Woodsmith Tips

There’s no mistaking the feel of a sharp chisel slicing through wood to trim a joint for a perfect fit. The challenge is finding a way to get that sharp edge. No matter what sharpening method you use, chances are you can get an even sharper edge by including stropping in your routine. On the surface, stropping may seem like an “old-fashioned” technique that’s been passed over by fancy ceramic stones or powered grinding and polishing wheels. The truth is stropping is no different than any other honing method. Essentially, a tool is dragged across an abrasive surface. The finer the abrasive, the more mirror-like the cutting edge of the tool will be. To get this razor-sharp edge, it only takes two things: a strop and a stropping compound.

The first step is to charge the strop with honing compound. All you need to do is rub a thin layer across the strop with firm, even pressure. Make sure the layer is wider than the tools that you’ll be using.

Now it’s a simple matter of pulling the tool across the compound away from the edge. To avoid having the edge snag and dig into the strop, you don’t want to push. To find the right angle, rest the tool on its “heel” and the far end of the strop.

Then, rock the blade forward until you can feel the tip make contact with the strop. Now, pull the chisel back. Lift and repeat for the next stroke.

After a dozen strokes or so, you’ll see the cutting edge of your tool is getting more polished. When it has a mirror finish, you can finish up by taking a couple of strokes on the back. Over time, if you feel like the strop isn’t cutting as well, simply rub on a little more compound. It really is as easy as it sounds.

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