a few strokes on the Sharpmaker until it's shaving sharp again. I saw a post recently in one of the Facebook groups where a few guys were telling someone that stropping is best practice because you don't want to remove too much material from the edge by sharpening every time the knife gets dull. I understand their point and that's probably true for someone who only uses one knife regularly. I don't carry and use any one knife enough to worry about it. I'll stick with touching up on the Sharpmaker every once in awhile and reprofiling on my Hapstone when necessary
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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Wartstein » Mon May 25, 2020 11:45 pm

Sharp Guy wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 11:39 pm
Wartstein wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 11:10 pm
Albatross wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 10:56 pm

Did not know that... so you say stropping fatigues the steel, while regular sharpening does not? Why?

-
Not sure but I think he means it fatigues the steel at the very edge. When you're stropping you're basically straightening the edge. Think about what happens when you bend a piece of aluminum foil or other soft metal over and over. It eventually breaks at the seam where you've been bending it. I assume something similar happens when your stropping the edge

.....
Thanks for the explanation! That makes sense, never looked at it that way...
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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby ZrowsN1s » Mon May 25, 2020 11:53 pm

I've gotten into some arguments in the past on this topic. I've mellowed a bit since then, and had a lot more experience both sharpening and stropping since then.

I would say that you need to start with a knife that has been properly apexed (burr formed on both sides). Then strop to align the teeth at the edge. I prefer leather with 1 micron diamond paste (I have a whole range of strops from 5 - .25 micron, but I usually use the 1micron). I also really like the knives plus strop block.

For me stropping is how I finish the blade after sharpening on the stones. A very light touch can really improve things, a heavy touch or the wrong angle can make it worse. Practice helps.

After I've used the knife for a day or two and it's no longer shaving sharp, I find that a little stropping will bring it back to razor sharpness. As long as you dont damage the edge, you can repeat this for a long time. When stropping no longer gets the knife razor sharp or as soon as you have edge deformation though, back on the stones for a clean apex. If you ever go to strop a knife and a part of the edge drags on the strop and leaves a 'trail' you need to hit the stones. Otherwise yes you can 're-sharpen' with a strop.
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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Albatross » Tue May 26, 2020 12:10 am

Sharp Guy wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 11:39 pm
Wartstein wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 11:10 pm
Albatross wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 10:56 pm
It's possible to take a knife from making cuts that rip paper, to shaving sharp, with a strop and nothing else. It's also possible to do that multiple times. If you originally started with a clean, crisp edge, you can restore sharpness, fairly easily, with just a strop, so long as there is little to no edge damage. The problem, is that over time you're fatiguing the steel, which means you're losing edge retention every time you strop your knife back to sharp. Stropping too much, without sharpening, tends to convex the edge quite a bit, which is going to lower edge retention as wellOnce the knife is properly sharpened, normal edge retention will be restored.

Did not know that... so you say stropping fatigues the steel, while regular sharpening does not? Why?

-
Not sure but I think he means it fatigues the steel at the very edge. When you're stropping you're basically straightening the edge. Think about what happens when you bend a piece of aluminum foil or other soft metal over and over. It eventually breaks at the seam where you've been bending it. I assume something similar happens when your stropping the edge

I have a strop but I've never really used it. I'd rather use a knife until it needs to be touched up and then I give a few strokes on the Sharpmaker until it's shaving sharp again. I saw a post recently in one of the Facebook groups where a few guys were telling someone that stropping is best practice because you don't want to remove too much material from the edge by sharpening every time the knife gets dull. I understand their point and that's probably true for someone who only uses one knife regularly. I don't carry and use any one knife enough to worry about it. I'll stick with touching up on the Sharpmaker every once in awhile and reprofiling on my Hapstone when necessary
Yes, the steel at edge becomes weaker. It can lead to more rolling or chipping, and certainly will lead to lower edge retention.

Before getting into higher wearing steels, I used VG10 exclusively. Part way through each workday, my knife was dull, so each night I would stop the edge back, and sharpen on the weekends. Without fail, by Friday the knife had lost a lot of edge retention, but this allowed me to keep the sharpenings to a minimum. Stropping saved a lot of steel from being sharpened away. I always had a convexed edge, until a fresh sharpening, due to the strops.

I wouldn't recommend stropping more than enough to keep a knife going through the week.
sal wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 3:01 pm

...But in general, I'm all about high performance, Ergos, safety. That's why I've been accused of "deigning in the dark"...

sal

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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Albatross » Tue May 26, 2020 12:25 am

Wartstein wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 11:07 pm
marshmallow wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 8:43 pm
Some say stroping is key in sharpening. Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping or is sharpmaker needed? I understand if a knife is severely dull, a sharpmaker is essential, but what about general sharpening?

Who says that?! I don´t know a whole lot about sharpening, but a knife can get very sharp without stropping! (Look also here: viewtopic.php?t=85096)

So for general sharpening I would not say "stropping is key", but perhaps if you want to achieve a certain kind of edge (very polished, non-toothy...)
For higher levels of sharpness, strops are quite important. Using just stones can yield excellent sharpness, but you'd have a difficult time reaching the same level of sharpness a strop can offer, in your finishing steps of sharpening.

For an example, I recently sharpened my XHP Para 3, using a Double Stuff, followed by an ultra fine Sharpmaker rod. The edge was extremely sharp and crisp. When I added 3 strops(overkill) to the sharpening progression, the knife went from catching a free hanging hair and thinking about whittling it, to simply popping the hair in two. Trying to whittle a hair was impossible, because the knife just cut it in half every time. This was about 3 minutes of stropping. It's possible to do this with stones, but the grit needed is far beyond what I have in my sharpening arsenal.

The feedback on a strop has been helpful in my sharpening journey, since you can feel the burr being removed, much better than on a stone, in my experience. It's not essential for burr removal, just my preference.
sal wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 3:01 pm

...But in general, I'm all about high performance, Ergos, safety. That's why I've been accused of "deigning in the dark"...

sal

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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Slash » Tue May 26, 2020 12:53 am

Aren't the bottom of coffee mugs and top of side car glass still a good touch up tool?
I think I mostly just switch knives these days as I have many of them and don't want the others to get jealous. I'll probably touch them up one day soon though.
Yes and no would be the answer. If strop gets it sharp even for your needs and liking then why use anything more aggressive? Most around here will tell you strop collects lots of metal particles and not good, etc. I don't have a dog in the fight, so I'll stay away from that debate.

I use my stones just cause I like to keep my skills...HONED

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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Wartstein » Tue May 26, 2020 3:41 am

Albatross wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 12:25 am
Wartstein wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 11:07 pm
marshmallow wrote:
Mon May 25, 2020 8:43 pm
Some say stroping is key in sharpening. Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping or is sharpmaker needed? I understand if a knife is severely dull, a sharpmaker is essential, but what about general sharpening?

Who says that?! I don´t know a whole lot about sharpening, but a knife can get very sharp without stropping! (Look also here: viewtopic.php?t=85096)

So for general sharpening I would not say "stropping is key", but perhaps if you want to achieve a certain kind of edge (very polished, non-toothy...)
For higher levels of sharpness, strops are quite important. Using just stones can yield excellent sharpness, but you'd have a difficult time reaching the same level of sharpness a strop can offer, in your finishing steps of sharpening.

For an example, I recently sharpened my XHP Para 3, using a Double Stuff, followed by an ultra fine Sharpmaker rod. The edge was extremely sharp and crisp. When I added 3 strops(overkill) to the sharpening progression, the knife went from catching a free hanging hair and thinking about whittling it, to simply popping the hair in two. Trying to whittle a hair was impossible, because the knife just cut it in half every time. This was about 3 minutes of stropping. It's possible to do this with stones, but the grit needed is far beyond what I have in my sharpening arsenal.

The feedback on a strop has been helpful in my sharpening journey, since you can feel the burr being removed, much better than on a stone, in my experience. It's not essential for burr removal, just my preference.

You are certainly right that for the ultrahigh levels of sharpness you´re talking about (and that I myself never even tried to achieve) a strop is important!

But concerning the OPs wording: "Some say stropping is KEY in sharpening",I´d still not agree! I think the vast majority of knife users and even "knife people" do not even achieve the level of sharpness they could with a basic sharpmaker, and would be well served with the edge that can come from the white (or even just the brown) rods... just imho stropping is not really "key" there. For me, as soon as my knives cleanly cut thin phone book paper and shave armhair with ease, that´s more than enough in real life...

Not saying that higher levels of sharpness are not necessary in very specific tasks and it certainly is a good skill to have if one can sharpen a knife that way! But for the average knife user the "sharpmaker sharpness" should be more than enough?!
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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Evil D » Tue May 26, 2020 4:56 am

Depends entirely on the amount of use it sees. I can use a knife one time and I guarantee you a strop won't being it back, but other people may have gentle daily uses and be able to maintain an edge longer with just a strop. Personally I'm not a fan of using a strop beyond the first time you put a fresh edge on a knife, because once the teeth of an edge get bent you're just bending them straight again and they weaken over time and your edge retention suffers. Someone will inevitably compare a barber's straight razor here, and to that I say if you use a simple carbon steel blade with an edge that thin and all you cut is hair then maybe you'll get by ok.
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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby The Meat man » Tue May 26, 2020 5:17 am

If your strop is just bare leather, not really, you might see a little improvement but it won't last long.

If you're using abrasive compound (green chrome oxide, diamond, cbn, etc.) with your strop, then certainly you can maintain an edge. With abrasive compound you are actually removing material, not just aligning the edge.

Eventually you will have to use stones to fully resharpen the edge, but depending on your use, a loaded strop can keep you going for a long time.
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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Joshua J. » Tue May 26, 2020 7:04 am

If your strop is mounted on a belt sander, then yes you can sharpen with just a strop, especially if you're adding some of the fine abrasives people normally use to enhance their strops.

Ultimately the friction with any material rubbing on steel will abrade the metal over time, you can see dramatic erosion of hard metals in many factory settings, and ideally that's why our knives go dull in the first place (though as far as I can tell catastrophic damage from contact with hard materials is almost always the primary mode of failure in an EDC). So maybe it's a bit semantic to say that a strop "can sharpen" when it would require millions of strokes to accomplish, but if you're really intent on using the strop for daily maintenance then I'd just give it some abrasive diamond paste.

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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby wrdwrght » Tue May 26, 2020 8:00 am

I think the answer turns on the range of grits you’ve pasted (and re-pasted) on your strops, the wear-resistance of the steel you want to sharpen, the degree of sharpness you’re trying to achieve, and the amount of time you’re willing to spend. This last factor is enough to discourage most of us, I reckon, but, sure, it’s possible.
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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby Albatross » Tue May 26, 2020 8:23 am

Wartstein wrote:
Tue May 26, 2020 3:41 am

You are certainly right that for the ultrahigh levels of sharpness you´re talking about (and that I myself never even tried to achieve) a strop is important!

But concerning the OPs wording: "Some say stropping is KEY in sharpening",I´d still not agree! I think the vast majority of knife users and even "knife people" do not even achieve the level of sharpness they could with a basic sharpmaker, and would be well served with the edge that can come from the white (or even just the brown) rods... just imho stropping is not really "key" there. For me, as soon as my knives cleanly cut thin phone book paper and shave armhair with ease, that´s more than enough in real life...

Not saying that higher levels of sharpness are not necessary in very specific tasks and it certainly is a good skill to have if one can sharpen a knife that way! But for the average knife user the "sharpmaker sharpness" should be more than enough?!
I think the context was either getting a knife super sharp, or it's just someone's preference. For a beginner, it's easier to get a knife sharp, if they use a strop to finish things up. It's easier to fully remove a burr on a strop, than it is on a stone. At least it is for me, but I've been using strops for a long time.

Either way, strops, despite fatiguing the steel a bit, are fantastic for maintaining your edge between sharpenings.
sal wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 3:01 pm

...But in general, I'm all about high performance, Ergos, safety. That's why I've been accused of "deigning in the dark"...

sal

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Re: Is it possible to sharpen knives by only stroping?

Postby bearfacedkiller » Tue May 26, 2020 8:59 am

A strop is not required to achieve tree topping sharpness

Stropping with an abrasive added to your strop isnt really stropping. It is sharpening at a fine grit on a soft surface.

I only strop my kitchen knives and that is a rare occasion. I don’t strop to maintain sharpness. I strop to put that final polish on my edge.

Do I think that you can maintain a knife by stropping alone? Not if you plan to actually use it. In normal use I regularly dull my folders past the point where stropping would be effective.

Overall I am not a big fan of strops and I prefer the crisp toothy edge I can get on a stone.
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