Hello fellow woodworkers,
I have made (a few now) strops that don’t seem to hold my compound very well. I’m wondering if I could be doing something better or if this is just “the way it is”.
The strops are all wood pieces about an inch thick. I plane them as perfectly smooth as can be done, then stretch some leather over the piece. My green compound does great for a few sharpening sessions, then begins to flake off.
I can’t get it very smooth again unless I scrape it all off and start over. Is there a trick to getting the compound to stay on over time with more uniformity? I’d like to spend more time on my projects then my strops.
Maybe you aren’t using crappy leather. Seriously, maybe your leather is too nice.
I’ve never had compound “flake” off, so that’s why I say maybe the leather is too fine.
Get some lousy cheap veg tan stuff at a hobby store or some such. I found that works best. I just glue it to a piece of scrap until it gets ripped up, glue another piece to the other side until that gets ripped up, throw it away and make another one. Reapply the compound as needed.
I placed the smooth side up on mine and have similar problems that you’ve described, just seems to be the nature of the compound. I chose to not remake it. I just used a chunk of scrap 3/4 plywood for my base. I’ve even seen a rough, somewhat flat peice of wood used with compound and no leather. Don’t get so worked up over it.
Thanks for all the feedback. After some looking around online I found a few things people had in common.
1. They used the rough, non hide side, out.
2. The leather was heated up until it was hot to touch. A few even warmed up their compound.
3. Everyone rubbed a small amount of oil, even olive oil in one case, over the compound to smooth it out.
I’m going to give some of these a try and I’ll let you know how it goes. Like I said, I’m looking to make furniture, not strops, but mine do really badly.
I’m not looking for it to last a super long time. The issue is that it barely sticks at all. After about 50 passes, which isn’t much, it starts to flake off in big chunks, like it never really stuck to the leather at all. Once a few pieces come off, it all comes off.
sounds like youre dealing with leather that has been chrome tanned, do you know anyone who brain tans? I do my own hides, and make strops with the “garbage” flesh side out and it seems to hold the compound great. I’d also stay away from smoked leather as the smoking process impregnates the fibers with resins and oils which i would assume reject buffing compounds.
Maybe try roughening the leather with a bit of sandpaper? Have you tried using less compound? I put a really small amount on, use it till it seems it’s not working anymore and then use a small amount again. It won’t flake off because there isn’t enough there to flake off in the first place. I have leather smooth side up as I figured it makes little difference when the compound itself is so fine. I haven’t ever used oil, but I wouldn’t hesitate to try it either.
Ok folks, here’s the scoop. I was much more successful with this process:
I put my leather fuzzy side up. I heated it up until it was hot to touch with a small propane torch. Then I rubbed my oxide on lightly but very quickly to keep up the friction. This helped the oxide kind of soak in and bond with the leather.
After this I took some olive oil on my fingertip and rubbed it in aggressively, smoothing out the oxide.
I used it until it was turning black from the metal. No flaking and no reapplying. After it turned black I repeated the oil process. It brought the surface back to green and I continued using it.
I got awesome results. Less time fussing with flaking off compound and uneven stropping surfaces. Hope this helps anyone who has had the same problem.
Thanks for that in advance Kevin. I have a ready-made strop due from Axminster tomorrow probably but it comes with a white compound which hopefully applies a bit easier tha yours obviously has. Like you I’ve boned up on strops and compounds and gave up as the complexities became too much.
One manufacturer’s colour coding is different than the next, the same with supposed grit sizes, what is actually contained in the compounds, then of course the old chestnut as which country’s grit sizes were referred to as so many differ to each other, etc.. I have even seen some references that said folk have even honed with no compound, just using the suede side of the leather. Which makes sense to me, remembering days of yon when most men shaved with a cuthroat razor and used a plain strop or belt.
If I start to get problems with mine then I’ll just use bare suede/leather and it will be what it is. Either way I won’t get into a strop over it. Sorry Kev, my silly sense of humour.
The green color (or Colour) is because the compound is made of chromium oxide which is green in color. This pigment is mixed into a wax and most likely run across a three roll heated paint mill to break up the pigment agglomerates so you don’t have clods of pigment.
Since wax is soluble in oil, coating the strop with an oil would act like a tie coat. It would soften the wax and help to carry it into the strop.
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